An enormous explosion could be seen, while a second drone showed the carnage – as the vehicle was reduced to a burnt-out hulk.
A Ukrainian Special Operations Forces (SSO) employed a small commercial drone to drop an undisclosed ordnance on a Russian 9K35 Sterla-10, a Soviet-designed highly mobile, short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system.
It is also known by Western analysts as the SA-13 “Gopher.”
It is operated by a crew of three. While missiles are visually aimed, the Strela-10 is equipped with electro-optical guidance and can use its radars for target acquisition and range.
The air-defense system can engage aircraft, helicopters, drones, and other visual air targets at low altitudes. Some vehicles have a pintle-mounted PKT 7.62 mm machine gun in front of the forward hatch for local protection.
Despite being developed by the Soviet Union, it was first employed in combat more than a decade after it was developed in the Angolan Civil War.
Thirty-one-year-old Major Edward Richard Every, a pilot with the 1st Squadron of the South African Air Force, was killed in action when his Mirage F1AZ fighter was shot down by Cuban-operated Strela-10 near Menongue, while on an attack mission over Southern Angola.
That marked the first confirmed use – and successful “kill” – involving the air-defense system in combat, although there are reports it was employed in the Iran-Iraq War.
It is known that Iraq operated a number of the systems during the 1991 Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), and most were employed as part of the battlefield air defense systems of the Republican Guard divisions.
— ???????? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 22, 2023
A total of 27 coalition aircraft were hit by Iraqi air defenses, but only two of those losses have been attributed to the Strela-10.
The system was later employed by Serbia in the Kosovo War, while it is still reported to be in use with pro-government forces in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
The platform remains in service throughout the world, and Russia was believed to have at least 350 in service when it launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022
. An upgraded/modernized Strela-10M had been used to guard the captured Snake Island in the Black Sea and was believed to have been destroyed by a Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2 last April.
In late 2020, the Russian-based Kalashnikov Concern began new batch production of the 9M33 guided missile for the Sterla-10M.
According to state media reports, the missiles were equipped with a self-homing warhead that could operate in three modes, including optical contrast, infrared, and anti-jamming.
The ordnance was capable of hitting low-flying planes and helicopters amid optical jamming as well as drones and cruise missiles.
Kyiv also maintains a number of Soviet-era air defense systems, but it remains unclear where those platforms have been deployed. At least one was confirmed destroyed last June.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.