ATACMS ‘Tears Apart’ S-400 SAMs In Dramatic Video; US Journo Says Not What India & Turkey Had In Mind

Russia’s S-400 Triumf air defense system, projected to be one of the best in the world, has yet again been obliterated in a fight with Ukraine’s long-range ATACMS missiles in a debacle that is likely to be watched with concern by its buyers, including China, India, and Turkey.

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A US-made Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), a short-range ballistic missile that Ukraine has deployed in several high-profile strikes since its introduction last year, has been seen, in footage, recently destroying what is believed to be a Russian S-400 air defense system.

Depending on the version, the video may be the most dramatic one yet, showing Ukraine’s continuous efforts to neutralize the threat presented by these long-range air defense systems, which could potentially threaten Ukrainian aircraft and standoff weapon operations over a 250-mile radius. More interestingly, it comes ahead of the F-16 fighter’s arrival in the country.

As per reports, the S-400 was attacked in Mospyne in the Donetsk region, which lies less than 50 kilometers from the frontline. Some unverified reports also suggested that the system was deployed in the area a day before the attack.

In the footage, the air defense system can be seen trying to shoot down the incoming target but failing. The incident reportedly happened on May 22, and initial reports that surfaced on social media stated that at least three S-400 launches and radars were likely destroyed.

EurAsian Times, however, could not confirm these claims.

Captured from a nearby Ukrainian drone, the footage shows the last seconds of the system before it was attacked. The signature explosion of the cluster warhead’s submunitions is visible across a large target area as soon as the approaching missile hits it. The large explosion was attributed to the S-400’s munitions that had not exploded.

Ukraine has cleverly deployed the ATACMS equipped with a cluster warhead to increase its chance of destroying the target. Experts have noted that the strategy is ideal for striking air defense batteries, which Kyiv is going after. The Ukrainian strategy involves overwhelming the S-400, which tracks and engages numerous targets.

Operators of Russian equipment are closely monitoring the ongoing Ukraine war, primarily to evaluate their combat performance. The abysmal defeat of the S-400 could, thus, be a dampener for countries like India, China, and Turkey, which have spent billions of dollars on these systems.

India, for example, signed a US $5.5 billion deal for the S-400s in 2018—despite reservations from the West—asserting the surface-to-air missile was needed to counter the threat from China.

India is still taking deliveries of the system, which is expected to become the centerpiece of its air defense against threats from China and Pakistan. The system has been deployed by India at its borders with both hostile neighbors.

While China has an inventory of its cutting-edge missile defenses, the S-400 remains vital in any potential combat in the Indo-Pacific, including with Taiwan and, by extension, with the United States.

Another country that acquired the system from Russia is Turkey. It was kicked out of the F-35 program for acquiring the Russian AD system. Although it has not deployed the system yet, it remains steadfast in its commitment to not give it away, as previously reported by EurAsian Times.

An ATACMS being launched by an M270 (Wikipedia)

For these countries, the inability of the S-400 air defense systems to cope with the US-supplied ATACMS long-range missiles may be concerning.

The Wall Street Journal correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov wrote on X: “When Turkey and India spent nearly $9 billion to buy S-400 batteries from Russia, this is not exactly the performance they had in mind.”

Soon after the video surfaced on social media, the S-400 being mauled by the ATACMS became a meme fest with several pro-Ukraine and pro-US military bloggers mocking the Russian system.

Ukraine Wants To End Russian Air Defenses

Ukraine has made it clear that it is on a mission to destroy Russian air defense systems. Russia’s attacks on Ukraine are part of a continuous offensive-defense competition that is tactical and technological. In this competition, both sides constantly experiment and change to outwit one another, especially regarding long-range and air defense attacks.

Ukraine’s deployment of US-supplied long-range MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) has had a significant impact on Russian military operations in Crimea. Recent strikes have destroyed crucial Russian assets, including the prized S-400 air defense systems and MiG-31 fighter jets, forcing Russia to relocate many of its warplanes from frontline bases.

A case in point is the ATACMS strikes on Belbek airfield in Crimea earlier this month. In addition to destroying sophisticated Russian combat jets, like the MiG-31, these strikes also knocked out parts of the S-300/S-400 air defense system. OSINT channels and military bloggers noted that the main long-range detection radar connected to the S-400, the 92N6 (Grave Stone) radar, was struck.

Destroyed 92N6E Grave Stone multi-function engagement radar from the S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

The Crimean peninsula has seen other significant attacks on Russian aviation bases. Shortly after obtaining the long-range ATACMS, Ukrainian troops successfully targeted an airbase at Dzhankoi, also in Crimea. According to Ukrainian authorities, the S-400 and S-300 air defense systems were destroyed in three to five attacks employing ATACMS. These statements have not been verified in print or visually.

Ukraine has been specifically targeting the S-300 and S-400 along the frontline, as evidenced in April when visuals of burning S-400s in Northern Crimea flooded the internet. Some analysts believe it is clearing the way for F-16 fighter jets arriving in the next few weeks.

These Russian air defenses have to be destroyed so that Ukrainian missiles and drones can reach their target, especially since the S-300 and S-400 air defense systems have taken a toll on the limited missiles at Ukraine’s disposal.

With Russian strikes and an all-new offensive in full swing, the destruction of S-400 systems is a Ukrainian strategy for hitting Russia where it would hurt the most.