Russian officials claimed that the radars of three Ukrainian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems were destroyed in the Donetsk People’s Republic in mid-March. While the Kremlin often spews misinformation, this account could be accurate.
The Russian-made mobile air-defense system is operated by both Russia and Ukraine in the ongoing invasion. Widely considered to be the workhorse of Soviet and Russian air defense, the S-300 represents Moscow’s closest equivalent to the U.S. Patriot air-and-missile defense system.
What is the S-300 Missile System?
Nicknamed the SA-Grumble by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the S-300 is regarded as one of the most potent anti-aircraft missile systems currently in use across the globe. Designed during the Soviet era, the S-300 was meant to replace the country’s aging S-25 Berkut and S-75 Dvina mobile SAM launchers. By the late-1960s, the Almaz Central Design Bureau began to work on the system, which ultimately became operational in 1978.
Since its entry into service, the S-300 has been exported to around two dozen nations. Former Eastern Bloc countries, along with Greece, China, Iran, and Bulgaria sport the formidable anti-aircraft missile device. Over the years, newer and more modern variants emerged, featuring different missiles, improved radars, longer ranges, and other significant modifications.
The S-300 is a Family of Systems
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the maximum range of the standard missile is 93 miles and the warheads weigh roughly 300 pounds. As a family of systems, the S-300 can be divided into three primary sub-variants such as the original S-300P, the S-300V, and the S-300F systems. As the oldest version of the anti-aircraft missile system, the S-300P hosts fewer capabilities than its successors.
The most sophisticated version of this variant is the S-300PMU-2 Favorit, which can take out cruise missiles and several other precision-guided munitions. The S-300V is the second variant in the S-300 family. This model is equipped with ballistic-missile defense capabilities, a step-up from the original variant. The third and final variant in the S-300 family is the “F” model which was designed to be mounted on ships.
The most recently updated version of the S-300V- the Antey 2500- became operational about a decade ago and can reach a range of 350 km. As detailed by Reuters, this system has “high tactical and technical characteristics that allow it to be used for air defense of the most important administrative, industrial and military facilities, troop groups, coastal infrastructure and naval forces at stationing site.”
The S-300 Plays for Both Sides in the Russo-Ukrainian Conflict
Moscow uses both the older S-300P and more modern S-300V systems to aid its offensive efforts in Ukraine. In the fall, Ukraine interestingly pointed out that Russian Forces began employing its fleet of S-300 long-range SAMs to attack land-based targets in the conflict.
While the S-300 does reportedly possess a minor surface-to-surface capability, this news amplified the fact that Moscow was indeed short on standoff weapons. Prior to the invasion, Ukraine had about 250 S-300 systems in its arsenal.
Several more have been delivered to Ukraine as part of military packages since.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.