Ukraine Destroying Russia S-400 Suggests ‘Systemic’ Failures: Experts

  • Ukraine has recently taken out two of Russia’s prized S-400 air defense systems in Crimea. 
  • A US think tank said Thursday this may indicate “tactical failures” in the system.
  • Ukraine has hinted that further strikes, using its modified Neptune cruise missiles, are on the way.

Ukraine’s attack on a costly Russian air defense system on Thursday may have exposed tactical weaknesses in Russia’s Crimean air defenses, experts said.

Using a combination of Neptune cruise missiles and drones, Ukrainian forces took out an advanced S-400 “Triumf” air-defense system in Yevpatoriya, on Crimea’s western coast, a Ukrainian intelligence source told the BBC. The air-defense system is worth in excess of $500 million.

It’s the second strike on an S-400 in Crimea in a matter of weeks, after another of the highly-prized air defense systems was struck with a Neptune missile near Olenivka, Crimea, on August 23 — a moment that was captured spectacularly on video. 

US-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War said the latest attack may signal Russia’s air defenses in Crimea have “systemic tactical failures,” it wrote on Thursday.

The most recent strike “suggests that Russian forces were unprepared to intercept missiles with the system or were unable to do so,” the think tank said.

In this instance, Ukrainian drones first took out the antennae and radar of the S-400 system, before two Neptune cruise missiles were sent to destroy the rest, a Ukrainian intelligence official told Ukrainska Pravda

The official also suggested that further such attacks were coming, per the newspaper.

In April, Ukrainian defense secretary Oleksiy Danilov hinted that Ukraine sees Crimea as a testing ground for new weapons.

Since then, Ukrainian officials have said that the R-360 Neptune missile, normally an anti-ship weapon, has been reconfigured to strike targets on land, handing Ukraine a broader long-range strike capability. 

Russia S-400 Red Square Moscow

Russian S-400 surface-to-missile systems in the Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square on May 9, 2023.

Contributor/Getty Images

The attacks are likely a blow to Russia’s pride, coming in the wake of a wave of drone attacks on the country itself, including on several air bases.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence said that those attacks also expose weaknesses in Russia’s air defenses and have likely prompted a reorganization around air bases.

The S-400 system was created as an upgrade to Russia’s earlier S-300, the country’s answer to the US Patriot air defense system.

It initially rattled the Pentagon, which warned Turkey off purchasing it under the Trump administration, as the New York Times reported in 2017

At that time, defense analyst Michael Kofman said the Russian system was “quite capable and at the same time it’s terribly overhyped,” the Times reported.

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