The S-300 is a series of Russian long range surface-to-air missile systems produced by NPO Almaz, all based on the initial S-300P version. The S-300 system was developed to defend against aircraft and cruise missiles for the Soviet Air Defence Forces. Subsequent variations were developed to intercept ballistic missiles.
The S-300 system was first deployed by the Soviet Union in 1979, designed for the air defense of large industrial and administrative facilities, military bases, and control of airspace against enemy strike aircraft.
The project-managing developer of the S-300 is Russian Almaz corporation (government owned, aka "KB-1") which is currently a part of "Almaz-Antei" Air Defense Concern. S-300 uses missiles developed by MKB "Fakel" design bureau (a separate government corporation, aka "OKB-2").
The S-300 is regarded as one of the most potent anti-aircraft missile systems currently fielded. Its radars have the ability to simultaneously track up to 100 targets while engaging up to 12. S-300 deployment time is five minutes. The S-300 missiles are sealed rounds and require no maintenance over their lifetime.
The S-300P (transliterated from Russian С-300П, NATO reporting name SA-10 GRUMBLE) is the original version of the S-300 system which became operational in 1978. In 1987 over 80 of these sites were active, mainly in the area around Moscow. The P suffix stand for PVO-Strany (country air defence system). An S-300PT unit consists of a 36D6 (NATO reporting name TIN SHIELD) surveillance radar, a 30N6 (FLAP LID) fire control system and 5P85-1 launch vehicles. The 5P85-1 vehicle is a semi-trailer truck. Usually a 76N6 (CLAM SHELL) low altitude detection radar is also a part of the unit.
This system broke substantial new ground, including the use of a phased array radar and multiple engagements on the same Fire-control system (FCS). Nevertheless, it had some limitations. It took over one hour to set up this semi-mobile system for firing and the hot vertical launch method employed scorched the TEL.
It was originally intended to fit the Track Via Missile (TVM) guidance system onto this model. However, the TVM system had problems tracking targets below 500 m. Rather than accept the limitation, the Soviets decided that the tracking of low altitude targets was a must and decided to use a pure command-guidance system until the TVM head was ready. This allowed the minimum engagement altitude to be set at 25 m.
Improvements to the S-300P have resulted in several major subversions for both the internal and the export market. The S-300PT-1 and S-300PT-1A (SA-10b/c) are incremental upgrades of the original S300PT system. They introduce the 5V55KD missile and the cold launch method thereafter employed. Time to readiness was reduced to 30 minutes (broadly comparable to Patriot) and trajectory optimizations allowed the 5V55KD to reach a range of 75 km.
The S-300PS/S-300PM (Russian C-300ПC/C-300ПМ, NATO reporting name SA-10d/e) was introduced in 1985 and is the only version thought to have been fitted with a nuclear warhead. This model saw the introduction of the modern TEL and mobile radar and command-post vehicles that were all based on the MAZ-7910 8x8 truck. This model also featured the new 5V55R missiles which increased maximum engagement range to 90 km (56 mi) and introduced a terminal semi-active radar homing (SARH) guidance mode. The surveillance radar of these systems was designated 30N6. Also introduced with this version was the distinction between self propelled and towed TELs. The towed TEL is designated 5P85T. Mobile TELs were the 5P85S and 5P85D. The 5P85D was a "slave" TEL, being controlled by a 5P85S "master" TEL. The "master" TEL is identifiable thanks to the large equipment container behind the cabin; in the "slave" TEL this area is not enclosed and is used for cable or spare tyre storage.