The Kremlin’s war in Ukraine hasn’t exactly gone as planned. In addition to the loss of upwards of 200,000 troops, along with thousands of tanks and other vehicles in the more than 18-month-long conflict, Russia has seen several of its S-400 “Triumf” air defense systems taken out by Ukrainian forces.
It was just last week that one of the celebrated and formidable weapon platforms was destroyed in occupied Crimea.
That has put into question the effectiveness of the highly-touted anti-aircraft missile system.
Even worse for Moscow was how earlier this year, Ukrainian forces captured an S-300 (NATO reporting name SA-10 Gumble) mobile air-defense system intact while it was driving down a dirt road in Ukraine. Beyond the fact that the captured system will be put to good use by Kyiv’s forces, it was a propaganda coup as videos of the system were shared across social media.
Ukraine Needs Everything it Can Get
The capture of the S-300 wasn’t independently confirmed, but as previously reported, it did appear that the video was real. If confirmed, it would apparently be the first time Kyiv’s forces have captured one of Russia’s air defense systems entirely intact.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine maintained a number of S-300 launchers, and many are still in service. Kyiv thus has trained crews and ordnance for the platform it captured. Following Russia’s invasion in February 2022, the Ukrainian military received an additional battery from Slovakia, but the capture of an intact system could further bolster its air defenses.
Still a Capable Weapon
The S-300 system was initially developed during the Cold War to defend against air raids and cruise missiles for the Soviet Air Defence Forces. Subsequent variations of the mobile air defense platform were also developed to be able to intercept ballistic missiles.
The S-300 system was first deployed by the Soviet Armed Forces in 1979, designed for the air defense of military bases and large industrial and administrative facilities, as well as control of airspace against enemy strike aircraft. Moreover, the platform has been modified by Russian forces to perform surface-to-surface strikes, and the S-300 has been among the missile systems used to target Ukrainian urban centers and critical infrastructure.
Even before Kyiv captured the S-300 seen in the viral video, the Kremlin had been attempting to bolster its number of air defense systems. It was a year ago this week that Russia shipped a battery of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Syria to a Russian port near Crimea, according to an Israeli satellite imaging company.
Moscow has maintained a military presence in Syria since 2015, when it intervened in the civil war there on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russian military aircraft are still present in the region and have had a number of close calls with U.S. planes and drones in recent months.
Ukrainians captured an intact S-300 air defense system. pic.twitter.com/B6tgwopi2d
— Igor Sushko (@igorsushko) January 4, 2023
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.