A sixteen-second video clip shared on social media on Tuesday morning showed the destruction of a Russian 9K33 Osa or “Wasp” (NATO reporting name “SA-8 Gecko”), a mobile low-altitude, short-range tactical surface-to-air (SAM) missile system.
A Ukraine drone had tracked and targeted the vehicle, which appeared to have been destroyed in an artillery strike.
It is unclear exactly when or where the 9K33 Osa was when it was hit, but the vehicle had taken cover behind a multi-story building near several residences.
It has been speculated that the incident occurred near Bakhmut in the Eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, which remains the site of some of the heaviest and most intense fighting of the now-year-long war.
The Drone War in Ukraine
Ukraine has continued to employ drones to target Russian tanks and other vehicles. In some cases, the small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are utilized as loitering munitions and drop ordnance directly on a target; whilst in other cases, the drones provide an eye in the sky for nearby artillery. Based on the footage, it would appear this was the latter case as the building and vehicle could each be seen smoldering – suggesting the structure was also hit independently.
Kyiv’s forces in the region are employing the British-made M777 155mm towed artillery, which can be used to fire the M982 Excalibur extended-range guided artillery shell. Drones can be used to provide targeting details while the projectile can then be employed with near pinpoint accuracy. Given the target in this case – the Cold War-era 9K33, which was first fielded in 1972 – it is unclear if Ukraine would have used one of the rather expensive shells, or simply relied on regular ordnance to take out the vehicle.
Russia’s Amphibious Wasp
The 6×6 amphibious vehicle has a road range of around 500km (310 miles), while it is also air transportable. The 9K33 can be armed with up to six 9M33 variant missiles.
Despite its age, the 9K33 surface-to-air system remains in the arsenal of a number of countries including Angola, Algeria, Greece, India, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Poland, Serbia, and Syria.
It is also in service with a number of former Soviet republics including Russia and Ukraine. The Kremlin reportedly has some 400 still in service, while an undisclosed number are employed by Kyiv’s forces.
Though it was originally developed for use with the Soviet Army, the 9K33 Osa first saw use in combat during the Iran-Iraq War, and later in the Angolan Civil War – when one was captured by South African forces and subsequently examined by Western intelligence.
The 9K33 seen in Tuesday’s video is also just the second to be destroyed in the past few days. As previously reported, Russia has deployed a large number to Ukraine, where the vehicles attempt to use destroyed buildings as cover. However, thanks to the drones, Ukrainian forces are now quickly targeting those “Wasp” nests.
Destruction of another “Wasp” air defense system ???????????? #SlavaUkraïni pic.twitter.com/ZPjHf1YQQT
— Feher_Junior (@Feher_Junior) March 14, 2023
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Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.