Thursday, August 4, 2022

Russia uses Soviet-era air defense missiles to engage ground targets

British military intelligence says Russian troops using Soviet-era S-300 surface-to-air missiles to engage ground targets in Ukraine.

“Russia has increased its use of air defense missiles in a secondary ground attack mode because of critical shortages of dedicated ground-attack missiles,” the British military intelligence said on Friday.

It is reported that despite the fact that missile systems are designed primarily to destroy aircraft and helicopters, they can be used to strike ground targets.

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The family of S-300 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems has employed over 20 missile variants including providing some cruise and ballistic missile defense capability. The weapons, which have relatively small warheads, could pose a significant threat against troops in open and light buildings but are unlikely to penetrate hardened structures.

There is a high chance of these weapons missing their intended targets and causing civilian casualties because the missiles are not optimized for this role and their crews will have little training for such missions, the Defense Ministry said.

British intelligence says ‘critical shortages’ of Russian ground-attack missiles force Putin’s army to use S-300 air defense missiles instead.

The story was first reported by Defense Express, which cited the statement of the head of the regional military administration, Vitaly Kim earlier this month.

Citing a statement from head of Mykolayiv oblast Vitaly Kim, Defense Express reported that Russia has used its S-300 long-range surface-to-air missiles to attack land targets in Mykolaiv and later in Kharkiv.

The missiles in the S-300P series have inertial guidance systems with updates provided by radio links and semi-active radar homing for the terminal phase. It’s doubtful that, under most circumstances, it would be possible to illuminate a ground target for the missile to home in on, but the inertial guidance and radio updates presumably provide enough accuracy to hit larger, area targets.

Analysts also say that Russia has chosen to use the ineffective and more expensive S-300 missiles due to a shortage of cruise missiles and attack drones and to demoralize and intimidate the local population.

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About this Author

Dylan Malyasov
Defense journalist and commentator. Aviation photographer. Dylan leads Defence Blog's coverage of global military news, focusing on engineering and technology across the U.S. defense industry.

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