A Russian commander charged for crashing Pantsir-S1 air defense system into bridge

A Russian commander has been fined after he crashed a prized Pantsir missile system into a railway bridge in St. Petersburg.

The St. Petersburg Garrison Military Court upheld a claim brought by Russia’s Ministry of Defense against the unidentified commander, who damaged the advanced air defense system on July 1, the court’s press service said Friday. He was charged with the destruction or damage of military property through negligence, was hit with a fine of 50,000 rubles ($541), and was ordered to pay about 14 million rubles ($151,500) in damages.

Russia’s Pantsir-S1 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun and missile system, which is believed to be worth in the area of $15 million, has been used by the military throughout President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24, 2022. The mobile, short-range system is designed for use against aircraft, cruise missiles, precision-guided munitions and for supporting other air defense units against larger strikes, Global Defense Corp reported.

The commander failed to fold down part of the equipment while driving under the railway bridge on the city’s Pulkovskoe Highway, causing it to be damaged, the court’s press service said.

In another incident this year, a drunk soldier crashed a S-400 air defense system into a ditch in the Russian Tula region.

Russian Telegram channels reported in April that a S-400 anti-aircraft missile system had crashed and overturned into a ditch next to a highway.

The S-400 is a Russia-designed mobile surface-to-air missile system (SAM) that’s capable of engaging aircraft, UAVs and cruise missiles, and has a terminal ballistic missile defense capability, the U.S.-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said.

Baza, a Russian Telegram channel that regularly posts information about security issues in the country, reported that the Russian soldier, 33, who crashed the air defense system failed a breathalyzer test, which showed the presence of alcohol.

“Yesterday, a serviceman lost control and dropped a tractor with an anti-aircraft missile system into a ditch,” it said.

Russian Telegram channels Mash and Shot corroborated Baza’s report.

“Our well-known Pantsir, Buki, S-300, S-400 systems work flawlessly,” Putin said Tuesday during an expanded meeting of the Russian Defense Ministry Board at the National Defense Control Center in Moscow. “They are the best in the world, without any exaggeration.”

He told officials that his country needs to ramp up domestic production and supply of high-precision projectiles and various types of drones, as well as improve its air defense systems.

“I know that changes are happening, they are happening quite quickly, I will tell you more about it,” Putin said. “But we still need to work on it, we need to consolidate this trend. The work of air defense also needs to be improved.”

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