Soviet-era anti-aircraft system that failed on Poland – TBEN – 11/17/2022


The S-300 anti-aircraft system, developed in the Soviet Union, was first used by Moscow in the late 1970s. It was used almost everywhere in Eastern Europe until the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War in 1991. According to calculations by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Ukraine alone would have more than 250 S-300 systems short before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

However, the calculation does not yet take into account the S-300 from NATO stocks that were delivered as part of the military aid to Ukraine. In the spring of this year, the US had asked Ukraine’s allies, who are part of the so-called Ukrainian contact group, to hand over more S-300s from Eastern European NATO holdings to Kiev. In April, Slovakia – a NATO member since 2004 – delivered a system of four mobile missile launchers and associated radar. In return, Germany transferred Patriot anti-aircraft systems to Slovakia. This was one of the first so-called “ring exchanges” where Western partners made old Soviet equipment available to Ukraine.

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“The S-300 is an easy system for Ukrainians to integrate,” the US think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said in October. The anti-aircraft system has been used by the Ukrainian armed forces for many years. However, it will be “difficult to find additional systems” to continue supporting Ukraine with further anti-aircraft systems, the CSIS said in an analysis of Western options. The German-produced IRIS-T system, which is probably the most modern mobile air defense system on land against missile fire, has been used in Ukraine for a long time. And more will follow. But anti-aircraft guns still rely on the old S-300 in many parts of Ukraine. However, it is unclear how many of the original Soviet systems have been destroyed by Russian missile strikes since February 2022. Kiev is silent about technical losses.

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In March, the US began deploying Patriot systems to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank in Rzeszow, in southeastern Poland on the border with Ukraine.Image: Agnieszka Majchrowicz/AA/photo alliance

In the past, the Russian defense industry competed in the world market with the Western Patriot anti-aircraft systems. The S-400 system – the most recent model of the S-300, which has been repeatedly modernized since the 1970s – has been built in Russia since 2004.

Rocket fired at Poland from Ukraine

According to the Polish government, the missile that killed two people on a farm in Przewodow, Poland, on Tuesday was a “very old Russian-made missile”. The missile was “most likely” fired by Ukraine, Polish President Andrzej Duda said. The range of the various land-based S-300 systems varies from 75 to 195 kilometers (47 to 121 mi).

The site where the missile hit on Tuesday in Przewodow, Poland, near the Ukrainian border
The site where the missile hit on Tuesday in Przewodow, Poland, near the Ukrainian borderImage: UGC via REUTERS

Prior to heavy shelling on Tuesday, western Ukraine had been repeatedly attacked by Russia. The Ukrainian military base Yavoriv and its energy infrastructure were targeted. Yavoriv, ​​about 90 kilometers south of where the missile hit Przewodow, was the westernmost military base in the Soviet Union until the end of the Cold War. It’s unclear whether the missile was launched from there or from another location in western Ukraine, possibly to repel a Russian attack — and then failed.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference on Wednesday that he “does not want to go into details because the investigation is still ongoing”. Questions about whether shrapnel from a Russian attack missile was also found alongside the missile believed to have been fired by Ukraine, or whether the apparently failed missile from Ukraine was intercepted by NATO’s protective shield in southeastern Poland remain unanswered .

This article has been translated from German.


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