Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Ukraine modifies Cold War-Era air defense systems to fire new missiles

Ukrainian forces have reportedly adapted Cold War-era 9K33 Osa (SA-8 Gecko) short-range air defense systems to launch R-73 (NATO reporting name AA-11 Archer) air-to-air missiles from their existing stocks.

This development demonstrates Ukraine’s innovative approach to enhancing its defense capabilities amid the ongoing war with Russia.

The modified Osa systems can now carry a pair of rail-launched R-73s, replacing the standard canisterized 9M33 missiles. The R-73, a short-range missile with an infrared homing head, is designed for intercepting and destroying highly maneuverable enemy aircraft and drones in close air combat. It is effective day and night, from any direction, against targets in both the front and rear hemispheres, and performs well under active electronic countermeasures.


The R-73 missile features a solid-fuel engine with gas-dynamic control system interceptors, enabling it to execute sharp maneuvers during engine operation. However, launching these missiles from a ground platform significantly reduces their effective range compared to their intended airborne deployment.

The original 9K33 Osa system, equipped with various 9M33 series missiles, has a range of up to 7.5 miles and relies on radio command guidance. The version most likely in use by Ukraine is the Osa-AKM (SA-8B Gecko Mod-1), which employs 9M33M3 missiles with a maximum range of 9.3 miles and a ceiling of 40,000 feet. Unlike the original model, which carries four exposed missiles, the Osa-AKM features six missiles housed in box-type containers.

Ukraine’s ability to adapt older equipment to modern requirements reflects the nation’s resourcefulness and determination in the face of persistent threats. This modification not only enhances the Osa system’s combat effectiveness but also maximizes the utility of available missile stocks. The exact number of these systems Ukraine possessed prior to the conflict remains unclear, but this adaptation undoubtedly strengthens its defensive capabilities.

If you would like to show your support for what we are doing, here's where to do it.

If you wish to report grammatical or factual errors within our news articles, you can let us know by using the online feedback form.

Executive Editor

About author:

Dylan Malyasov
Dylan Malyasov
Dylan Malyasov is the editor-in-chief of Defence Blog. He is a journalist, an accredited defense advisor, and a consultant. His background as a defense advisor and consultant adds a unique perspective to his journalistic endeavors, ensuring that his reporting is well-informed and authoritative. read more



US Army names new air defense system after Vietnam war hero

The U.S. Army has named its latest integrated air defense system after Sgt. Mitchell W. Stout, the only Air Defense Artillery Soldier to receive...