S-300 | Missile Threat (2024)

The S-300 is a family of Russian-made surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems capable of engaging aircraft and UAVs in addition to providing some cruise and ballistic missile defense capability. The S-300P variant, also known as the SA-10 Grumble, was designed by the Soviet Union during the 1960s and 70s, and is used only for air defense. Derived from the S-300P is the S-300V, also known as the SA-23A Gladiator and the SA-23B Giant, which is equipped with an anti-ballistic missile capability, and is similar in several respects to the U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2).

Originated from
Soviet Union
Possessed by
Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Greece, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Slovakia, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Vietnam; S-300V: Egypt, Iran, Russia, Venezuela
Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM); S-300V: SAM & Anti-ballistic missile (ABM)
Mobile, ground-based
133 kg (5V55) or 143 kg (48N6) high-explosive fragmentation
25 km (minimum) to 150 km (maximum); S-300V: 6 km (minimum) to 100km (maximum), 40 km (ABM)
In service
  • S-300 | Missile Threat (1)
  • S-300 | Missile Threat (2)
  • S-300 | Missile Threat (3)

S-300P Development

Designed to replace the aging Soviet S-25 Berkut and S-75 Dvina mobile SAM systems and to address the emerging threat of long-range air-based cruise missiles, development of the S-300P began in 1967 under the direction of the Almaz Central Design Bureau.1 The system entered operational service in 1978. In 2000, deployment of the system peaked, with Russian air defense forces fielding approximately 1,900 S-300 launchers.2 By 2017, however, the number of active launchers dropped to around 800.3

Since 1978, the S-300P has seen service with nearly two dozen nations. While the system has yet to be used in actual combat, its testing record indicates similar performance to the MIM-104 Patriot PAC-2. 4.

In 1994, the United States acquired components of the system from Belarus and in 1995, it purchased a number of missiles, launchers, and a command and control element for the system for testing purposes.5

Due to the integral role that the S-300P plays in Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Joint Air Defense System (JADS), Russia freely gave four second-hand battalions to Belarus and five to Kazakhstan in 2015.6

As of 2016, the S-300P is no longer in production. However, export orders for the system continue to be taken and are filled using refurbished models. Recently, the system has garnered a significant amount of international attention due to its deployment to Crimea, Syria, and its export to Iran. Following the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, Russia deployed S-300P units to the peninsula. 7

In October 2016, Russia deployed the system at its naval base in Tartus, Syria. Shortly after the deployment, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a Russian military spokesman, said in regards to a possible U.S. strike on Syrian government forces that, “I would recommend to our colleagues in Washington to thoroughly consider the possible consequences of the realization of such plans.” He then warned the United States that Russia would use its air defense systems, including the S-300s to target any aircraft attacking Russian or Syrian forces. 8

Since 2007, Iran sought to acquire several S-300P systems to deter U.S., Israeli, or GCC air strikes on its territory. The purchase of these weapons was put on hold by Russian President Vladimir Putin following revelations of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Following the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Russia began moving forward with the sale of the system to Iran. Delivery of the system was completed in October 2016.9 Iran has reportedly deployed these units to defend its Fordow uranium enrichment facility.10

S-300P Specifications

Due to its forty-year service life, the S-300P is an expansive weapons system that has employed over 20 missile variants. Currently, the system uses the 5V55K, 5V55R, and 48N6 missiles. These missiles use high-explosive fragmentation warheads triggered by proximity and impact fuses to destroy their targets. The 5V55K and 5V55R are 7.25 m long and the 48N6 is 7.50 m long. All three missiles are 0.51 m in diameter. While the missiles are similar in terms of appearance, they differ in effective ranges and intercept speeds. The 5V55K has a maximum effective range of 47 km while the 5V55R and 48N6 have 75 km and 150 km ranges respectively. The 5V55K and 5V55R models can hit targets which are moving up to 4,300 kph. The 48N6 can hit targets moving up to 10,000 kph.11

The missiles are carried on the 9P85S transporter erector launcher (TEL), a 9.4 m long, 8×8 truck that can carry up to four of the missiles.12

S-300V Development

The S-300V, also known as the SA-23a Gladiator and the SA-23b Giant, was developed to add a ballistic missile defense capability to the S-300P system. It entered service in phases, with some elements integrated into existing air defense systems in 1983. The 9M83 missile entered production in 1986, and full deployment of the system was reached by 1988.13

In October 2016, Russia deployed S-300V systems in Syria at its naval base in Tartus and in Crimea alongside the S-300P models.14

Russian state media has reported that some S-300Vs were sold to Iran in October 2016 alongside the S-300P models, following a renegotiation of the 2007 Iranian acquisition contract.15Additionally, S-300Vs are currently deployed in Russia’s Kaliningrad Enclave alongside the S-400. This deployment allows Russia to extend an anti-access, area-denial (A2AD) zone across much of central Europe, allowing Russia to target aircraft well inside NATO territory.16

S-300V Specifications

The S-300V uses 9M83 and 9M82 missiles to target ballistic warheads across a 40 km radius. The 9M83 is 7.5 m long, 0.5 m wide, and can target aircraft at 75 km. The 9M82 is 10 m long, 0.85 m wide, and can target aircraft at 100 km.17 The export missile variant, the Antei 2500, is similar to the 9M82, but extends the anti-aircraft range up to 200 km. All three missile variants carry 150 kg fragmentation warheads with inertial guidance systems and semi-active radars to find their targets.18

The system uses the 9A83ME four tube launcher vehicle for the SA-23A Gladiator and the 9A84ME two tube launcher vehicle for the SA-23B Giant.19

See a visualization of Russian S-300 deployments on the interactive map, The Russia-NATO A2AD Environment.


    1. Pavel Podvig, Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2001), 407.
    2. Christopher F. Foss, “S-300,” in Jane’s Land Warfare Platforms: Artillery and Air Defense 2012-2013 (London: IHS Global, 2012), 509.
    3. Hans M. Kristensen, Russian Nuclear Forces (2017), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, February 28, 2017, 3.
    4. Carlo Kopp, “Almaz S-300P/PT/PS/PMU/PMU1/PMU2 / Almaz-Antey S-400 Triumf / SA-10/20/21 Grumble / Gargoyle Technical Report APA-TR-2006-1201,” Air Power Australia, April 2012, http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-Grumble-Gargoyle.html
    5. Foss, 514.
    6. The Diplomat, “Russia’s Big Plans for Air Defense in Eurasia,” April 7, 2017, http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/russias-big-plans-for-air-defense-in-eurasia/.
    7. International Business Times, “Russian Military in Crimea Gets New Surface-To-Air Missile System: Report,” December 3, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/russian-military-crimea-gets-new-surface-air-missile-systems-report-1732528.
    8. ABC News, “Russia Warns US Not to Intervene in Syria, Threatens to Shoot Down Any Airstrike Attempts,” October 6, 2016, http://abcnews.go.com/International/russia-warns-us-intervene-syria-threatens-shoot-airstrike/story?id=42618586.
    9. The Diplomat, “Iran Confirms Delivery of First Russian S-300 Air Defense System,” April 11, 2016, http://thediplomat.com/2016/04/iran-confirms-delivery-of-first-russian-s-300-air-defense-system/.
    10. Reuters, “Iran deploys Russian-made S-300 missiles at its Fordow nuclear site: TV,” August 29, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-missiles-fordow-idUSKCN1140YD.
    11. Foss, 511.
    12. Ibid, 514.
    13. Military Today, “S-300V,” April 11, 2017, http://www.military-today.com/missiles/s300v.htm.
    14. Business Insider, “Russia just deployed missile defenses to Syria that can stop ‘any’ US cruise missiles,” October 4, 2016, http://www.businessinsider.com/russia-deploys-sa32-missile-system-syria-2016-10.
    15. Sputnik News, “Russia Offers Iran New Replacement for S-300 – Paper,” June 22, 2013, https://sputniknews.com/world/20130622181809995-Russia-Offers-Iran-New-Replacement-for-S-300–Paper/.
    16. Ian Williams, “The Russia – NATO A2AD Environment,” CSIS Missile Threat, January 3, 2017, https://missilethreat.csis.org/russia-nato-a2ad-environment/.
    17. Foss, 517.
    18. Foss, 575
    19. Army Recognition, “S-300VM Antey-2500 SA-23 Gladiator Giant air defense missile system,” May 20, 2013, http://www.armyrecognition.com/russia_russian_missile_system_vehicle_uk/s-300vm_antey-2500_sa-23_gladiator_giant_technical_data_sheet_specifications_pictures_video.html.
S-300 | Missile Threat (2024)


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