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The Isayev S-125 Neva/Pechora ( , NATO reporting name SA-3 Goa) Soviet surface-to-air missile system was designed to complement the S-25 and S-75. It has a shorter effective range and lower engagement altitude than either of its predecessors and also flies slower, but due to its two-stage design it is more effective against more maneuverable targets. It is also able to engage lower flying targets than the previous systems, and being more modern it is much more resistant to ECM than the S-75. The 5V24 (V-600) missiles reach around Mach 3 to 3.5 in flight, both stages powered by solid fuel rocket motors. The S-125, like the S-75, uses radio command guidance. The naval version of this system has the NATO reporting name SA-N-1 Goa and original designation M-1 Volna (Russian Волна – wave).

Operational history

Soviet Union

A pair of S-125 missiles in transit.
Photo by GulfLINK.
The S-125 was first deployed between 1961 and 1964 around Moscowmarker, augmenting the S-25 and S-75 sites already ringing the city, as well as in other parts of the USSRmarker. In 1964, an upgraded version of the system, the S-125M "Neva-M" and later S-125M1 "Neva-M1" was developed. The original version was designated SA-3A by the US DoDmarker and the new Neva-M named SA-3B and (naval) SA-N-1B. The Neva-M introduced a redesigned booster and an improved guidance system. The SA-3 was not used against U.S. forces in Vietnammarker, because the Soviets feared that China (after the souring of Sino-Soviet relations in 1960), through which most, if not all of the equipment meant for the NVA had to travel, would try to copy the missile.


The FAPA-DAA acquired a significant number of SA-3s, and these were encountered during the first strike flown by SAAFmarker Mirage F.1s against targets in Angola ever - in June 1980. While two aircraft were damaged by SAMs during this action, the Angolans claimed to have shot down four.

On 7 June 1980, while attacking SWAPO's Tobias Haneko Training Camp during Operation Sceptic , SAAF Major Frans Pretorius and Captain IC du Plessis, both flying Mirage F.1s, were hit by SA-3s. Du Plessis' aircraft was hit in a fuel line and he had to perform a deadstick landing at AFB Ondangwa. Pretorius's aircraft sustained heavier damage and had to divert to Ruacana forward airstrip, were he landed with only the main undercarriage extended. Both aircraft were repaired and returned to service.


The Syrians deployed it for the first time during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and also during the conflict in Lebanon in mid-1982 against the IAF, but this responded early to the SAM threat in the Beqaa Valley by launching Operation Mole Cricket 19 in which several SA-3, along with SA-2s and SA-6s were destroyed in a single day.


A USAF F-16 (serial 87-257) was shot down on January 19, 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. The aircraft was struck by an SA-3 just south of Baghdad. The pilot, Major Jeffrey Scott Tice ejected safely but became a POW as the ejection took place over Iraq. It was the 8th combat loss and the first daylight raid over Baghdad.

Two days before, a B-52G was damaged by a SAM which could have been an SA-3 or an SA-6.

FR Yugoslavia

A Yugoslav Army 250th Air Defense Missile Brigade 3rd battery equipped with S-125 system managed to shoot down an F-117 Nighthawk stealth bomber on March 27 1999 during the Kosovo War (the only recorded downing of a stealth aircraft). The S-125 used had been modified by colonel Zoltán Dani in order to detect stealth aircraft. It was also used to shoot down a NATO F-16 fighter on May 2nd (its pilot; Lt. Col David Goldfein, the commander of 555th Fighter Squadron, managed to eject and was later rescued by a combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) mission.

During the war, SA-3 and other SAM systems also shot down numerous UAV's.


The S-125 is somewhat mobile, an improvement over the S-75 system. The missiles are typically deployed on fixed turrets containing two or four but can be carried ready-to-fire on ZIL trucks in pairs. Reloading the fixed launchers takes a few minutes.


The S-125 system uses 2 different missiles versions. The V-600 (or 5V24) had the smallest warhead with only 60 kg of High-Explosive. It had a range of about 15 km.

The later version is named V-601 (or 5V27). It has a length of 6.09 m, a wing span of 2.2 m and a body diameter of 0.375 m. This missile weighs 953 kg at launch, and has a 70 kg warhead containing 33 kg of HE and 4,500 fragments. The minimum range is 3.5 km, and the maximum is 35 km (with the Pechora 2A). The intercept altitudes are between 100 m and 18 km.


Simulated S-125 site at Nellis AFB
The launchers are accompanied by a command building or truck and three primary radar systems:

  • P-15 "Flat Face" or P-15M "Squat Eye" 380 kW C-band target acquisition radar (also used by the SA-6 and SA-8, range 250 km/155 miles)
  • SNR-125 "Low Blow" 250 kW I/D-band tracking, fire control and guidance radar (range 40 km/25 miles, second mode 80 km/50 miles)
  • PRV-11 "Side Net" E-band height finder (also used by SA-2, SA-4 and SA-5, range 28 km/17 miles, max height 32 km/105,000 ft)

"Flat Face"/"Squat Eye" is mounted on a van ("Squat Eye" on a taller mast for better performance against low-altitude targets), "Low Blow" on a trailer and "Side Net" on a box-bodied trailer.

Variants and upgrades

Naval version

Work on a naval version M-1 Volna (SA-N-1) started in 1956, along with work on a land version. It was first mounted on a rebuilt Kotlin class destroyer (Project 56K) Bravyi and tested in 1962. In the same year, the system was accepted. The basic missile was a V-600 (or 4K90) (range: from 4 to 15 km, altitude: from 0.1 to 10 km). Fire control and guidance is carried out by 4R90 Yatagan radar, with five parabolic antennas on a common head. Only one target can be engaged at a time (or two, for ships fitted with two Volna systems). In case of emergency, Volna could be also used against naval targets, due to short response time.

The first launcher type was the two-missile ZIF-101, with a magazine for 16 missiles. In 1963 an improved two-missile launcher, ZIF-102, with a magazine for 32 missiles, was introduced to new ship classes. In 1967 Volna systems were upgraded to Volna-M (SA-N-1B) with V-601 (4K91) missiles (range: 4–22 km, altitude: 0.1–14 km).

In 1974 - 1976 some systems were modernized to Volna-P standard, with an additional TV target tracking channel and better resistance to jamming. Later, improved V-601M missiles were introduced, with lower minimal attack altitude against aerial targets (system Volna-N).

Some Indian frigates also carry the M-1 Volna system.

Modern upgrades

Two S-125 dual missile launcher trailers.
Since Russiamarker replaced most of its S-125 sites with SA-10 and SA-12 systems, they decided to upgrade the S-125 systems being removed from service to make them more attractive to export customers. Released in 2000, the Pechora-2 version features better range, multiple target engagement ability and a higher probability of kill (PK). The launcher is moved onto a truck allowing much shorter relocation times. It is also possible to fire the Pechora-2M system against cruise missiles.

In 1999, a Russian-Belarusian financial-industrial consortium called Oboronitelnye Sistemy (Defense Systems) was awarded a contract to overhaul Egyptmarker's S-125 SAM system. These refurbished weapons have been reintroduced as the S-125 Pechora 2M.[106008]

Ukrainian S-125 Anti-aircraft warfare.
In 2001, Poland began offering an upgrade to the S-125 known as the Newa SC. This replaced many analogue components with digital ones for improved reliability and accuracy. This upgrade also involves mounting the missile launcher on a T-55 tank chassis (a TEL), greatly improving mobility and also adds IFF capability and data links. Radar is mounted on an 8-wheeled heavy truck chassis (formerly used for Scud launchers).Serbianmarker modifications include terminal/camera homing from radar base.

Later the same year, the Russian version was upgraded again to the Pechora-M which upgraded almost all aspects of the system - the rocket motor, radar, guidance, warhead, fuse and electronics. There is an added laser/infra-red tracking device to allow launching of missiles without the use of the radar.

There is also a version of the S-125 available from Russiamarker with the warhead replaced with telemetry instrumentation, for use as target drones.


Current operators of the S-125, excluding India
  • - (165)
  • in use by Air Defence Brigade Dimitrie Cantemir
  • 32 batteries
  • 8 surface-to-air missile system, with 32 rocket launchers (being modernized)

Former Operators

  • (scrapped in 2005)
  • (retired in 1990s)
  • (in service 1978-1995)
  • (destroyed 2003)
  • (in service 1986-1998)
  • (retired in 1990s)
  • (inoperational by 1992)
  • 14 S-125 batteries with a total of about 60 launchers

Radar photos

Image:FlatFace.JPG|P-15 "Flat Face" radar. Photo by Nellis AFBmarkerImage:Lowblow.jpg|"Low Blow" radar. Photo by Nellis AFBmarkerImage:SIDE NET.jpg|PRV-11 "Side Net" radar. Photo by Nellis AFBmarkerImage:Neva 1.jpg|Radar of 250th Air Defence Missile Brigade in Serbia.


  3. Roberts, Chris. "Holloman commander recalls being shot down in Serbia"., 7 February 2007. Retrieved: 16 May 2008.
  4. Anon. "F-16 Aircraft Database: F-16 Airframe Details for 88-0550". Retrieved: 16 May 2008.

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