One S-400 smashed, but by what? ‘Land-attack’ modified R-360?

In the recent assault on a Russian S-400 Triumpf Surface-to-Air Missile [SAM] system positioned in the disputed region of Crimea, it is conjectured that Ukraine may have deployed a novel form of weaponry.

In an announcement on Saturday, Oleksiy Danilov, who holds the position of secretary for Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, verified the successful deployment of a contemporary Ukrainian missile, which struck the S-400. However, the specific details of this avant-garde weaponry were not disclosed by him. An in-depth examination of this extraordinary strike can be found in our prior report, accessible via the provided link.

In the past, Kyiv has subtly suggested the potential deployment of novel weaponry capable of executing long-range strikes in the disputed territory of Crimea. Recently, the esteemed Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov [@UButusov] has furnished a report indicating that the S-400 strike was facilitated by an R-360 Neptune anti-ship missile, ingeniously modified for a terrestrial attack operation.

It’s a complicated process

Neptune, a formidable weapon that gained notoriety for its instrumental role in the sinking of the Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva, may be on the verge of establishing a new legacy. There’s a growing discourse suggesting that Ukraine is intent on modifying Neptune to serve as a land-attack cruise missile. This conjecture has gained traction in defense circles, with recent indications asserting that the project is indeed a top-tier priority. However, concrete evidence affirming the existence of such a configuration remains elusive. 

At the onset of the conflict, the stockpile of Neptune missiles was markedly scarce, posing a significant challenge to the amplification of production in the initial stages of the war. In a strategic move designed to bolster its anti-ship capacity and establish a robust defense against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Ukraine procured the RGM-84 Harpoon from NATO allies.

The transformation of an anti-ship cruise missile into a land attack weapon may appear to be a straightforward process, yet it is intrinsically complex. The degree of difficulty hinges on myriad factors, such as the initial hardware capabilities of the missile, the types of flight profiles required for terrestrial navigation, and the adaptability of its targeting parameters. Furthermore, the extent of assistance provided by Ukraine’s NATO allies for such an endeavor would also significantly influence the complexity of the process. 

It remains a mystery

However, the precise nature of the weapon that struck the S-400 remains a mystery. Should it be confirmed that a Neptune land-attack variant was indeed used, the exact methodology by which it identified and reached its target, as well as the vector from which it launched its attack, remain unknown.

The possibility of electronic warfare or other tactics being employed to weaken the air defenses of the battery and its surrounding area cannot be discounted. Yet, it is equally plausible that this may represent the deployment of a new long-range kamikaze drone or another type of weapon altogether.

The ‘downfall’ of Moskva warship

On the 13th day of April, the potent Russian missile cruiser, Moskva, maintained a strategic position in the Black Sea, approximately 120 kilometers from the shoreline. At the time of the Russian incursion, Ukraine was devoid of any over-the-horizon radar systems – an essential tool for detecting targets at such considerable distances. Conventional radar systems, unfortunately, were incapable of revealing targets located so far away. The Russian forces, acutely aware of this significant technological limitation, were imbued with a sense of security.

Remarkably, on April 13, around the hour of 16:00, the individual responsible for operating the R-360 Neptune complex was confronted with an unexpected development. The customary radar equipment, which typically functioned in a predictable manner, registered a significant target. Coincidentally, this was the exact moment a Russian cruiser made an unanticipated entry into the Ukrainian missile’s strike zone. The moment the vessel’s presence was detected, a pair of R-360 Neptunes were promptly dispatched.

Amid the unfolding event, the Ukrainian military had no immediate knowledge regarding the efficacy of the two missiles launched – or indeed if it was a singular missile. The question of whether the missiles had successfully struck their maritime target remained unanswered. Ukraine, in possession of Bayraktar TB2 drones, found itself in a precarious situation.

The operators, understandably, were hesitant to deploy the drones. The rationale behind this reticence was twofold: flying above the cloud cover would render the drones virtually blind while venturing below would almost certainly result in their interception and destruction. After these events, however, intelligence from alternative sources trickled in, affirming the successful impact of the missile(s) on the intended target.

What R-360 Neptune is?

The Ukrainian R-360 Neptune is a modern anti-ship missile designed to engage surface vessels and naval convoys. It is a subsonic missile that can be launched from land-based platforms, as well as from ships and coastal defense batteries. The missile is equipped with an advanced guidance system that allows it to navigate over long distances and hit targets with high accuracy.

The R-360 Neptune missile uses a solid-fuel rocket engine that provides it with a range of up to 280 km. The missile can fly at a maximum speed of Mach 0.9, which makes it difficult to intercept enemy air defenses. The missile’s warhead is designed to penetrate the armor of modern warships and cause significant damage to their vital systems.

The R-360 Neptune missile is made of composite materials that make it lightweight and durable. The missile’s guidance system includes an active radar seeker that can detect and track targets even in adverse weather conditions. The missile’s control system is based on a digital computer that ensures high accuracy and reliability of the missile’s flight.

Neptune’s warhead

The missile’s warhead is designed to be highly effective against modern warships. It uses a tandem-charge design that allows it to penetrate the armor of the target and explode inside the ship, causing significant damage to its vital systems.

The missile’s warhead is also equipped with a proximity fuse that ensures it detonates at the optimal distance from the target, maximizing its destructive power.

Watch the exactly Neptune missile shot that sank the Moskva ship
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Why has Neptune missile gone unnoticed?

Firstly, it is important to note that the Ukrainian R-360 Neptune missile is designed to be a low-flying, sea-skimming missile. This means that it is designed to fly at a low altitude, close to the surface of the water, to avoid detection by radar systems.

The missile is also equipped with advanced guidance systems that allow it to maneuver and avoid obstacles, making it difficult to track and intercept.

Finally, it is worth noting that the success of any missile attack depends on a wide range of factors, including the skill and training of the operators, the effectiveness of the missile’s guidance systems, and the ability of the missile to penetrate the target’s defenses.


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