ATACMS ‘Defeats’ Russia’s S-500; Breaches Airspace For 1st Time Defended By ‘BEST’ SAMs – Media

Tensions between Russia and the United States have dangerously escalated following a devastating missile strike on Sevastopol, Crimea, which Russian officials claim was carried out with US-supplied weaponry. 

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The attack, which occurred on June 23, resulted in the deaths of four people, including two children, and left around 150 more injured as missile debris rained down on a nearby beach.

The Russian defense ministry asserted that the missiles used in the strike were ATACMS provided by the US, a system capable of hitting targets up to 300km (186 miles) away. 

Footage emerged on the internet showing chaotic scenes on the beach in the Uchkuyevka area, with people fleeing from falling debris and injured individuals being carried away on sun loungers.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov condemned the strike as “barbaric” and accused the US of “killing Russian children.” He referenced recent comments by President Vladimir Putin, who had vowed to target countries supplying weapons to Ukraine. 

“The involvement of the United States in the attack on Sevastopol is beyond doubt,” Peskov stated, adding that Washington and its allies were encouraging Kyiv to commit acts of international terrorism and kill Russian civilians.

Russia’s defense ministry further claimed that all ATACMS missiles are programmed by US specialists and guided by American satellites, emphasizing the alleged involvement of the United States in the attack. 

“Washington and its satellites are encouraging Kyiv to commit acts of international terrorism and kill Russian civilians,” the ministry stated. 

The Russian defense ministry reported that its air defenses intercepted five missiles loaded with cluster warheads launched by Ukrainian forces. However, the intercepted missiles still caused significant casualties and damage due to falling debris. 

The ministry also noted the presence of an American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the Global Hawk, in the airspace over the Black Sea southeast of Crimea at the time of the attack. 

According to reports, the drone, identified by its tail number 11-2046 and call sign FORTE10, had taken off from the NATO Sigonella airbase in Italy and traversed the airspace of Greece and Bulgaria before heading towards the Black Sea.

Moscow has alleged that this drone played a role in facilitating the Ukrainian attack on Crimea. The Russian government has vowed to retaliate, with officials warning of “consequences” for the US and any countries involved in supplying arms to Ukraine.

The Destructive Impact Of ATACMS 

ATACMS are ground-launched ballistic missiles fired from either the HIMARS or M270 multiple-launch rocket systems. Unlike more conventional cruise missiles, which travel at 600 mph, ATACMS can reach speeds of up to 2,300 mph, making them difficult for air defense systems to intercept. 

Once launched, Russia’s radar and missile detection systems activate almost instantly, but the missile’s speed allows only about three minutes to respond. 

This brief engagement window, roughly 30 seconds, makes it challenging to intercept, significantly straining Russia’s air defense units.

Experts note that upon launch, it takes time to determine the missile’s trajectory and impact point, leaving limited options other than warning everyone to take cover.

In October, the United States approved sending Ukraine its first batch of ATACMS tactical missile systems with a range of 165 km. According to The New York Times, about 20 missiles were sent. Ukraine had been requesting these missiles for several months.

An ATACMS being launched by an M270 (Wikipedia)

In March, the US discreetly sent a long-range version of these missiles to Ukraine as part of a military support package. This version can hit targets up to 300 km away, nearly double the range of the mid-range ATACMS.

Washington has not publicly disclosed the exact number of ballistic missiles supplied to Ukraine, though US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan described it as a “significant” amount.

These missiles were first used in the early hours of April 17 against a Russian airfield in Crimea. Since then, the long-range ATACMS have significantly impacted Russian airfields, air-defense batteries, and docked warships across Crimea.

In mid-May, the Ukrainian army launched a massive ATACMS attack at a Russian base in Belbek outside Sevastopol in Crimea. Images confirmed that the ATACMS destroyed a radar and two launchers from an S-400 air-defense battery. 

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As noted by analysts at Oryx, Russian forces had lost two S-400 command posts, four radars, and 16 launchers.

Russian experts have acknowledged the effectiveness of this missile, suggesting that Ukrainian missiles should be destroyed before they can be launched. Military expert Vasily Dandykin told Izvestia that Sevastopol was attacked by ATACMS ballistic missiles for the first time. 

“These missiles fly very fast,” he said. “They fired almost at the maximum range, which for ATACMS is 300 km. From Odessa to Sevastopol is about 270-280 km. We need to improve our air defense system to avoid wasting resources on drones. The massive attack on Crimea, especially Sevastopol, indicates that these missiles will soon target our territories.”

Dandykin called the incident a “pure terrorist act” and emphasized the need to strike the locations of these missiles and respond more forcefully. 

He stated that the Russian armed forces are actively working to enhance air and missile defenses in real-time and noted the necessity of destroying enemy missile systems before launch despite the difficulty of the task. “It is not easy to do this, but it is realistic,” he added. 

Meanwhile, Kyiv Post wrote that ATACMS had defeated Russia’s S-500 AD system for the first time. The report claimed Sevastopol is a key element of Russia’s military infra and central to the air defense of Crimea. According to Ukrainian intelligence, at the heart of that air defense network is a recently deployed S-500, Russia’s cutting-edge air defense system. The report claims this could be the first time ATACMS could have entered air space defended by a Russian S-500.