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Weapons Of Karabakh War: The Soviet OSA-AKM SAM Defense System



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Weapons Of Karabakh War: The Soviet OSA-AKM SAM Defense System


The 9K33 Osa (NATO reporting name SA-8 Gecko) is a highly mobile, low-altitude, short-range tactical surface-to-air missile system developed in the Soviet Union in the 1960s and fielded in 1972.

The OSA-AKM is a version of the Osa with improved anti-helicopter capability.

In the mid-1970’s a need was identified for a new version of Osa capable of shooting down the NATO helicopters that threatened Warsaw Pact tank formations.

For this role a 9A33BM3 vehicle was developed that could fire a mixture of 9M33M3 radio-guided and wire-guided missiles from a single vehicle. In 1980, the modernised Osa-AKM 9K33M3 was accepted by the PVO and surface forces and began serial production at the Izhevsk Electromechanical Works Minradioprom (9A33BM3 missile) and at the Kirov Machinery Works named for the 20th Party Conference Minaviaprom (9M33M3 missile), where all Osa vehicles and their missiles were built.

The system is intended for defense on troops on the march and in mobile combat, as well as of strategic ground facilities against airstrikes delivered by manned or unmanned air vehicles flying at low and medium altitudes.

All versions of the OSA-AKM feature all-in-one 9A33 transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) vehicles which can detect, track and engage aircraft independently or with the aid of regimental surveillance radars.

Weapons Of Karabakh War: The Soviet OSA-AKM SAM Defense System

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The OSA-AKM is armed with 6 missiles ready to fire, mounted on the roof of the vehicle. The missile is tracked by a radio-command guiding system.

The Loading platform can carry from 2 to 6 guided missiles. The engagement range for the SA-8 Gecko missile is approximately 2–9 km and engagement altitudes of between 50–5000 m. The 9M33M2 “Osa-A” missile extends the ranges out to 1,500 – 10,000m and engagement altitudes to 25 – 5,000 m.

The 9M33M3 missile greatly enhances the altitude engagement envelope to 10 – 12,000 m, and as such are also able to fly further (about 15 km/9 miles) but the system is not able to engage targets at longer ranges, due to other factors such as the radar tracking of the missiles.

The driver’s compartment at the front of the vehicle has accommodation for two, the driver and commander, with access to it via a hatch in the roof. There are no other entrance/exit hatches apparent on the vehicle.

The OSA-AKM is a six-wheeled design designated BAZ-5937. It is based on a number of earlier six-wheeled all-terrain vehicles developed by V A Grachev’s design team at the Likhachev Automobile Plant in Moscow.

The vehicle is fully amphibious, being propelled in the water by two water-jets at the rear of the hull. Before entering the water, a trim vane, which is folded back onto the glacis plate when not in use, is erected at the front of the hull.

Each battery has four SA-8 SPU launcher vehicles and two 9T217BM2 TZM reload vehicles each with 12 reload rounds.

The TZMs are supported by 24 ZIL-131 (6 × 6) cargo trucks used as a missile transporter by the regimental Transport Company.

The maintenance and repair unit uses the 9V242-1 automated mobile test station, the 9V914-adjustment tower, the 9V210M3-maintenance vehicle, the 9F372M3 SPTA-2 vehicle and the 9F632M electronic simulator for crew training.

Azerbaijan uses the OSA-AKM, but it was upgraded by Belarus to the OSA-1T standard.

The 9K33-1T “Osa-1T” was developed by UE “Tetraedr” from Belarus. The upgrade included the following:

  • the 9А33-1Т TELAR or “Combat Vehicle” (CV), based on the original BAZ-5937 (or the new MZKT-69222) and equipped with a new day/night camera system OES-1T instead of the original day-only 9Sh33 or 9Sh38-2 “Karat”;
  • the 9M33M2 or -3 SAMs, or the new 9M33M3-1 with a range of 20 km;
  • the 9Т217-1T Transportation and Loading Vehicle (TLV);
  • the 9V210-1T Maintenance Vehicle (MV);
  • the 9V214-1T Alignment Vehicle (AV);
  • the 9V242-1T Automatic Mobile Check-up and Testing Station (AKIPS) and
  • the 9F16M2 Ground Equipment Kit (GEK)




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