ATACMS Are Blowing Up Russian S-400 Anti-air Missiles Before F-16 Becomes Operational

Ukraine is actively using the ATACMS missiles to destroy Russian facilities in temporarily occupied Crimea, including enemy S-400 systems.

Ukraine may be targeting Russia’s air defenses ahead of U.S-built F-16 fighter jets arriving in the country, according to a new assessment, as Kyiv says it has taken out a slew of expensive air defense assets stationed near its borders.

“Ukrainian forces may seek to actively degrade Russian air defenses before Ukraine receives a significant number of aircraft,” the U.S. think tank, the Institute for the Study of War said on Wednesday.

Kyiv is due to receive the first of its promised and long-awaited F-16 fighter jets any day now. Four countries—Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium—have committed to providing F-16 aircraft to Ukraine to boost its depleted fleet of Soviet-era planes, up against superior and more numerous Russian aircraft.

“Ukrainian forces may be attempting to degrade Russian air defenses ahead of anticipated F-16 fighter jet deliveries to Ukraine,” the ISW evaluated. If Kyiv succeeds, it might be able to more effectively use the Lockheed Martin-made jets, the think tank added.

Forbes reported. For example, in mid-May, the Ukrainian military fired a powerful volley of 10 American-made missiles at the Russian Belbek base near Sevastopol in occupied Crimea. The strike caused considerable damage to the occupiers – photos from the ground confirmed that the radar and two launchers of the S-400 anti-aircraft systems were destroyed. It was reported that the missiles also damaged four military aircraft at a nearby military air base.

Not surprisingly, the Russians quickly replaced the destroyed the S-400 system, but not so long ago Ukraine hit the S-400 systems in Belbek. Unidentified munitions – probably the same M39A1 ATACMS, also hit two other air defence systems nearby: another S-400 and a less long-range S-300.

“At least 10 ATACMS missiles were used during the strike, and the Russian air defence system could not intercept any of them,” the Ukrainian Center for Defence Strategies reported.

It was noted that two radars were destroyed – one each of the S-300 and S-400 systems. On the third radar, the information was clarified.

Belbek becomes a depletion trap for the best air defence system of the Russian Airspace Forces. Ukraine destroys new missile systems about as fast as they can be deployed, the newspaper writes. The Russians have already lost two S-400 command posts, four radars and 16 launchers, which can be confirmed by Oryx analysts.

“In all, it’s possible Ukrainian missile raids have destroyed parts of four or five S-400 batteries. Ironically, the S-400s were designed as interceptor missiles, but they obviously don’t work. (…) The Russian Aerospace Forces have more than 50 units of the S-400 systems. But batteries are useless for Russia’s military actions in Ukraine if they cannot withstand Ukrainian missile strikes. The more S-400 the Russians deploy in Ukraine, the more S-400 they are likely to lose,” Forbes emphasizes.

Some Russian observers afraid that much more serious attacks are coming. If the Ukrainians follow the American strike doctrine, then first they strike the air defence systems. “Aviation based on the F-16, under the wings of which there is a wide range of ammunition will join the game,” said one of the Russian bloggers.

“The first F-16s – from Denmark – are due to arrive in Ukraine in the coming weeks. Do not be surprised if fighters quickly begin to strike at Russian bases in Crimea. Bases, whose air defense is constantly weakening under the heavy blows of ATACMS missiles,” the publication summarizes.

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