Due to the limited capabilities of its preceding 9K32 "Strela-2" (NATO: SA-7 "Grail") anti-aircraft missile system, the Soviet military commissioned for an improved form which became the 9K34 "Strela-3" (NATO: SA-14 "Gremlin"). The missile was given more reliable infrared homing seeker which made it less prone to fall for launched countermeasures by aircraft. The system was produced by KBM and introduced into the Soviet Army inventory in 1974. Despite its Cold War origins, the weapon continues widespread use today, proving an effective battlefield man-portable, shoulder-launched system. A navalized form has been recognized by NATO as the "SA-N-8".
The 9K34 followed along the same design lines as previous man-portable, shoulder-launched offerings. The system consisted of a slim launch tube with attached powerpack, trigger group and grip and optics. The missile resided in the launch tube until firing to which it would break free of its hold and head for the target at Mach speeds, spring-loaded fins providing the necessary stabilization and course correction. Overall length of the launch tube was just under five feet. The missile (heavier than the Strela-2 before it) maintained a speed of up to 1,500 kilometers per hour and could reach targets as high as 7,500 feet with accuracy (accuracy improved considerably at lower altitudes. Upon impact, the Strela-3 missile could do enough damage to critical components to take an aircraft down. The Strela-3 could also engage aircraft from the front and sides with some success.
The 9K34 system has seen extensive service in armies worldwide since its inception. It was fielded by Iraqi forces during the 1991 Gulf War which saw a General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and Panavia Tornado brought down by the type. The weapon has also seen use in the Georgian-Russian engagements as well as the Bosnia War. The 9K34 has also proven prevalent across many localized operations on the African continent where access to Soviet goods has always proven easy. One of the most recognized instances of a 9K34 missile engaging an aircraft was on November 22nd, 2003 when a DHL Airbus A300 cargo aircraft was damaged by a Streola-3 missile shortly after taking-off from Baghdad International Airport. While damaged along the trailing edge of its portside wing and loss of hydraulic power, the aircraft managed to circle back and land safely for assessment and repair.