A Russian Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bomber destroyed an entire Ukrainian air defense detachment by firing an air-to-ground guided missile at Zeleny Gai in southern Ukraine, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD).
“A command and control post, a radar station, and two launchers of the S-300PS,” surface-to-air missile (SAM) system were destroyed in the hit, the RuMoD said.
The destruction of an entire battery severely degrades the local air defense in a 75-kilometer radius. It represents Ukraine’s depleting Soviet-era SAM platforms and rapidly expanding Western-origin systems, which European NATO countries and the US replenish every other month in fresh arms packages.
The destruction comes when the Ukrainian counteroffensive has primarily been assessed to have failed and produced no significant strategic results. However, Russia, too, doesn’t seem keen to undertake any sizeable offensive action.
Russia has been degrading Ukrainian manpower and military equipment by exploiting its strong defense industry that has comfortably replenished all its lost military wares. It also strengthens its rear to the fullest extent possible by training around 300,000 extra men, videos released by the RuMoD showed, and beefing up its defenses.
Thus, Russia seems prepared to negate any enemy breakthrough under any conceivable scenario. This only suggests the Russian military plans one big swoop offensive by exhaustively strengthening its rear.
RuMoD Video Shows S-300PS Destruction
According to the video released by the RuMoD, a patch of rectangular land on a large open field can be seen as hosting some encampment and radar on a mount, which can be assumed to be part of the S-300PS system.
The video, presumably recorded by an overhead drone, shows the detachment from directly above and from a side angle, with two missiles hitting it one after the other.
A small white-colored streak assumed to be the guided AGM can be seen hitting another part of the air defense detachment in the second strike, coming at it from a slight angle. This hit leads to an enormous explosion, which suggests a weapon cache, fuel storage, or spare missiles for the launchers were hit.
The accompanying RuMoD statement said: “The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) air defense positional area was detected and destroyed by Su-34 fighter bombers of the Russian Aerospace Forces with precision strikes using guided missiles.”
It is unclear how the S-300PS is not firing upon the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). This could have two explanations. One, the UAV operators have identified a gap in the radar’s coverage to coordinate with the Su-34 possibly.
Second, the Ukrainian operators could have deliberately turned off the radar, anticipating being tracked by Russian Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), which might invite anti-radiation Suppression of Enemy Air Defense/Destruction of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD/DEAD) strikes from a Kh-31 anti-radiation missile.
Previous Hit on Ukraine’s S-300PS SAM
Interestingly, another entire air defense battery was also destroyed by Russian AGMs in the same region in the middle of this month, according to a video released by the RuMoD that also went around on social media handles on August 14.
That video showed a similar patch of land being recorded by a drone. Two tele-erector launchers (TEL) with canisters releasing the missiles can be seen. Three explosions subsequently occurred quickly, meaning three AGMs hit the area one after the other.
Le truppe russe hanno distrutto un posto di comando e controllo, una stazione radar e due lanciatori del sistema SAM S-300PS delle AFU vicino a Zeleny Gai L’area di posizione difesa dell AFU è stata rilevata
e distrutta dai cacciabombardieri Su-34 delle forze aerospaziali russe pic.twitter.com/7C65OBj4UC
— Nadia Cecchin (@cecchin1_nadia) August 24, 2023
The third strike leads to an object taking off. This can be assumed to be the missile being hit and its rocket motor being triggered, causing it to be released in an unguided, wasted launch. Another post, having a slightly longer version of the same video, claims that what was destroyed includes two launchers that hold the 5P85S/D missile and a 5B63S engagement radar of the S-300PS.
Russian Air Force’s Backbone for Standoff Strikes
The Su-34 has featured prominently in RuMoD updates over the last month, exploiting its full ground attack capability in hitting tactical Ukrainian land targets. These include “manpower concentrations,” “temporary deployment points,” “ammunition depots,” and “AFU reserve concentrations” by carrying out “missile and bombing strikes” with “guided munitions.”
The Su-34 is the mainstay of the Russian Air Force’s battlefield standoff strike roles that employ long-range munitions without entering within the range of the capable air defense systems. On June 1, the RuAF received a fresh batch of Su-34s from the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).
Based on the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker air superiority fighter, the aircraft is designed for aerial warfare and bombing missions. A sophisticated, multi-mode phased array radar with terrain following and avoidance capabilities has been fitted to the Su-34’s nose section.