SA-11/17 Buk Missile System

By now you’ve seen speculation that the Malaysian Airlines flight in Ukraine was brought down by a “Buk” missile system. The NATO code name for this system is either SA-11 GADFLY or SA-17 GRIZZLY for the follow-on variant. The Russian (and Ukraine) name for the system is “Buk.”



Both Russia and Ukraine operate the Buk. And the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine claim to have captured some.

File:Buk-M1-2 air defence system in 2010.jpg

A Buk battery consists of a command post vehicle, a surveillance radar vehicle, several  launcher vehicles, and vehicles carrying reloads. But the SA-11/17 can be fired and guided solely from its launcher vehicle, without integrating with the command post and surveillance radar.

The system is highly mobile, and intended to provide air defense for army formations in the field, though Ukraine does also use it as a portion of their fixed national air defense network protecting its cities and critical infrastructure.

10 thoughts on “SA-11/17 Buk Missile System”

  1. Nice to see that the Russian radar console hasn’t changed much since my days of operating an MSQ T-2 ECM radar. ( copy of Russian SAM Foxtrot/Golf band radar.) The only thing I noticed missing was the hand wheels to slew the radar around.

    I also noticed you still have to get the target pip into the range gate before you can lock-on to the target.

  2. How complex is one of these to operate? Could we be seeing some semi-literate peasant managing to shoot down an airliner between bottles of vodka, a pro-Russia veteran of the Ukrainian or Russian army who dimly remembers running one of this 10 years ago, or does this require an active military unit (either Russian or Ukrainian)?

    1. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that at least some of the pro-Russian separatists were former members of the Ukrainian Army air defense troops. They would likely be capable of operating the Buk at least to some degree.

      Incidentally, I suspect this was a single launcher engagement, not netted in with the CP and surveillance radar. That would increase the likelihood of misidentifying an airliner for a turboprop transport.

      Or the Russians could have let “volunteers” from their own air defense troops operate the system.

      Or it might have been a Russian unit. Don’t know.

    2. The UK managed to shoot down a puccara and puma in the Falklands war with Stingers. We had 6 missiles, and one guy trained to use them, who died before he could train anyone else.

      So with no training, the UK managed at least a 33% kill rate (dont know how many they fired)

      Now, a Stinger and a Gadfly are pretty different, I suppose, but the Soviet kit is designed to be operated by semi literate peasants.

      For all we know the operators are active duty AWOL Ukrainian regulars, but as the boss says, more likely to be former Ukrainian or Russian.

      The Rebels captured these units on the 29th at the latest, giving them 2 weeks to refresh or learn how to operate them

  3. Igor Bezler: We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera. It fell down beyond Yenakievo.

    Vasili Geranin: Pilots. Where are the pilots?

    IB: Gone to search for and photograph the plane. Its smoking.

    VG: How many minutes ago?

    IB: About 30 minutes ago.

    SBU comment: After examining the site of the plane the terrorists come to the conclusion that they have shot down a civilian plane. The next part of the conversation took place about 40 minutes later.

    “Major”: These are Chernukhin folks show down the plane. From the Chernukhin check point. Those cossacks who are based in Chernukhino.

    “Grek”: Yes, Major.

    “Major”: The plane fell apart in the air. In the area of Petropavlovskaya mine. The first “200” (code word for dead person). We have found the first “200”. A Civilian.

    “Grek”: Well, what do you have there?

    “Major”: In short, it was 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft.

    “Grek”: Are many people there?

    “Major”: Holy sh__t! The debris fell right into the yards (of homes).

    “Grek”: What kind of aircraft?

    “Major”: I haven’t ascertained this. I haven’t been to the main sight. I am only surveying the scene where the first bodies fell. There are the remains of internal brackets, seats and bodies.

    “Grek”: Is there anything left of the weapon?

    “Major”: Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.

    “Grek”: Are there documents?

    “Major”: Yes, of one Indonesian student. From a university in Thompson.

    This turd was all ready to claim a shoot-down, until it was confirmed to be civilian. Then, he deleted his posts…

  4. Hard to believe these idiots didn’t realize this wasn’t a military aircraft. When the radar started ‘painting’ it and locked on, the aircraft didn’t start any evasive maneuvers or jamming. A military pilot would have been jamming and juking that plane all over the sky to try and break lock.

    As far as operating it…it took me about two weeks to learn the fundamentals of operating the T-2 enough to be able to lock it on a target, but that was as a trained operator of a different system and I had to lock on through jamming.

    I doubt semi-literate peasants were in the van operating the radar.

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