Buk-M1 was a very famous Soviet and Russia missile system. From the first variant 9K37, NATO reporting name SA-11 Gadfly to 9K37M1-2, NATO reporting name SA-17 Grizzly, was the result of many improvements and upgrades.

With its advanced features and also thanks to the reputation of its predecessor 2K12 Kub, Buk anti-aircraft missile system has become a popular export product of Russia. About 15 countries have imported Buk systems from Asia, Africa and the Middle East to the former Soviet republics.

However, all Buk systems exported by Russia to other countries have never experienced real combat. Ironically, the first victory of this mid-range mobile air defense missile system was the shooting down of Russian fighters.

SA-11 Gadfly review

The Buk missile system is a family of self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air missile systems developed by the Soviet Union and its successor state, the Russian Federation. The system using solid-rocket propulsion that provides defense against high-performance aircraft and cruise missiles. At low and medium altitudes, at ranges of up to 30km, maneuvering with overloads of up to 12 units.

The Buk missile system is the successor to the 2K12 Kub, NATO reporting name SA-6 “Gainful”. The first version of Buk adopted into service carried designation 9K37 Buk and was identified in the west with the NATO reporting name “Gadfly” as well as the US Department of Defense designation SA-11.

The 9K37 Buk was developed in accordance with the Resolution of the CPSU Central Committee and USSR Council of Ministers dated 13 January 1972 using two self-propelled mounts, the 9A38 and the 9A310.

The first Buk with the 9M38 missile became operational in 1978 associated with the Kub 3M9M3 missiles, this became known as the Kub-M4 system. However, the full configuration of Buk continued testing from November 1977 through 1979 and became operational in 1980. The system is known in the Russian Federation as the 9K37 Buk with the complete system, including the radar and support equipment.

The original missile used by the Buk system is the 9M38, which was subsequently replaced with the 9M317 in the Buk-M1-2 upgrade. 9M38 is a single-stage and solid-fuel missile. It resembles a US Tartar and Standard naval air defense missiles. Each missile is 5.55 m long, weighs 690 kg and carries a relatively large 70 kg warhead which is triggered by a radar proximity fuze. The missile has semi-active radar guidance. It can engage targets at a range of 3.4 to 20.5 km at altitudes over 3 km. The range is reduced to 5 to 15.4 km, when the target flies 30 m above the ground. Maximum engagement altitude is 25 km. The 9M38 missile has a hit probability of 70-93%. The Buk can also fire older 9M9M3 missiles of the Kub-M3 air defense missile system.

A total of six targets can be engaged simultaneously by a battery while they are flying on different bearings and at different altitudes and ranges. A typical battery comprises a Command Post vehicle, a Target Acquisition Radar vehicle and six Self-Propelled Mounts that act as the launcher vehicles. A specialist Loader-Launcher vehicle that acts both as missile transloader and additional launch unit supports pair of launchers.

A Buk regiment comprises four such batteries and a Regimental Target Acquisition Battery with two long-range early-warning search radars.

A Buk transporter erector launcher and radar vehicle is fitted with radar, digital computer, missile erector and launcher, friend or foe identification system. It is operated by a crew of four and carries four missiles.

Radar of the Buk TELAR vehicle searches for targets, tracks them and guides missiles on them. So if required each TELAR vehicle can operate autonomously. The radar detects aircraft flying at altitude over 3 km at a range of 65 to 77 km. Detection range is reduced to 32-41 km when aircraft fly at 30 to 100m above the ground. Low-flying aircraft are detected at a range of 21 to 35km.

When TELAR operates autonomously it takes about 24-27 seconds from target detection to missile launch. It can stop and launch its missiles in about 5 minutes from travelling. It also takes about 5 minutes to leave the firing position.

The Buk-M1 uses the GM-569 chassis designed and produced by JSC Metrowagonmash. The crew compartment provides protection from small arms fire as well as being sealed against NBC attack. The suspension either side consists of six dual roadwheels with the drive sprocket at the rear, idler at the front and four track-return rollers which support the inside of the double-pin track only. The 9K37 SA-11 Gadfly can run at a maximum speed of 65 km/h on road and 45 km/h on cross-country, with a maximum range of 500 km.

The reload vehicle 9A39M1 for the Buk battery resembles the 9K37 SA-11 Gadfly but instead of a radar they have a crane for loading missiles. They are capable of launching missiles directly but require the cooperation of a Fire Dome-equipped TELAR for missile guidance. A reload vehicle can transfer its missiles to a TELAR in around 13 minutes and can reload itself from stores in around 15 minutes.

During the 2008 Georgian War, Ukrainian President Yushchenko at the time, according to international judgment, was an “unfriendly” person to Russia, provided Georgia an unspecified number of Buk anti-air missile systems.

There was no specific information on the Buk version supplied by Ukraine to Georgia, but most of the information was Buk-M1 version with 9M38 rocket. Because at that time, the Ukrainian Army only had this variant in the combat component.

On August 8, 2008, a Russian Su-25 came from Budyonovsk to carry out the third strike that was shot down at Dzava. Some suggested that the Su-25 was shot down by Osa-AK SA-8, but most of the comments suggested that it was shot down by Buk-M1.

Also on August 8, 2008, a huge shock happened when a Russian Tu-22M3 supersonic bomber, taking off from the No. 929 test facility at Akhtubinsk was shot down at the location between Gori and Tskhinvali by Buk-M1, 3 of the 4 crew members were killed.

The next day on August 9, 2008, another Russian Su-25 from Budyonovsk was shot down by Buk at Dzhava, the pilot was killed.

During the entire war, at least three Su-25s and one Russian Tu-22M3 were shot down by Buk-M1. According to analysts, it is surprising that 4 aircraft were shot down and that it was a huge loss to the Russian Air Force because Georgia was only a small military force.

Some experts have pointed out that electronic pressure systems do not seem to interfere and prevent Georgian air defense missiles in the conflict, and surprisingly, Russia cannot provide effective countermeasures against the missile system designed themself.


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