Missile profile: 9K37 Buk

21 July 2014

Close up of the Buk (SA-11 'Gadfly) Self-Propelled Mount (SPM) with four-round launcher traversed to the rear. Credit: Christopher F Foss


Self-propelled Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system


The 9K37 Buk (NATO SA-11 'Gadfly') 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 NIIP Research Institute of Instrument Design was assigned prime developer whilst the Sverdlovsk based Novator Design Bureau was tasked to develop the 9M38 missile. Developmental trials and firing took place at the Kapustin Yar Missile Test Range (KYMTR) starting in August 1975 and lasted until March 1979. 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 part of the replacement for the Krug (NATO SA-4 'Ganef') at the army (corps) level. The first Buk brigade became operational in 1980, although significant numbers were not deployed until the late 1980s.

The system is known in the Russian Federation as the 9K37 Buk (Russian for 'beech') with the complete system, including the radar and support equipment, having a Russian Industrial Index number, 9K37. The export version is known as the 'Gang', with the various sub-elements having the suffix, 'E' (for Ehksportiynyi; Russian for export) added to their designations, for example 9A310M1E. The first export order came from Syria in 1983, with deliveries beginning in 1986.

Due to a number of problems with the original Buk system, including the original surveillance radar Tube Arm, an improved system was already in development in 1980 to improve its combat capabilities, protection from countermeasures and anti-radiation missiles. Testing the new system was conducted throughout 1982. Known as the Buk-M1, this entered service in 1983 and introduced the 9S18M1 'Snow Drift' surveillance radar into service. The Buk can also be used to engage tactical missiles and rockets; successful trials were undertaken in 1992 against simulated Pershing and MLRS type targets.The former Yugoslavia ordered the system in the late 1980s with a small number of tracked launchers arriving before the Civil War broke out. It is believed that these were non-operational during the NATO Kosovo/Serbia bombing campaign. The principal sub-units are based on a full-tracked chassis developed and built by the Metrovagonmash Joint Stock Company from the GM-539 design. This provides protection from small arms fire as well as being sealed against NBC attack.

During June 2004, it was reported from Russia that work on upgrading the Buk SAM system's radar was continuing within the Almaz/Antei Concern of Air Defence and the development of a common surface-to-air missile system expected shortly. Furthermore, the concept was to make provision for a modular system able to engage targets in the short, medium and long ranges by re-configuring various units and modules.


The original missile used by the Buk system is the 9M38, which was subsequently replaced with the 9M317. The 9M38 missiles employ the 9B-1103M (diameter 350 mm) seeker that has an acquisition range of 40 km for 5 m2 RCS targets.

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 (CP) vehicle, a Target Acquisition Radar (TAR) vehicle and six Self-Propelled Mounts (SPMs) that act as the launcher vehicles. A specialist Loader-Launcher (LL) 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.

The Buk self-propelled launcher is also offered as an upgrade to the 2K12 Kub/Kvadrat system. Known as the Kub-M4 system, it entered service in 1978 and involves a single dual-capable 9A310/9A38 SPM attached to each 2K12 battery to double the target engagement capabilities. A 9A39M1 loader-launcher supports the 9A310/9A38.

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