SA-6 Gainful (2K12 Kub)

The SA-6 Gainful (NATO reporting name) or 2K12 Kub mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) system is a Soviet/Russian low to medium-level air defence system designed to protect ground forces from air attack. Each battery consists of a number of similar tracked vehicles, one of which carries the 1S91 (NATO designation Straight Flush) 25 kW G/H band radar (range 75 km/47 miles) equipped with a continuous wave illuminator, in addition to an optical sight. The battery usually also includes 4 triple-missile transporter erector launchers (TELs) and 4 trucks each carrying 3 spare missiles and a crane. TEL is based on a GM-578 chassis, while the 1S91 radar vehicle on a GM-568, all developed and produced by MMZ.The 2K12 surprised the Israelis in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The mobile 2K12 took a heavy toll on Israeli A-4 Skyhawk and F-4 Phantom aircraft. The radar warning receivers (RWR) on the Israeli aircraft initially did not alert the pilot to being illuminated by the 2K12 radar. Once the RWR were reprogrammed and tactics changed, the 2K12 was no longer such a grave threat.

SA-6 Gainful (2K12 Kub)
Class Missile
Type Surface to Air
Manufacturer Former Soviet state factories
Origin Russia (USSR)
Country Name Origin Year
Russia (USSR) 1970
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Algeria View
Angola View
Bosnia-Herzegovina View
Bulgaria View
Cuba View
Egypt View
Hungary View
India View
Iraq View
Libya View
Libya View
Poland View
Romania View
Russia (USSR) 1970 View
Syria View
Tanzania View
Ukraine View
Vietnam View
Yemen View
Yugoslavia (Serbia) View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Former Soviet state factories 1959 View
The development of the 2K12 was started after 18 July 1958 at the request of the CPSU Central Committee.[3] The system was set the requirements of being able to engage aerial targets flying at speeds of 420 to 600 m/s (820–1,170 kn) at altitudes of 100 to 7,000 m (330 to 22,970 ft) at ranges up to 20 km (12 mi), with a single shot kill probability of at least 0.7.[3]

The systems design was the responsibility of the now Tikhomirov Scientific Research Institute of Instrument Design (NIIP). In addition to NIIP several other design bureaus were involved in the creation of the Kub missile system including the now JSC Metrowagonmash (former MMZ)which designed and produced the chassis of the self-propelled components. Many of the design bureaus would later go on to co-operate in the development of the successor to the 2K12 "Kub", the 9K37 "Buk"

Middle East

Yom Kippur War

The 2K12 surprised the Israelis in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. They were used to having air superiority over the battlefield. The highly mobile 2K12 took a heavy toll on the slower A-4 Skyhawk and even the F-4 Phantom, forming a protective umbrella until they could be removed. The radar warning receivers on the Israeli aircraft did not alert the pilot to the fact that he was being illuminated by the radar. Once the RWRs were reprogrammed and tactics changed, the 2K12 was no longer such a grave threat, but still caused heavy losses to Israeli aircraft.

The superior low altitude performance of the weapon, and its new CW semi-active missile seeker resulted in a much higher success rate compared to the earlier SA-2 and SA-3 systems. While exact losses continue to be disputed, more than 40 A-4 Skyhawk Israeli aircraft are confirmed lost to SAM shots, and more than 62 F-4 Phantom Israeli aircraft are confirmed shot down by 2K12/SA-6, SA-2 SA-3 SAM systems. The 2K12 / SA-6 proved most effective of the three weapons.

1982 Lebanon war

The Syrians also deployed the SA-6 to Lebanon in 1981 after the Israelis shot down Syrian helicopters near Zahlé. The SAM batteries were placed in the Bekaa Valley near the Beirut-Damascus road. They remained close to the existing Syrian air defense system but could not be fully integrated into it. Early in the 1982 Lebanon war, the Israeli Air Force concentrated on the SAM threat in the Beqaa Valley, launching Operation Mole Cricket 19. The result was a complete success. Several SA-6 batteries, along with SA-2s and SA-3s, were destroyed in a single day. While Syria's own air defenses remained largely intact, its forces in Lebanon were left exposed to attacks by Israeli strike aircraft for the remainder of the war.

Angolan Civil War

Cuban Air Defense placed hundreds of SA-2, SA-3 and SA-6 missile sites in the border with Namibia with the purpose of downing Buccaneer and Canberra bombers, particularly since they could carry nuclear weapons. An 3M9M3 missile launched from a Cuban SA-6 hit a South African Impala Mk II light attack aircraft that was mistaken for a Mirage F1.


On 19 August 2003, a Polish Air Force Su-22M4K was accidentally shot down by friendly fire during an exercise by a Polish SA-6 battery. The aircraft was flying 21 km from the coast over the Baltic Sea near Ustka. The pilot, General Andrzej Andrzejewski, ejected and was rescued after two hours in the water. He subsequently died in a C-295M crash on 23 January 2008.


The system was deployed by Libya during the border dispute with Chad and proved a threat for French aircraft, however on January 7, 1987 these were successful in destroying an SA-6 radar site in the Faya Largeau area with SEPECAT Jaguars armed with Martel anti-radiation missiles.

In March, the Chadian rebels captured Ouadi Doum air base and captured practically the whole heavy equipment used for the defense of this airfield intact. Most of this equipment was transported to France and the USA in the following days, but some SA-6s remained in Chad.

With this catastrophe, the Libyan occupation of the northern Chad – and the annexation of the Aouzou Strip – was over: by 30 March, also the bases at Faya Largeau and Aouzou had to be abandoned. The LARAF now has got a completely different task: its Tu-22Bs were to attack the abandoned bases and destroy as much equipment left there as possible. First such strikes were flown in April, and they continued until 8 August 1987, when two Tu-22Bs which tried to strike Aouzou, were ambushed by a captured SA-6 battery used by the Chadian Army, and one of the bombers shot down.

Libyan air defense, including SA-6 batteries, was active during the 2011 military intervention in Libya. They were completely ineffective, not managing to shoot down any NATO or allied aircraft.


Several SA-6s, along with other SAM systems and military equipment, were supplied to Iraq before and during the Iran-Iraq War as part of large military packages from the Soviet Union. The batteries were active since the start of the war in September 1980, scoring kills against U.S-supplied Iranian F-4 Phantoms and Northrop F-5s.

Kub systems were active again during the 1991 war. On January 19, 1991 a USAF F-16 (serial 87-228) was shot down by an SA-6 during the massive (though ill-fated) Package Q Strike against a heavily defended Baghdad. It was combat loss number 10 in Operation Desert Storm. The pilot, Captain Harry 'Mike' Roberts, ejected safely but was taken prisoner and freed in March 1991. The aircraft was on a mission to attack the Air Defense Headquarters Building. It had flown 4 combat missions before being lost.

Two days before, a B-52G was damaged by either an SA-6 or an SA-3.

In any case, the SA-6 threat was largely controlled by Allied EW assets together with the older SA-2 and SA-3 missile systems. Most of the losses were due to IR guided SAMs.

Kubs continued to be used by the Iraqi military, along with other SAM systems, to challenge the Western imposed no-fly zones during the 1990s and early 2000s. They weren't able to shoot down any Coalition aircraft though several sites were destroyed as retaliation. For example, on December 30, 1998 an SA-6 site near Talil fired 6-8 missiles at aircraft enforcing the Southern Watch component of the NFZ. American F-16s responded by dropping six GBU-12 laser-guided bombs on the site and also launching two HARMs "as a preemptive measure" to warn Iraqi radar operators against carrying out more firings.

Bosnia and Kosovo

Army of Republika Srpska forces, using modified SA-6s were successful in shooting down Scott O'Grady's F-16 in 1995 and two to three Croatian AN-2 aircraft that were used as night bombers with improvised 100 kg bombs.

One Mi-17 was shot down by a Kub on May 28, 1995, killing the Bosnian Minister Irfan Ljubijankic, a few other politicians, and the helicopter's Ukrainian crew.

During the Kosovo War, in 1999, on the first night of the war (March 24./25.), a Yugoslav Air Force MiG-29 flown by Maj. Predrag Milutinovic was downed by a Kub battery in a friendly fire incident, while approaching Niš Airport after an unsuccessful engagement with NATO aircraft. The Yugoslav Air Defence had twenty-two SA-6 batteries. Using shoot and scoot tactics, the self-propelled ground system demonstrated a good surviability with only three radars lost in the face of nearly four-hundred AGM-88 shots, but the system proved to be very ineffective having fired 477 missiles without a single success, at the same time. As comparison the fixed SA-2 and SA-3 sites demonstrated a similar low rate success, but suffered losses to around 66 to 80 percent.

General Information
Developed by Russia
Deployed by Algeria, Angola, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Cuba, Czech Rep., Egypt, Hungary, India, Iraq, Libya, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Syria, Tanzania, Ukraine, Vietnam, Yemen, Polisario guerrillas (North Africa)
Development Year 1959
Deployment Year 1970(6A), 1979(6B)
Platform 2P25 TEL(3 rounds)
Number deployed 850 TEL Vehicle(each 3 missiles)(1992)
Design Toropovs OKB-134
Manufacturer Former Soviet state factories

Dimensions and Performance
Length 5.8m
Body Diameter 33.5cm
Wing/Fin span 1.245m
Launch Weight 600kg
Range 3,700-24,000m
Speed Mach 2.8
Altitude 50-12,000m

Propulsion Integral rocket motor/ramjet booster and sustainer
Warhead 59kg HE fragmentation effect
Guidance Semi-active radar homing

End notes