The Ukrainian Intelligence has shared the video of the attack on a Russian S-400 “Triumf” missile defense system.
“On August 23, 2023, around 10:00 a.m., an explosion occurred near the village of Olenivka on Cape Tarkhankut in the temporarily occupied Crimea, which destroyed the Russian S-400 “Triumph” long and medium-range anti-aircraft missile system,” says an official statement published by the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
“As a result of the explosion, the installation itself, the missiles installed on it and the personnel were completely destroyed.”
The Directorate of Intelligence explained that given the limited number of such systems in the Russians’ arsenal, this is a painful blow to the Russian air defence system, which will have a serious impact on further events on the peninsula.
A video of the attack was also posted on Telegram and Youtube. It’s not clear whether the same or another drone was used to carry out the attack, although it seems quite likely.
Designated SA-21 “Growler” by NATO, the S-400 is believed to be able to engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft (someone says even VLO – Very Low Observable ones), drones and ballistic and cruise missiles within the range of 250 miles at an altitude of nearly 19 miles. Equipped with 3 different types of missiles and an acquisition radar capable of tracking up to 300 targets within the range of over 370 miles, the Triumph (or Triumf) is a system made of 8 launchers and a control station.
Supported by effective EW (Electronic Warfare) capabilities, at least on paper, the S-400 fires missiles against aerial targets flying at as much as 17,000 km/h.
That being said, the attack is quite remarkable especially considering that the Ukrainian forces were able to hit the S-400 and film the scene: despite several radar units in the same area, the unmanned aircraft was able to come within striking/close distance without the Russian air defense systems being able to engage the drone and the incoming missile. The successful attack raises several questions about the quality of air defense coverage in the region, so much so even some Russian bloggers admitted the latest attack on the S-400 (one of them said it was an S-300) highlighted flaws in Russia’s defense capacities.
On the other hand, it must also be said that smaller drones are very difficult to counter also because they are difficult to identify on radars and for this reason they pose a significant threat to air defense systems, especially when used in swarms (large numbers). Moreover a combination of attack tactics (continuously refined after 545 days of conflict) and EW support make such attacks even more difficult to counter.
Whatever, the latest air strike once again confirms that drones have become some of the most (if not the most) important assets in the war in Ukraine: they are used to carry out reconnaissance and coordinate air strikes and they can also carry out long range attack missions.