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Invincible Arrows: Soviet Development and Global Cold War Proliferation of Strela-2/2M Shoulder-Fired Surface-to-Air Missile Technology, 1956-1988




LaFavor, Lydia

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation



Restriction Status


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Date Available



This dissertation offers a comprehensive technological history of the Soviet Strela-2 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile from 1956 to 1988. Part I analyzes the origins of the Strela-2 program in the Soviet Military Industrial Complex beginning with the social elevation, education, wartime experience and early career of Sergei Nepobedimy: the chief designer who developed Strela-2 at the Kolomna Design Bureau from 1956 to 1968. This part considers the technological and institutional antecedents to the Strela-2 design at Kolomna Design Bureau before examining the technological development process. Part II analyzes two of the earliest instances of technological transfer of Strela-2: from the Soviet Union to the United Arab Republic and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1969 and 1971 respectively. This analysis of the consumers of Strela-2 technology places both transfers in a detailed post-colonial historical context and analyzes the accounts and documentary evidence of the users, victims and witnesses of Strela-2 incidents, in order to characterize the impact of the technology in both protracted conflicts. This part details the international co-construction of technological knowledge resulting from the use of the Strela-2 system during a period of heightened global proliferation and the translation of the technological artifact from one of primary tactical military value to one embedded with political power. This dissertation concludes with an examination of the historical ramifications of both instances of transnational technological diffusion for entangled global proliferation throughout the final decades of the Cold War.