Why is the IAF’s Pechora Missile called a “Stealth Killer”?

S-125 Pechora is a Soviet-made surface-to-air missile system. This system has served as the Indian Air Force’s primary means of air defence for a very long period. As the Soviet Union originally put this system into use in 1961, it has been in use for 60 years. Almost every contemporary conflict has involved this framework. It has defeated numerous opponents with innumerable kills. 25 Pechora squadrons are run by the IAF.

Aleksei Isaev created the S-125 Neva/Pechora surface-to-air missile system as an addition to the S-25 and S-75. Although it flies slower and has a shorter effective range than either of its predecessors, it is more effective against more nimble targets because of its two-stage construction. In addition, it can engage targets that are flying at a lower altitude than the preceding systems, and because it is more recent, it is significantly more ECM resistant than the S-75.

Operational History

Between 1961 and 1964, the S-125 was first placed around Moscow as an addition to the S-25 and S-75 installations that already encircled the city and other regions of the USSR. The S-125M “Neva-M” and later the S-125M1 “Neva-M1” were updated versions of the system that were created in 1964.

The US DoD gave the first Neva-M the designation SA-3A and the new Neva-M the names SA-3B and (naval) SA-N-1B. A new booster and an enhanced guiding system were introduced with the Neva-M. The S-125 was not employed against American forces in Vietnam because the Soviet Union believed that China, through which the majority, if not all, of the weaponry sent for North Vietnam had to pass when Sino-Soviet ties soured in 1960, would attempt to replicate the missile.


Designer Almaz Central Design Bureau
Maximum Speed 3 to 3.5 Mach
Maximum Target Altitude Less than 20 Km
Operational Range30 Kms
Strength 25 Squadrons 

IAF and Pechora 

The IAF is conducting life extension studies on its Pechora anti-aircraft missile launchers from the 1970s to ascertain if these can remain in service in the face of diminishing assets caused by budgetary restrictions and bureaucratic delays.

The medium-range Pechora surface-to-air missile, also known as the SA-3, serves as the IAF’s primary air defence system and has over 25 squadrons in its arsenal. Both fixed land-based and mobile truck-mounted systems are involved. According to reports, the IAF’s No. 7 Base Repair Depot at Tughlakabad, which is in charge of overseeing and repairing missiles and electronic equipment, will carry out the life extension experiments.

In order to complete a portion of the project, external organisations with the necessary competence are also being enlisted. The studies will evaluate the launcher beams’ structural integrity as well as the electro-mechanical parts, gear assemblies, cables, and sub-systems’ remaining life. The analysis would also include identifying areas of material weakness and cracks, checking the quality of the welding and the strength of the joints, and determining the need for spare parts and other components.

The IAF has the plan to update and modernize the Pechora systems with digital command and control systems and integrate the radar into a network-centric environment, although sources claim that feasible life extension is a prerequisite to this. It makes little sense to modernize the current system, an officer stated, unless the physical life of the system can be prolonged by at least 10-15 years.

Though a few systems of the locally produced Akash missile have entered service, attempts to replace these systems with a contemporary medium-range missile have fallen short. To get over the slow pace of purchases and financial crisis, the IAF has also been requesting life extensions for a number of other aircraft, weapons systems, and other war-fighting tools.

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Siddhant Sandhu

    Defence Content Blogger at SSBCrackExams, An avid reader, UPSC aspirant and curious about international realtions. Pursuing my Masters in Computer Applications, National Cyclist, Ex NCC SUO.

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