Aircraft Resource Center


1/35 Trumpeter SA-2 Guidline

by Jeff Brundt


Silly Week 2007

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Development of the S-75 (SA-2) started in 1953 at the Lavochkin OKB, under the direction of Petr Grushin. It was designed to attack non-maneuvering high-altitude targets, namely US SAC B-52 bombers. The missile was first shown publicly in the 1957 May Day parade in Moscow.

Wide scale deployment started in 1957, with various upgrades following over the next few years. Although they were not used to replace the SA-1 Guild defenses around Moscow, they did replace all other air defense systems, notably the remaining high-altitude anti-aircraft guns. Between mid-1958 and 1964 more than 600 SA-2 sites in the USSR were located via aerial reconnaissance by US intelligence, mostly in defense of population centers, industrial complexes, and government control centers. A ring of sites was also located around the approaches to the Soviet heartland and by the mid '60s when deployment ended it is estimated that over 1,000 sites were operational.

Several sites were set up in East Germany to protect Soviet forces stationed there in the early 1960s. Later the system was sold to most countries in the Warsaw Pact, with the heaviest deployment remaining in East Germany.

The first aircraft to be shot down by the SA-2 was a Taiwanese RB-57 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, hit near Beijing on October 7, 1959. Over the next few years the Taiwanese ROCAF would lose a number of aircraft to the SA-2, both RB-57's and various drones. On May 1, 1960, Gary Powers' U-2 was shot down while flying over the testing site near Sverdlovsk, although it took 14 missiles to hit his high-flying plane and a Soviet MiG-19 was also destroyed in the action by mistake. That action led to the U-2 Crisis of 1960. It is also believed that Chinese SA-2's downed some ROCAF-piloted U-2s based on Taiwan.

In 1965 North Vietnam asked for some assistance against the U.S.'s airpower, to which they were essentially defenseless at the time. After some discussion it was agreed to supply the NVA with the SA-2, although the decision was not taken lightly as it greatly increased the chances that one would fall into US hands for study. Site preparation started early in the year and the US detected the program almost immediately on April 5, 1965. While military planners pressed for the sites to be attacked before they could become operational, their political leaders refused, fearing that Soviet technical staff might be killed.

Then on July 23, 1965, a US Navy F-4C aircraft was shot down. The US responded with Operation Iron Hand three days later to attack the other sites before they could become operational. Most of the SA-2s were deployed around the Hanoi-Haiphong area and were off limits to attack (as were local airfields) for political reasons. Then, in an astounding show of lack of judgment, President Lyndon Johnson announced on public TV that one of the other sites would be attacked the next week. The Vietnamese removed the missiles and replaced them with decoys, while moving every available anti-aircraft gun into the approach routes. The tactic worked, causing some American casualties indirectly.

Over the next year the US delivered a number of solutions to the SA-2 problem. The Navy had the Shrike missile in service by mid-August and mounted their first offensive strike on a site in October. The Air Force responded by fitting B-66 bombers with powerful jammers that blinded the early warning radars, and developed smaller jamming pods for fighters which denied range information to the radars. Later developments included the Wild Weasel aircraft fitted with jammer pods and ECM systems, dedicated to jamming and then shooting the sites with Shrikes of their own.

By 1968 the effectiveness of the SA-2 was seriously limited and it took on average 30 missiles to hit an aircraft. By 1972 the deployment had continued until 300 sites were operational, but effectiveness dropped even more because of the powerful jammers that blinded SA-2 fire control radars, so much so that the USAF was able to fly the B-52 "downtown" over Hanoi with impunity. North Vietnamese air defense forces took to launching them unguided into the bomber streams, using them essentially as oversized anti-aircraft guns, and eventually ran out of missiles during the Linebacker-II raids in 1972.

PVO Strany started to replace the SA-2 with the much more effective SA-10 and SA-12 systems in the 1980s. Today only a few hundred, if any, of the 4,600 missiles are still in Russian service, even though they underwent a modernization program as late as 1993.

The SA-2 remains in widespread service throughout the world, with some level of operational ability in 35 countries. Vietnam and Egypt are tied for the largest deployments at 260 missiles each, while North Korea has 270, and Poland has 240. The Chinese also deploys the HY-2, an upgrade of the SA-2, in relatively large amounts.
Trumpeter's SA-2 is a jewel of a kit. There are two basic assemblies; the missile itself and the launcher. The missile is molded in grey plastic and the launcher is molded in OD green. The moldings are crip and clean and contain quite a bit of detail. Construction is straight forward and proceeds quickly. There are a few seams on the missile that need some scraping but other than that only a tiny bit of putty was required. The launcher requires no putty what-so-ever and you can work on this while waiting on sections of the missile to dry.

Click on images below to see larger images


I opted for a desert cammo scheme that might have been found in Iraq or Libya. The launcher was painted with Tamiya desert yellow and given a wash with black and burnt umber enamels followed by dry brushing with khaki. The missile wa given only a base coat of Mr. White Base then decaled. There are quite a few decals for the missile and they go in specific areas. Take your time and double check to make sure you get them in the right place because it's easy to switch them around. (I know from experience)
The missile slides on to the launcher and does not need to be glued. If you want you can lower the launcher arm to show the missile in the stowed position. I rather like it at the angle it is. I've also included a picture of the SA-2 next to my F-4J. This will give you a good idea of how big the SA-2 really is. It wasn't called the "flying telephone pole" for nothing. Pilots flying over North Vietnam developed a healthy respect for this missile.

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Photos and text by Jeff Brundt

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