Author’s Note: The tragic loss of 298 innocent lives in this incident requires a strong international response that many realize can only be provided by the United States. As SOFREP has recently reported, such a tragic incident involving citizens from nine different nations has now presented the respective governments and people of Flight 17’s victims with over 298 reasons to come to the realization that the Ukraine problem is now an international one. It is our hope that these nations work diligently with the US and its allies in order to achieve an appropriate foreign policy response to this tragedy, one that holds all involved state actors, government and military officials, and Russian-backed separatists duly responsible.

The Buk 9K37 missile system, more commonly known by its Department of Defense/NATO designation SA-11/Gadfly, is the weapon that is believed to have been used by pro-Russian separatists in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014, as SOFREP has previously reported.

For the purpose of this weapon system profile, the Buk 9K37 will be referred to by its DoD/NATO designation, SA-11. The purpose of this weapon system profile is to provide readers with a brief overview of the system’s capabilities and technical specifications, as well as limited amounts of contextual information regarding the MH017 shoot-down. It must be noted that all of the following information is derived strictly from multiple open-source reports. Although credible, this information may therefore contain figures that vary slightly with previously reported information. The intent is to ensure the most accurate numbers are reported.


The SA-11 belongs to a family of self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air missile systems (SAM) originally developed by the Soviet Union in 1980/1984, and further refined by the Russian Federation. Regardless of any technical improvements that more modern variants of SAMs may provide, the SA-11 remains a highly capable and deadly system.


Designed to engage and defeat a variety of targets, the SA-11 is capable of, but not limited to destroying, “tactical ballistic missiles, air-launched missiles and bombs, antiradar missiles, fixed and rotary wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, naval ships, and land-based radio-contrast targets, to include: large command posts, tactical ballistic missile control posts, and other facilities.”


The original SA-11 has been operational since 1980, and has since then gained a reputation as a highly mobile and capable system. When employed as a system by a professionally trained nation state, the SA-11 is typically operated in a battery, and contains the following components: a Command Post (CP), a Target Acquisition Radar (TAR), and six Self-Propelled Mounts (SPMs)/Transporter Erector Launcher and Radar (TELARs). Additional support vehicles such as a specialist Loader-Launcher can also be used. With this battery, a total of six targets “can be engaged simultaneously while they [the targets] are flying on different bearings and at different altitudes and ranges.”

The system can also be placed in a regimental composition, which includes four of the above batteries and a Regimental Target Acquisition Battery. The presence of the Regimental Target Acquisition Battery provides an additional long-range and early-warning search radar capability for the system. In the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines flight 17, the only system present was the Self-Propelled Mount, or “missile launcher” as mainstream media reports are referring to it.