The earliest origins of the S-300P series lie in the mid 1960s, when the Soviet Voyska PVO and Ministry of Military Production initiated its development. The aim was to produce an area defence SAM system capable of replacing the largely ineffective S-75/SA-2 Guideline and S-200/SA-5 Gammon systems, neither of which performed well against low flying Wild Weasels, low RCS targets or US support jamming aircraft.
The original intent was to design a common SAM system for the Voyska-PVO (Air Defence Forces), Voenno-Morskiy Flot (Navy) and the PVO-SV (Air Defence Corps of the Red Army), but divergent service needs across these three users soon saw commonality drop well below 50%. Ultimately the V-PVO’s S-300P series and PVO-SV’s S-300V series diverged so completely to become largely unique systems.
This weapon system was to initially defeat SAC’s SRAM firing FB-111As, B-52Hs and then anticipated B-1As, and later the Boeing AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile. The deployment model of the first generation systems was based on the existing S-75/SA-2, S-125/SA-3 and S-200/SA-5 systems, with a semi mobile package of towed trailer mounted radars and missile Transporter Erector Launchers (TELs).
The S-300P introduced some important technological innovations. The first generation V-500/5V55 missile used a single stage solid rocket motor, and conceptually is closest to the baseline US Army MIM-104 Patriot. The missile was deployed and handled in a sealed cylindrical launch tube/canister, with a ‘cold start’ gas generator used to eject the missile vertically before its motor was initiated.
The 5P85 TEL was a semitrailer arrangement, with the forward booms splayed when deployed as stabilisers. The four launch tubes were mounted on a hydraulically elevated frame, retained in later TEL designs. A typical battery would be equipped with three 5P85 TELs, each with four SAMs, or double the SAM complement of the S-75/SA-2 it replaced and permitting two rounds per launch.