Russia Had Five S-400 Air-Defense Batteries In Crimea. In Three Weeks,
Ukraine Blew Up Two.
I write about ships, planes, tanks, drones, missiles and satellites.
Sep 14, 2023,09:42pm EDT
The S-400 battery in Yevpatoriya explodes.
The S-400 battery in Yevpatoriya explodes.VIA SOCIAL MEDIA
In the years prior to its wider war on Ukraine, the Russian air force
deployed five batteries of its best S-400 surface-to-air missiles, plus
their radars, to occupied Crimea.
In less than a month, the Ukrainian navy has destroyed two of them.
Every S-400 battery the Ukrainians knock out is one fewer S-400 battery
defending the Russian Black Sea Fleet at its anchorage in Sevastopol.
The first raid on an S-400, on Aug. 23, targeted the battery in Cape
Tarkhankut on the Crimean Peninsula’s northwest coast. The second, on
Thursday, struck a battery 36 miles south in Yevpatoriya.
Both strikes reportedly involved the latest version of the Ukrainian
navy’s Neptune ground-launched anti-ship cruise missile. The original
model, with which the Ukrainians sank the Black Sea Fleet cruiser Moskva
in April 2022, traveled 190 miles with a 330-pound warhead. The new
version travels 225 miles with a 770-pound warhead.
Ukraine’s Luch Design Bureau from the outset designed the Neptune with a
GPS-aided radar seeker. Basically, the missile navigates to GPS
coordinates. Once it gets there, the radar looks for something shaped
like a worthwhile target.
This combination of GPS and radar makes the Neptune equally adept at
striking targets at sea and on land, although Luch officials have said
they tweaked the guidance in the missile’s newer model. That could mean
the addition of an infrared seeker.
In any event, the Neptune works. And so does the intelligence-gathering
apparatus that feeds the navy targets for its Neptune batteries. Russian
air-defenses, by contrast, don’t work—at least not against a low-flying
The S-400 is Russia’s best long-range SAM system. It’s supposed to shoot
down missiles like the Neptune. Instead, it’s getting destroyed by the
Neptune. And every missile raid makes the next raid more likely to
succeed as the mutually-supporting network of radars and missiles
collapses. “There may be systemic tactical failures with Russian
air-defense systems in occupied Crimea,” the Institute for the Study of
War in Washington, D.C. noted.
The Ukrainian navy’s short-term goal is obvious: to clear the way for
the Ukrainian air force to strike the Black Sea Fleet in occupied
Sevastopol. A barrage of British-made Storm Shadow cruise missiles,
launched by air force Sukhoi Su-24 bombers on Wednesday, struck a
drydock in Sevastopol and burned the two warships inside: a
Ropucha-class landing ship and a Kilo-class submarine.
It’s unlikely the Ukrainians are done. The Black Sea Fleet still has a
couple of dozen large warships left—and they’re no less vulnerable to
air-launched cruise missiles than that Ropucha and Kilo were. And now
there’s one less S-400 battery to protect the ships than there was on
The Russian air force may still have another three S-400 batteries in
Crimea, plus additional batteries in reserve in Russia proper. But if
the Russians shift the deployed batteries, or bring in fresh batteries,
in the hope of plugging gaps in their air-defenses, these replacement
batteries might just suffer the same fate as their predecessors. Plinked
The Kremlin’s options aren’t great. In the 19 months of Russia’s wider
war on Ukraine, Ukrainian commanders steadily have built up a fearsome
deep-strike complex, and now they’re using it to dismantle Russian
forces in Crimea.
In the words of Ben Hodges, a retired U.S. Army general and the former
commander of Army forces in Europe, “the Ukrainian general staff is
running rings around the Russian general staff.”
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Commenting as Guest
1 day ago
Great news! It is widely known that the Israelis worked out how to
bypass ruzzian air defenses a long time ago. I am sure that "knowledge"
has been passed on to the Ukrainians...
1 day ago
I think it might be prudent to look up what comprises a S-400 battery
before writing about how significant any damage to it may be. Like, for
starters, how many TELs one includes, and how many the Ukrainians can so
far claim destroyed.
1 day ago
Reportedly the 96L6 radar - the heart of the system - was one of the
components destroyed. Without the radar the TEL's aren't worth much.