On February 12, 1971, the Soviet government adopted a decree on the creation of the second generation Igla portable anti-aircraft missile system (MANPADS). Work on this system stretched for more than ten years, but domestic specialists managed to achieve effective destruction of enemy aircraft at a distance of about 5000 m. The result of improving this MANPADS was the emergence of such models as Igla-S and Verba in service with the Russian army. According to experts, modern portable anti-aircraft systems of the Russian Federation allow troops to successfully fight a wide range of enemy aircraft.
50 years ago, the government of the USSR adopted a decree, according to which the development of the second generation 9K38 Igla portable anti-aircraft missile system (MANPADS) began.
The Design Bureau of Mechanical Engineering (KBM, Kolomna) under the leadership of the famous domestic gunsmith Sergei Invincible was responsible for the creation of the system directly, and the Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Association (LOMO) was instructed to manufacture the thermal homing head (GOS).
The Scientific Research Institute of Measuring Instruments (Novosibirsk) also took part in the cooperation for the production of the “Needle”. This research institute was engaged in the creation of a ground-based radar interrogator. Another enterprise – the Central Design Bureau of Apparatus (Tula) – worked on a portable electronic tablet.
The industry was required to increase the range and effectiveness of firing at targets on a collision course in the new MANPADS, improve the system for determining the nationality of aircraft and improve the effectiveness of hitting a target when a missile hits it directly.
The main requirement for the thermal homing head was to increase the immunity from optical jamming traps that can fire off planes and helicopters.
“The Economy of Interception”
At the time of publication of the USSR government decree on the 9K38 complex, the Soviet army already had several types of MANPADS – “Strela-1” and “Strela-2”, including its modernized version. Strela-3 was under development.
These systems, along with the self-propelled Strela-10, became the basis for building an anti-aircraft cover system for Soviet troops in the lower altitude range. They could hit air targets at altitudes up to 3500 m and ranges up to 5000 m.
The emergence of mobile short-range anti-aircraft systems was caused by the need for more effective counteraction to potential enemy aircraft at low and extremely low altitudes.
In particular, the concern of the Soviet leadership was caused by the American Bell AH-1G Huey Cobra attack helicopter, which could destroy 8-10 tanks in one sortie.
Despite the fact that the use of the Strela-2 MANPADS in the Arab-Israeli conflict was recognized as successful, the Soviet leadership sought to provide the army and allies with even more advanced systems. This is how the creation of Strela-3 and Needle began.
Analysts attribute Moscow’s haste to the progress of Western states in modernizing the means of protecting aviation from damage from the ground, as well as increasing the capabilities of portable anti-aircraft systems, which were widely equipped with their infantry units.
As Sergey Denisentsev, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, noted in an interview with RT, during the Cold War there was a frenzied arms race in comparison with the current pace. The aviation industry and MANPADS were no exception.
“The USSR and the USA rapidly and in parallel with each other improved their portable systems. Americans – Redeye, Stinger, Soviet Union – Strela-2, Strela-3 and Igloo. Nobody wanted to give up in this race, ”Denisentsev noted.
According to him, the appearance of the first MANPADS revolutionized the definition of the role of aviation in the theater of operations (theater of operations). The use of relatively compact anti-aircraft systems provided huge advantages to the previously almost defenseless infantry, putting the Air Force in an extremely vulnerable position.
“The life of aviation, especially one that is used to operating at low altitudes, has become much more complicated. The economy of intercepting air targets has also changed dramatically. With the advent of MANPADS, the high consumption of anti-aircraft missiles for the destruction of aircraft became financially justified, the cost of which is incomparably higher than, relatively speaking, the price of 20 missile launches, ”Denisentsev stated.
Alexey Podberezkin, director of the Center for Military-Political Research at MGIMO, shares a similar view on the use of MANPADS. In an interview with RT, he noted that high-quality, but at the same time, relatively easy-to-use MANPADS were able to change the course of local conflicts and seriously strengthen the obviously weak side in technical terms.
“Our country first felt the effect of the use of MANPADS in Afghanistan, where the Americans supplied their complexes since the mid-1980s. For some time, the Mujahideen managed to neutralize the air support of our troops. But then, of course, we found means of counteraction and became more careful, ”Podberezkin said.
From “Needle” to “Verba”
The development of Igla took more than ten years due to the difficulties in creating a highly sensitive and noise-immune thermal seeker. The complex was put into service only in 1983. However, experts say that Soviet engineers managed to solve many difficult problems and form a powerful reserve for further modernization of MANPADS.
First of all, “Igla” received high noise immunity due to the use of a fundamentally new two-channel optical homing head. It allowed for better selection of targets, distinguishing real from false.
Also, the designers equipped the second-generation MANPADS with a missile launch blocking system for their own and the function of undermining the remnants of the fuel of the main engine of the ammunition simultaneously with the warhead, increasing its lethality.
According to KBM, the Igla complex weighing 16.8 kg included a 9P39 launch tube, a 9M39 guided missile with a high-explosive fragmentation warhead, a 9P516 launcher and a 9B238 ground power supply. For target designation, Soviet servicemen used a 1L15-1 portable electronic tablet.
The height of the Igla’s targets hit ranged from 10 to 3500 m, the range was within 5200 m, the speed of targets hit on a collision course was up to 360 m / s, and on catch-up courses — up to 320 m / s.
In the first half of the 2000s, an improved version with the name 9K338 “Igla-S” was manufactured on the basis of the Soviet MANPADS. The production of the updated anti-aircraft complex was deployed at JSC “Plant named after V.A. Degtyarev “(Vladimir region).
“Igla-S” MANPADS is a new generation complex and has a new firing quality for this class of complexes – high efficiency of destruction of small targets such as cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles “, – says the KBM materials.
By integrating new technological solutions, Russian specialists managed to achieve a significant increase in the effectiveness of engaging air targets. In particular, the designers have strengthened the destructive effect of the warhead, increased the range of destruction of aircraft to 6 thousand meters and equipped the product with a night vision sight.
The mass of the complex in a combat position has slightly increased (18.25 kg), however, “Igla-S” retained the best qualities of its predecessor. The KBM classifies them as shooting from the shoulder, the simplicity of the operator’s actions when aiming and launching, high reliability, secrecy of use, the implementation of the “fire and forget” principle, which allows the fighter to change position immediately after firing.
Currently, the “Igla” family is being replaced in the Russian army by the 9K333 “Verba” complex, capable of hitting air targets in conditions of optical interference at any time of the day. This system with the 9M336 anti-aircraft missile was put into service in 2015.
According to the developer, “Verba” is 1.5-2 times more effective than its predecessors, especially at the lines of more than 3000 m. The time for transferring the complex from the traveling position to the combat position does not exceed 12 seconds. An important advantage of MANPADS is the ability to operate in ultra-low temperatures, down to -50 ° C.
According to experts, “Verba” is an organic continuation of the development of the “Igla” family. When creating this complex, domestic specialists took into account the increased danger in the theater of operations from UAVs and cruise missiles, as well as the need to obtain information about the air situation from ground-based radar stations.
“The peculiarity of the Verba is that it is integrated and is a significant element of the layered air defense system. Today it can be called the crown of the evolution of domestic MANPADS, which began in the 1960s. In my opinion, Verba is still the best complex in the world. The use of such weapons makes it possible to largely eliminate the threat from enemy aircraft, ”summed up Alexey Podberezkin.
Alexey Zakvasin, Elizaveta Komarova