Earlier this year, Ukraine reportedly swiped one of Russia’s S-300 mobile air-defense systems.
This significant feat might have helped Kyiv prepare for its currently ongoing counteroffensive.
Although a viral video that depicted the S-300 driving down a dirt road in Ukraine was released in May, analysts believe the system was captured in the beginning of the year. Both Kyiv and Moscow operate the sophisticated device.
The S-300 is considered the workhorse of Soviet and Russian air defense, representing Moscow’s closest equivalent to America’s Patriot air-and-missile defense system.
A Brief History of the S-300
During the height of the Cold War, the emerging threat of long-range air-based cruise missiles forced the Soviet army to upgrade its aging mobile surface-to-air missile systems, the S-25 Berkut and S-75 Dvina.
The S-300 air defense system was first produced in the 1970s and was tested over the next decade. Three primary variants of the S-300 are currently in use in Eastern Europe — the S-300V, S-300P and S-300F.
Over two dozen nations have operated the air-defense system, including Greece, China, Iran, and several former Eastern Bloc countries.
Over the years, subsequent S-300 variants were designed with new technical capabilities and ranges.
According to CSIS, the maximum range of the standard missile is 93 miles with warheads weighing roughly 300 pounds.
The original S-300P variant has been around for more than 40 years and has armed more than 20 missile variants.
“Currently, the system uses the 5V55K, 5V55R, and 48N6 missiles. These missiles use high-explosive fragmentation warheads triggered by proximity and impact fuses to destroy their targets,” CSIS explains. “The 5V55K and 5V55R are 7.25 m long and the 48N6 is 7.50 m long. All three missiles are 0.51 m in diameter.
While the missiles are similar in terms of appearance, they differ in effective ranges and intercept speeds.”
Since invading Ukraine more than a year and a half ago, Russian forces have used the S-300 system in a ballistic missile mode to target civilian and critical infrastructure. Each S-300 that Ukrainian forces take out improves Kyiv’s counteroffensive efforts.
Over the last month, Ukraine has purportedly damaged at least three S-300 systems, in addition to an S-400 Triumf air-defense system.
According to Ukraine’s press spokesperson for the South Operational Command, Natalie Humeniuk, these systems “can no longer be used either as a means of protection in Kherson region or as a means of attack.”
While the destruction of S-300 systems is unquestionably a positive outcome for Ukrainian forces, the capture of Russia’s air-defense systems may be even better for Kyiv, since these intact models can improve the country’s air defenses.
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.
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