Could Ukraine modify its S-300 missiles to attack ground targets? – Technology Org

Russia has modified S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to attack ground targets and it does that with a worrying level of success. However, it is not the only country operating S-300 systems – Ukraine also has them. Can Ukraine use its S-300 missiles to destroy Russian infantry and armored vehicles?

Ukraine also has S-300 systems, but still hasn't started using them to attack ground targets.

Ukraine also has S-300 systems, but still hasn’t started using them to attack ground targets. Image credit: via Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0)

The S-300 system has been in service since 1978 and was under development until 2005. It is a long-range anti-aircraft missile system. Depending on the version, the S-300 detects targets within a radius of 120-300 km, and the missile itself flies towards the target for 70-400 km.

Russia found a way to modify these missiles to direct them toward ground targets. They were used as cruise missiles to destroy Ukrainian energy infrastructure to attempt to press Ukraine to negotiate with Russia on Russian terms.

Using S-300 missiles against ground targets is quite a weird, but clever solution, because Russia has many of them. But Ukraine operated some S-300 batteries as well.

Ukraine inherited a number of S-300 batteries from the Soviet Union, but did not maintain them very well. The country was oppressed by corruption and the pro-Russian government and, one could say, had abandoned the S-300 arsenal for some time.

Everything changed in 2014, when Russia began a military campaign against Ukraine in the Donbass and Crimea. Ukraine then began repairing and upgrading its S-300 systems. 34 of the Ukrainian S-300 launchers remained in Crimea and are believed to be used against Ukraine now.

Before the 2022 Russian invasion, Ukraine had about a hundred S-300 batteries. In April 2022, Slovakia provided Ukraine with one more. Russian sources say that many of Ukraine’s S-300 systems have been destroyed, but Ukraine is known to still have them. So maybe they could be used to destroy ground targets?

Military expert, Ukrainian reserve colonel Oleg Zhdanov says that Ukraine does not have such a possibility simply because air defense is a priority.

Where can we get enough missiles to replace the S-300? If we start modifying the S-300 missiles and launch them as surface-to-surface, we will be left with a hole in the sky,” Zhdanov said on his YouTube channel.

“Today we are still expecting to get systems like Patriot, SAMP/T to close our skies. If we remove the S-300 systems, which we are also lacking, from combat service and send them to hit Russians, then we will have a hole in the sky. Do not even think that we will modify the S-300 missiles. We will ask our partners for missiles with a range of 150-300 kilometers – ATACMS type or others. It is not possible to modify our S-300s now”, Zhdanov said.

Modifying the S-300 to hit ground targets may not be too difficult, but one system cannot reliably maintain both roles. In other words, Ukraine cannot afford to lose air-defense systems now in order to try and hit ground targets.

Sources: , Wikipedia

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