Four Russian Surface-to-Air Missile Systems that Could Have Shot Down the Malaysian Jet

Первый международный форум "Технологии в машиностроении-2010"Multiple reports have emerged that a Malaysian MH-17 passenger jet carrying 295 people was shot down over Eastern Ukraine Thursday morning. Early reports point to pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, or Russian forces stationed on the Russia-Ukraine border shooting down the passenger jet. However, Ukraine, Russia and the pro-Russian separatists have all denied shooting down the passenger plane.

Records show the passenger jet was cruising at about 33,000 feet at about 500 miles per hour. In order to shoot down a jet at this altitude, it requires an advanced surface-to-air missile, or an air-to-air missile. Early indications show it was likely a radar guided surface-to-air missiles (SAM).

Below are four Russian SAM systems that could knock down a passenger jet flying at 33,000 feet:

Buk Missile System 2Buk Missile System (NATO designation: SA-11/SA-17)

Reports in Ukraine indicate that pro-Russian separatists have a Buk missile system in eastern Ukraine. NATO refers to the system as the SA-11 GADFLY and the advanced model as the SA-17 GRIZZLY. The systems was developed by the Soviet Union to succeed the SA-6 GAINFUL.

The Buk is a mobile missile system that includes a target acquisition radar vehicle, command vehicle, six transporter erector launcher and radar vehicles and three transporter erector launcher vehicles. The Buk missile batter includes two TELAR and one TEL vehicles.

A standard Buk battalion consists of a command vehicle, target acquisition radar (TAR) vehicle, six transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) vehicles and three transporter erector launcher (TEL) vehicles. A Buk missile battery consists of two TELAR and one TEL vehicle.

The medium range SAM system has received iterative upgrades over the years since it was first introduced in 1979. The range and capability of the system depends on the missile in use.  The SA-11 was introduced in 1979 using the 9M38 missile that features a range of 3-19 miles and an altitude of 100-46,000 feet. In 1984, the SA-11 received the upgraded 9M38M1 missile which expanded the range to 22 miles and the altitude up to 72,000 feet.

The system was upgraded to the NATO designation SA-17 in 1998 when the 9M317 missile was introduced. The missile features an engagement envelope of 100-82,000 feet and 2-31 miles. The GRIZZLY also receive the third version of the target acquisition radar, which can engage 24 simultaneous targets.

S-400S-400 (NATO designation: SA-21 GROWLER)

This is the most advanced surface-to-air missile system in the world. It was introduced in 2004  by Russia.  The long to medium range system features three different missiles — the long range 40N6 and 48N6 missiles as well as the medium range 9M96 missile. Depending on the missile the engagement envelope extends to 98,000 feet and 248 miles.

What sets this system apart is how many targets it can track simultaneously. The S-400’s target acquisition radar can track 36 aerodynamic targets and 72 missiles. For comparison’s sake, the Buk can track 24 targets. Right now, only Russia operates the S-400 although there have been threats it would export it to Iran. There are five S-400 systems deployed across Russia — two in Moscow, one in Russia’s Southern Military District, one in the Pacific Fleet and one near the Baltic Sea.

SA-6 22K12Kub (NATO designation: SA-6 GAINFUL)

This is Russia’s medium range surface-to-air mssile system predecessor to the SA-11 and SA-17. It was an original part of the Buk missile system but it has since been phased out in favor of its successors. However, there are a few 2K12 Kub’s still in existence in Russia, according to reports. It was designed in 1959 by the Soviet Union and was produced from 1964 to 1985.

It’s frankly a simpler version of the SA-11 and SA-17. The mobile SAM system has a range of 2-15 miles and can hit targets traveling up to 36,000 feet.

sa-2S-75A Dvina (NATO designation: SA-2 GUIDELINE)

Russia’s early high altitude surface-to-air missile system was designed to knock down U.S. bombers and spy planes. It was made famous when the system shot down U.S. pilot Gary Powers flying a U-2. The SAM system features a radar and missile system that can hit targets flying up to 114,000 feet and up to 41 miles away depending on the variant of the system.

The Russians have exported the system across Asia and even Africa. Notable countries who use the system include Libya, North Korea and Syria. The SA-2 also knocked down U.S. pilots during the Vietnam War.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • rtsy

    4 reasons NOT to fly over a war zone.

  • Ed B

    Thats a BIG DUH!!!!!!!!! DT writer. So its either a SA-6 or its upgraded version the SA-11 or a SA-10 and its improved version the SA-20/21. Hate to say SA-2s are not in service in Russia or the CIS nor China any more that be the same as our Army using Nike/Hercules missiles today. It also so obvious you support the NATO maidens in Kiev that you automatically point to Russia for this. They might have done this by mistake, but wait for the news of what happened instead of rumors hours after it happened..

    But face it like the shooting down of the Iranian airliner in 87. Who is the idiot who flies passenger planes over a war zone which both side shoot at each other with MiGs and SAMs. face it the real bad guy here is the Ukrainian officials who kept sending civilians to fly over a area where Russian forces have shoot down SU-25 and military planes several times.

    • Marc Winger

      Use your head. This has nothing to do with NATO whatsoever & if you think the ethnic Russian guerrillas in Eastern Ukraine have anything that can shoot down a craft at that height, without Russian support, you need to rethink. Ukraine is hardly in a position to coordinate or regulate any flights over their territory. Ukraine may not be the best -tagonist in the region, but they are veering towards the West & away from that pathetic remnant of the Soviet Empire, known as Russia.

      • Eric

        I agree with you Marc. Most people dont want to see the truth or use common sense when talking about issues like Ukraine/Russia

      • OracleSpectacle

        – I think you need to rethink! -More than 300.000 SA-2 missiles were produced. And in who’s hands some of these systems are know is for me unknown. – I have my eyes on the “pro-russian”, “Ex-Soviet”, “Bandit-state” of “Transnistria”, on the border to Ukraine…

        • bn girl

          Marc was not thinking. He was propagandaring.

      • Fred

        There were news reports of the guerillas having captured a SA-11 from the Ukrainians a few weeks ago (6/28-6/29 or so).

        So it is possible that Russia did not plan this, and this is just an idiotic mistake by a bunch of amateurs with unfamiliar big guns. I would say even ‘probable’, but wouldn’t rule out Russia.

      • Ziv

        Marc, the separatists were boasting to the western press two weeks ago that they had captured an SA-11 Buk missile launch system. The pictures are out there of them showing it off. And then 30 minutes after the 777 was shot down, Putins man on the scene, Igor Strelkov, announced that the separatists had shot down an aircraft that they believed to be another AN-26, which was 30 minutes before anyone else knew that the 777 was in trouble. Well it turns out that they shot down a 777 instead. Whether the guys controlling the battery were Russian or not is almost a side issue. It is Russia’s fault, regardless.
        I agree that this isn’t NATO’s fault, but who in the world routed civilian airliners over what is for all intents and purposes a war zone?
        The Russians are ignorant b******, but we, the West, shouldn’t have sent commercial aircraft anywhere near those idiots. I am no expert on this, but I did note the detour my jet took around Bosnia in January of 1995.

        • ghostwhowalksnz

          The Ukraine military have form for shooting down a civilian jet accidentially, Siberia Air Fl 812. Tu154 from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk.
          As the US navy found when it too shot down a civilian jet, mistakes do happen

        • orly?

          1. Malaysian airlines’ HQ is not in the west.

          2. Airlines do routes that don’t make sense because of the capitalist idea of making money. They use less fuel that way.

      • oblatt22

        >Ukraine is hardly in a position to coordinate or regulate any flights over their territory.

        The Ukraine government is responsible for its airspace. Sounds like you are hardly is a position to comment.

      • paddyomalley

        The separatists got some of Buk missiles and systems from a Ukraine armory they sacked. The Buks can reach planes at 72,000 feet.

    • rangie sanchez
      • german

        Fabricated “phone conversations”.

        Where have I seen that before? …. ahhhh, 9/11″ phone conversations” aboard a “hijacked airliner”

    • Fishbed Charlie

      >> “…the real bad guy here is the Ukrainian officials who kept sending civilians to fly over a area where Russian forces have shoot down SU-25 and military planes several times.”<< Ed B, you know nothing. The real responsibility lies with the Maylasian captain who accepted this routing from his dispatcher.

      • Blue Jay

        Come on, Deathbed Charlie, let those with live brain cells talk.



      Get your facts straight. Ukrainian officials are not in charge of Malaysian Airlines. It was the airline officials who chose to keep flying through that air space. They did so to save money on fuel.

    • noneya

      theres alot of people dead if its a mistake or not, and russian power is the dog

  • Doug

    The Russians did it. Putin will put the blame on someone else and Obama will let it go.

    • Stan

      Your evidence for your claim is what, Doug?

    • german

      The US did it. First there is the motive. Second there is the means. Third there is the funding. Fourth there is the agenda. And finally there is the pattern of false flag ops in similar situations.

    • Hello

      You got it, yellow stripe we use to call it in Germany in the Cold War! Where is a civil Gorbochacv when you have a Regan?
      Americans are worthless after WWII. We’ve lost small regional wars since, starting in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afganistan.

      Can we now learn only occupation can bridge friendship like Germany & Japan.
      But it is an investment over many generations. Not this go in and leave like the mid-east. Let Isareal Lead there.

      Only Germany & Japan has the history of what a greater nation they have NOW! After Americans extended a had and friendship.

      Generations in Mid East will continue to hate God loving people. Not An idol called Alla.

      Persons of leadership NOW try to make a civil world. And it will never happen! Read and understand what the Bible has said for consolidation of over 2000 years of documents gathered and literally translated by fathers. History teaches on the battlefield which will alway be.
      Put the fires out ASAP like, Iran, let small fires be put out. Let Israel occupy what land mass they can.

      Stick with the real allies(England, Now. Some Europeans that have guts.

      Only large masses of land like Russia, China. And most of Africa. Cannot be occupied but American Ideals.

      But to waste 10 years of $$$ to educate was the wrong method used in the later half of 20 the Century, and so far in the first decade of the 21st. only those will carry on the hatred will be growing in their World system. Let them come forward with a White Flag or Teach them the lessons our fathers left to the next generations, and study the philosophy that Romans 5, 1-8, has to say; it’s a start to understand through the future.

  • Marc Winger

    The ethnic Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine have nothing but what Russia provides & do nothing, except what Russian covert ops dictates. Obviously.
    Anyone that would defend the Russians, is suspect. Literally. They remain; & have done so since the implosion of the Soviet state, an enemy of the US & the West. We won & we continue to win. Whether this shoot down is a Russian mistake or purposeful, is irrelevant. They or their agents downed a commercial airliner, flying high enough to have made further caution of the little conflict below, unnecessary.

  • OracleSpectacle

    – I wonder if there are any operative SA-2 systems in “ex-soviet”, “break-out-from Moldova”, “pro-russian” “Transnistria-republic” that got feets and walked over the border to eastern Ukraine?

  • voodkokk

    The question is WHY? They are nothing but a bunch of yellow striped cowards that would blow up innocent people. They need to find out who pulled the trigger and hook their azz to a SAM and launch.

  • Rob

    Find it odd that there is such a lack of surveillance in the small area of this conflict that could prove who did it. Shows a huge weakness of all 4 sides involved ( NaTO, Ukraine, Separatists, Russia) Not impressed.

    • orly?

      US/NATO have satellite footage.

      Guess what happens next?

    • Riceball

      But the thing is that a satellite can only cover so much at a time and it’s entirely possible that it had either already passed or hadn’t reached the area where the Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down. It’s not like anybody, except the tinfoil hat types, knew that it was going to be shot down so we could make sure that we had a satellite in place to capture evidence. Of course there is such a thing as maintaining geo-synchronous orbit but I’m not sure that we’d have a satellite parked there 24/7 since it would mean that it couldn’t be used to look elsewhere.

  • german

    Looks like another false flag op directed by the US / NATO and executed by the puppet government in Ukraine.

  • german

    The Malaysian War Crime Tribunal convicted GW Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld etc for war crimes in Iraq not so long ago.

    Plots to retaliate against the Malaysian government has been in the works in Washington (and perhaps London) for some time. The disappearance of MA 370 signaled the start. Now it’s another act of revenge in all possibility. It fits the pattern and M.O. of US / UK.

    • German is an Idiot

      Why don’t you go smoke some more dope, german, and continue to blame the U.S. for everything that goes wrong in the world. Ridiculous.

    • guest

      about as relevant as claiming that -due to the pax list composition- this was Serbian retaliation against Haag tribunal charges against Milosevic.

    • Canuck

      Your conspiracy theory is hilarious. Why would anyone waste their time and who cares what a kangaroo court set up in such a respectable place as Malaysia has to say. The “court” is neither unbiased nor anything other than a biased Islamic public relations ploy. These stunts work backwards. Islamic people are innocent and everything flows from that. Iraq invades neighboring Islamic countries, Palestinians are devoted to the destruction of Israelis. But they are innocent.

      Are you truly German or a transplant soaking up all the foolish Euro area benefits that your home country cannot, will not provide its citizens. Except ingratiating the powerful and wealthy. The problem starts at home.

    • thomas

      Do you think we worry about a small nations court system? Come on you can’t have it both ways.

      • german

        Who is “we”? The war criminals in the US government? the brainwashed sheeples? members of the Establishment?

  • edliew

    Transcript from rebel conversation

  • orly?

    Why does no one start taking Anti Air seriously until AFTER a tragedy like this occurs?

  • orly?

    This does NOT surprise me.

    How long until this link goes down?

  • youngyer

    The most potential is that Government of Ukraine Want to Hit the Pro – Russia. So, They shoot the MH17 and the ask the Pro-Russia to responsible only. It is the way that they will have a right to hunt Pro-Russia as terrorist.

  • oblatt22

    To most of the Muslim world America just shot down a second Malaysia airliner.

    But who can deny Washington isn’t rubbing its hands with glee.

  • Misanthrophe2

    Tragic event, especially considering that it was a Malaysian aircraft. Russia will be roundly condemned by the ‘civilized’ nations of the world, but the US and her NATO toadies must share some of the blame. Remember it was GWB and his neo-con Trotskyite masters who pushed for Ukrainian membership in NATO, followed by the positioning of the missile ‘defense’ shield in Ukraine. This was a deliberate provocation by the US and her puppet allies in NATO – a provocation which Putin put to rest by taking Crimea and supporting insurgency in Eastern Ukraine. The US was hell-bent on humiliating Russia and threatening her sovereignty and security. Putin surprised the sleeping, arrogant America by taking Crimea and securing Russia’s access to the Black Sea. The shooting down of the Malaysian aircraft is a sad by-product of American interference in Ukraine.

    • David

      Ok let me get this straight… It the US’s fault for offering Ukraine, a sovereign nation capable of making it’s own choices, membership into a defensive alliance. Because of that you say Russia is justified in invading and taking part of that nation because of that offer? Which more than makes valid the purpose of the offer a defensive alliance in the first place.

      Sure. Listen closely…. Crack kills. Stop smoking it.

    • Ohbigboy

      I think you are confusing Ukraine with Poland.

    • Quentin

      You, sir, may claim to be an American, but you’re not. You disgust me.

  • TonyC.

    The airliner was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Malaysian Air Line should have made the pilots take a different route. Like it was stated in this forum, don’t fly civilian aircraft over a war zone. The problem with this incident is all sides of the conflict are using Russian built equipment, so who did it may never be known?

  • How do you say “Aw Sh–” in Russian?

    • reader

      shopa, bljat, or jop tvoje madt

  • Hmmm

    Maybe the Russians did it to isolate Ukraine into a no fly zone, make it look unstable and have an excuse to go in and take over? It’s all not far from the Russian border.

  • Truth

    Those Russians are completely CooKoo with their driving. See youtube movie’s
    Give them weapons and they are potential human rights criminals. The inslavement of their own people is a perfect example. How many people are put to silence by Russian goverment. Putin is just a new Stalin.

  • Tom J

    Twitter feed of Spanish air-traffic controller in Kiev Malaysia Airlines B777 aircraft disappeared from the radar, there was no communication of any anomaly, confirmed (English) # URGENTE: the Boeing 777 with 280 passengers disappeared from radars while it was at 10,000 m (English) B 777 aircraft flew escorted by 2 fighters from ukraine until minutes before disappearing from radar, (English) Yes the kiev authorities, want to tell the truth, this collected 2 fighters flew nearby minutes earlier, not a hunt down it (English) At the 7:00 minutes reported the demolition, later our tower was taken with foreign staff q continue here (English) Military confirmed that it was ukraine, but it still does not know where the order came from (English)

    Photos of wreckage show the missile, not sure if it’s air-to-air or not.. I’ll upload the shot

  • some videos and pictures of the BUK beeing used by pro russians there, pictures that showing where the BUK was placed, video of BUK beeing moved to russian side with a missing missile and alot more.
    What more evidence do some people actually need to see the truth???
    Some people belive russia so much that if they would see Putin stealing infront of they eyes they would still deny its true…


    President Putin was returning to Russia from the post World Cup summit of BRICS Nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in Brazil when the Kiev junta despot Petro Poroshenko took the opportunity to assassinate him by bringing down his aircraft and shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane instead. Doubt very much Obama has a hand in it.

  • oblatt22

    Ukrainian denials sound familiar…

    Friday, 5 October, 2001, 06:27 GMT 07:27 UK
    Ukrainian denial

    The Ukrainian defence ministry denied that its forces had caused the disaster, saying adequate safety precautions had been taken.

    They said that all missiles had been accounted for, and that the exercises had only begun an hour-and-a-half after the plane crashed.

    Ukrainian officials said that the plane had been out of range of the missiles when it crashed. “The weapons that were being used during this exercise could not reach the area where our Tu-154 was flying,”

  • meagainstyou

    First I love the article: Russia shot down the airplane and that was I guess the point of the author. Ukraine operates all of the systems listed above and has significant experience shooting down civilian airliners. The probability of ukranians shooting down the airliner is much higher then vice versa since they have significantly more SAMs and trained troops. Second the airliner was shot towards west of ground impact point so…..the probability of that being a rebel buk system is even lower. The moral of the above story is that when some countries can kill thousands of civilians and it is collateral damage, once per year story on CNN….when something like this happens in unfriendly countries it is on 24 hrs a day…until you go nuts.

    • bn girl

      Here’s a good rule : if CNN or Fox are pumping a story of geopolitical significance and insinuating wrongdoing against a country that is not a US puppet, presume the opposite is true. You will be right well over 80% of the time. In this case, like the stories about Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Cuba, Venezuela, etc, the opposite of what the MSM is pushing is true, i.e., it was done by either the US or Ukraine with some US involvement.


    You don’t have to be a forensic crash expert to find out who owned the missiles, the debris we cannot get near had the rocket engines from those russian missiles and satellite co-ordinates can confirm launch point, radio intercept proves who was responsible and that a russkie tech had to be there with the launcher……BOB and Lurch are just paralyzed because they will not commit to sending troops and equipment into the balkan and polish areas to put RazzzPutin on the defensive. BOB is going to be red skinned again by RazzPutin because Razz is going to give him the bird and say “so sue me”…….

  • Blue Jay

    The truth is rising to the top now.

    Ukrainian Su25 detected to to gaining height on MH17 shortly before the crash.

  • Barring

    The Malaysian Airliner MH17 was ordered by Ukraine air control to lower its altitude and change direction to fly over a war zone. The airliner was also being flanked by Ukrainian fighter jets. The US knew the Ukrainians did it, but chose to withhold evidence.

    See infowars website

  • Barring

    Fake US evidence debunked:

    The crime was committed by the Ukrainian puppet government, seemingly with support from the US via the CIA.

  • SRI

    Blaming is easy but truth lies somewhere between Conspiracy & Diplomacy. Mighty cannot be sued in this world despite clear evidences. The innocent people were caught in the hands of two super powers.

  • It’s hard to come by educated people about this subject, however,
    you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  • Tacit Blue 77

    Considering the fragmentation damage to the nose area of the B777-200ER and the shape of the penentrations, it is rather clear that a surface-to-air missile was the means by which the aircraft was destroyed. That Flight MH17 was struck in the forward area, with the damage concentrated near the cockpit, is conclusive. The Russians have their hands all over this and are concocting a series of wild tales because some of the aviation-minded public remembers KAL 007. And they also realize the mistake made in allowing control of the SA-11 battery to come into the hands of the pro-Russian separatists. The SA-11 fire unit was soon removed from separatist control in hopes that it would not be spotted…Alas for Putin’s objectives…It was caught on a cell phone camera.