I could try to write a wordy analysis of Cuban defences but others know far more than I and I type slowly so it’d take a long time. For lots of excellent analysis and discussion try here http://llamado32.blogspot.com/ (I don’t read Spanish but his knowledge looks damn incredible). What I can do is illustrate stuff, and share a few things from Google Earth (much assisted by Sean O’Connor and the guys, Llamado and Jim Anderson) Generally Global Security is a bit out of date, and Wiki is in this rare instance very wrong in many ways (Wiki is a great source BTW!). WARNING: Completely amateur web based research. Illustrations by me.
… Some Cubans celebrate 50 years of communist rule on the largest Caribbean island. Cuba was honoured to be among the axis of Evil B-list. But the truth is that Cuba is no longer the menace it once was to the USA and does not enough money to modernize. Except they’ve just found a shed load of oil and Russia might be courting a renaissance, so things may change in the near future. So with that in mind, I think it’s time the quirky Cuban military got the Planeman mistreatment. The Cuban military machine has decayed since the fall of the USSR in 1991. The Soviets basically spoon fed the Cubans with relatively current military equipment, but since ‘91 Cuba has not been able to replace them with a new sponsor. Added to this a Stalinesque purge of the military in the early ‘90s and you have a military that is no longer contemporary or well resourced. Where Cuba is notable however is in the relative creativity of its mechanics who recycle old military equipment building ever more exotic combinations.
Osa-II missile boat (6) The classic cold war missile boats, these craft are now quite dated and impotent with their 4 Styx anti-ship missiles. On at least one example the ‘Drum Tilt’ fire control radar has been replaced by a twin 25mm AAA gun. Ironically this would decrease overall air defences although its probable that the radar had become unserviceable.
Stenka class gunboat Patrol craft based on OSA missile boat hull. Originally intended as ASW craft these are more likely used as a general purpose patrol craft. Rear fire control radar locally ‘downgrded’ with twin 25mm AAA as per Osa-II boats.
Zhuk gun boat: ~24 (/40) Operated by the coast guard, this Soviet design is probably the most numerous naval vessel in service, with a couple of dozen in active service (out of 40 supplied). Some have undergone extensive rebuilding in Cuban yards and maybe even local manufacture (TBC). Displacement: 48tons, length: 24m, Crew: 11, Speed: 30kts, Armament: 2 x twin 25mm AAA (crewed, no fire control sensors).
Rio Damuji class The largest warships in Cuban service, these Spanish built fishing trawlers have been converted as naval auxiliaries or sold to foreign fishing fleets. At least two still in Cuban military operation and one has been photographed with a Styx anti-ship missile launch bin bolted to the foredeck, probably recycled from a non-operational Osa-II missile boat. Displacement: 3,200 tons, length: 107m, width: 15m, Armament: 1 gun (100mm from T-55 tank?), 1+ Styx anti-ship missile, 2 twin 25mm AAA (TBC), 1+ single 12.7mm MG.
Mystery torpedo craft Essentially a single 533mm heavyweight torpedo tube, probably salvaged off a decommissioned Turya class hydrofoil, bolted onto a catamaran party raft. Despite an outboard motor, top speed would be slow and use limited to extreme inshore operations. Crew site completely exposed beside torpedo. Two built. Possibly semi-submersible, or possibly ****e to sinking. Maybe this is actually intended to lay in wait inshore, heavily camouflaged as a form of ambush weapon. Torpedo could be anti-ship or anti-submarine.
Midget submarine Completely unreported as far as I can find (thanks Jim!). Small submarine seen in Habana, possibly locally built. Looks quite professional. Sketch (below waterline detail is completely speculative):
Styx naval missile Cuba uses two shore based versions, possibly three: 1. SSC-3 Soviet version on Maz TEL similar to used for SCUD missile. Has own radar. 2. CSS-C-3 version purchased from China. Towed trailer launcher. 3. Possibly ship launch-bins salvaged from ships and mounted on a trailer
Illustration of SSC-3 version: The wings fold out and the aircraft resembles a small plane. It has a range of about 80km but is relatively easy to shoot down. SSC-3 garrison found by Sean O’Connor:
Air Defence forces Cuba operates most of the Soviet era SAM systems including SA-2, SA-3, SA-6, SA-7, SA-8, SA-9, SA-13.
SA-2 A fixed SAM system first deployed on Cuba during the missile crisis. Now largely retired but with several sites still active, and many launchers now mounted on T-54/55 tank chassis to improve mobility. Cuban missile crisis site:
There are loads more SA-2 sites, mostly long since empty.
SA-3 Another 1960s fixed site system. Again Cuba has started to remount the launchers on T-55 tank chassis.
SA-6 A much more mobile system than the older SA-2 and SA-3, this system is still a real, though slight, threat. Harder to find on Google Earth for obvious reasons.
From now on they are all fully mobile systems. SA-8
Shilka (ZSU-23-4) (23mm AAA)
Various local adaptations of the BTR-60 APC as an infantry fighting vehicle and AAA using twin 37mm and twin 23mm guns. Middle one has a modified T-54 tank turret and bottom left has a BMP-1 turret. All widely deployed.
ZU-23-2 (23mm AAA)
ZPU-1 (14.5mm AAA)
ZPU-1 with zero-emission echo transport. Yeah, Cuba is a crazy place!
Air force (DAAFAR: Defensa Antiaérea y Fuerza Aérea Revolucionaria) Like everything else in the Cuban military the DAAFAR is a bare shadow of its former self. Even at the height of its operating ability in the mid 1980s the DAAFAR was demonstrably inferior in tactics and training to western air forces, as shown in Angola where despite having better equipment and air-air missiles, Cuban MiGs were consistently beaten by the South African air force.
The air force has scaled back its air bases but retains several well equipped cold-war era bases with many hardened shelters and dispersals. Most operational jets are stored in hardened shelters.
MiG-29 “Fulcrum” Although these are by far the most capable fighters in Cuban service, they are 1980s models and equipped with ‘monkey model’ avionics. Weapons include the relatively effective AA-11 Archer IR guided missile and AA-10 Alamo medium range missile, but older AA-8 Aphid is still commonly carried. Operational airframes is probably in single digits, as attested by only a single MiG-29UB dual-seat conversion/mission trainer operational (2 delivered, at least one of which is in a museum in Havana). I think Cuban MiG-29s have gone through three camo schemes. The top one is the latest I think, this one the middle one. Original colouring was much more sensible but the DAAFAR had to jazz it up a bit.
MiG-23 Flogger Two models in service; MiG-23M interceptors with radar, and MiG-23BN ground attack fighters with “duck bill” nose.
MiG-21 Fishbed Obsolete but still used. Many in storage.
Other aircraft of note include L-39 trainer, and Mi-24/35 Hind helicopter gunships.
The DAAFAR have consolidated to a handful of main air bases, leaving several in a state of dereliction or given over to civilian use. There are also many concrete runways across the country although many are too short for combat jet operations. Examples:
Army The least exciting bit. Mostly conscripts, there is also a Special Forces regiment who are more akin to Commandos. Main assault rifle is AKM and night sights are common. Main tank is T-72 although older T-62 and T-55/54 are far more common. The army (indeed military) has literally hundreds of tunnels and bunkers across the country which are used for storing military equipment. Some are easy to find on Google Earth if you happen to look in the right places.
T-55- 130mm artillery conversion
Locally designed 130mm self-propelled gun
Locally built “battle” buggies for special forces
Base Cubans are obsessed with baseball and every military camp has a pitch, or in this case, two.
Just had a friend who got back from doing aid work in Cuba with a church, she was unaware it was still a Communist country (moron). She came back with nothing good to say about the Cuban regime, loved the people though.