Ukrainian Forces Report Successful Destruction of Russian S-400 Launcher Using HIMARS Multiple Launch System.
In late June 2023, near Kramatorsk in Donetsk Oblast, an area controlled by Ukraine, reports emerged stating that a Russian S-400 launcher had been activated. Recently, Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security (Stratcom) tweeted on July 14 that their HIMARS MLRS missile system had successfully destroyed the Russian S-400 launcher in response to the attack that occurred on June 27. Stratcom Ukraine emphasized the effectiveness of the HIMARS system as an offensive weapon.
According to Ukrainian sources, the Russian army launched a missile attack on the Kramatorsk region on June 27, resulting in casualties and infrastructure damage. Initially, preliminary assessments and Ukrainian intelligence sources attributed the attack to an S-300 surface-to-air missile. However, the National Police of Ukraine later stated that the attack was carried out by a short-range ballistic missile called Iskander.
Photographs shared by Stratcom depict a completely burned S-400 launcher, which is considered the most advanced equipment in the Russian air defense force. The destruction of this air defense complex highlights the escalating tensions in the region.
According to military experts, Kramatorsk has become a target for Russian missiles due to its proximity to the front lines and its significance as the headquarters of the Ukrainian army. Situated just 55 kilometers away from the war zone and the contentious Bakhmut area in Donetsk, the city is strategically important.
What stands out in Stratcom’s statement is the revelation that the HIMARS launcher destroyed the S-400 system. This is noteworthy because there were previous reports suggesting that Russia had neutralized the effectiveness of the HIMARS launcher.
In January 2023, social media platforms circulated photos depicting a destroyed Russian S-400 complex on the Ukrainian battlefield. Subsequently, numerous newspapers also reported the loss of a Russian S-400 Triumf launcher in the Zaporizhzhia region of eastern Ukraine.
According to Ukrainian intelligence, there has been an increased utilization of anti-aircraft missiles, including the S-300 and S-400 systems, by Russia to target ground-based objectives within Ukrainian territory.
Yuriy Inhat, the spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, has confirmed the substantial deployment of S-300 missile systems by Russian forces for the purpose of attacking ground targets. Furthermore, it has been revealed that the modern S-400 missiles are also being employed in carrying out these operations.
According to various sources, it is widely believed that Russia has made modifications to the S-300 and S-400 air defense systems, originally designed to engage airborne threats, enabling them to target ground-based objectives rather than solely focusing on long-range missiles.
These modern air defense systems have been adapted to possess the capability to engage and strike ground targets, showcasing a departure from their original intended purpose of defending against aerial threats.
Previous reports indicate that on January 14, S-400 air defense missiles were observed taking part in an attack on Kiev. Speculation from Western sources suggested that these S-400 missiles were likely launched from the Zyabrovka airbase in Belarus.
The S-400 missile’s 48N6DM warhead weighs 180 kg and boasts a maximum range of 250 km, enabling it to engage both air and ground targets. With a maximum speed reaching Mach 14, the missile possesses tremendous destructive power, capable of detonating even at low altitudes or upon direct contact with the target surface. However, some sources have indicated that the 48N6DM warhead exhibits poor accuracy at close range, leading to frequent misses. To address this, the missile’s guidance mechanism in “ground-to-ground” mode has been modified, allowing the radar to directly guide the missile for improved accuracy.
Ukrainian sources have highlighted the significant challenges faced by the country’s air defense and anti-missile forces in countering S-300 or S-400 missile attacks. Distinguishing between attacks on airborne or ground targets proves difficult, making it challenging to promptly warn forces of the missile threat.
Military experts have noted that under such circumstances, the air warning system in the capital city of Kiev did not have sufficient time to detect the incoming missiles, highlighting the urgency and difficulty in responding effectively.
HIMARS, while once providing advantages on the Ukrainian battlefield and inflicting substantial damage on Russian forces, has faced efforts by the Russian military to neutralize and reduce its operational effectiveness. The capabilities of HIMARS remain a subject of debate and controversy within the context of the ongoing conflict.