Destruction of Russian air defense priority for Ukraine, Ukraine destroys Russia’s three Buk missile launchers

Ukraine continues to degrade its Russian air defense capabilities. On 2 May, the Ukrainian Army’s Special Operations Forces shared footage of the destruction of a launcher of the BUK-M1 medium-range surface-to-air missile system. Two days earlier, the SOF published a video showing drone strikes damaging two BUK radar-equipped launchers.

The Russian BUK M1 transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) vehicles can operate autonomously or be part of larger BUK units, which also may include other additional elements of the BUK SAM system, such as a command vehicle, a target acquisition radar (TAR) vehicle, and transporter erector launcher (TEL) vehicles.

Buk-M1-2 air defense system’s elements (left to right): command post 9C470M1-2, transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) vehicle 9A310M1-2, transporter erector launcher (TEL) vehicle 9A39M1-2.

Both SOF reports state that all three pieces of Russian equipment were targeted “in the Sumy direction.” This region in the northeastern Ukraine doesn’t have an active frontline, with Russia only carrying out irregular fire attacks across the border, which possibly implies that all three BUK vehicles were hit in the Russian territory.

The SOF’s video shared on Telegram on 2 May shows a drone strike on a BUK M1 launcher vehicle (TEL) causing an explosion of the rocket fuel of the missiles, followed by a fire, an attempt to extinguish it, and secondary detonations.

The video also shows a BUK TELAR vehicle sitting not far from the attacked TEL. The SOF report says the attack resulted in destruction of the TEL and damage to the TELAR. Footage shows no visible damage to the TELAR. However, it might have sustained some damage by striking elements of the missiles, which detonated on the destroyed launcher.

Ukrainian military news portal Militarnyi notes that the SOF operators conducted the attack using fixed-wing kamikaze drones, while a Shark reconnaissance drone was monitoring the target.

The SOF’s 30 April report shows footage of the attack on two BUK radar-equipped launchers (TELARs).

The SOF says that during a reconnaissance operation in the Sumy sector, its drone operators discovered a Buk anti-aircraft missile system in a firing position, and hit it with an unspecified suicide drone. Then another BUK TELAR arrived to evacuate the immobilized vehicle. However, the same SOF unit also targeted the second vehicle with another drone, also damaging it.

Russian propaganda tool, multiple S-400 missiles have been destroyed in Crimea.

According to Militarnyi, the operation was monitored by the Shark reconnaissance drone, and the kamikaze drones used in the strikes by the Special Operations Forces, which feature a conventional aerodynamic design with a V-shaped tail fin, could be either Polish Warmate drones or Ukrainian RAM II drones.

The Ukrainian military regularly publish the footage of attacks on Russian air defense assets. Weakening the Russian air defenses may be one of Ukraine’s major objectives before the advent of the first F-16 fighter jets, expected within a month.

In mid-April, Ukrainian forces destroyed at least ten Russian surface-to-air missile systems, including more middle-range BUKs:

Later in April, a Ukrainian missile strike on a Russian helicopter base in Dzhankoi, occupied Crimea, destroyed several launchers of the S-300 long-range air-defense system:

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