In 21 days Russia lost 40% of the Crimean S-400 defense systems

In the course of warfare against Ukraine, Russia had strategically positioned five of its premium S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries, inclusive of their radars, on the militarily seized region of Crimea. 

In 21 days Russia lost 40% of the Crimean S-400 defense systems
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However, in a timespan shorter than a month, the Ukrainian navy has managed to annihilate two of these missiles. It is important to note that each obliteration of an S-400 battery by the Ukrainians indicates a reduction in the defensive stronghold of the Russian Black Sea Fleet at its Sevastopol anchorage. 

Focus was initially placed on the S-400 battery situated in Cape Tarkhankut on the northwestern coast of the Crimean Peninsula during an incursion on August 23. Subsequently, another battery positioned  36 miles south in Yevpatoriya was targeted on a Thursday. 

The reported successful strikes were facilitated using the most recent rendition of the Ukrainian Navy’s Neptune ground-launched anti-ship cruise missile. The original model served the purpose of sinking the Black Sea Fleet cruiser Moskva in April 2022. This initial model boasted an impressive range of 190 miles carrying a 330-pound payload, whereas the latest version increases the range to 225 miles with a warhead weighing 770 pounds.

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The Ukrainian navy’s immediate objective was to make way for the Ukrainian air force to target the Black Sea Fleet anchored in occupied Sevastopol.

On Wednesday, airforce Sukhoi Su-24 bombers orchestrated a volley of British-made Storm Shadow cruise missiles which had catastrophic effects on a drydock in Sevastopol, rendering two warships – a Ropucha-class landing vessel and a Kilo-class submarine – unsalvageable following the resultant fire. 

It stands to reason that the Ukrainians may not yet be finished. The remnants of the Black Sea Fleet comprise several dozen large warships that remain just as susceptible to air-launched cruise missiles as the recently destroyed Ropucha and Kilo.

Given that recent events have led to the depletion of an S-400 battery originally intended to shield these ships, the protective capability of the Fleet has been considerably compromised.

Why did the S-400 fail against R-360?

The S-400 air defense system is one of the most advanced and capable systems in the world, designed to counter a wide range of threats, including cruise missiles like the R-360 Neptune. However, the effectiveness of any air defense system depends on various factors such as the specific engagement scenario, tactics employed by the attacker, and the capabilities of the missile being countered. In the case of the S-400’s failure against the R-360 Neptune, several possible reasons could be considered.

One possible reason for the S-400’s failure could be attributed to the specific tactics employed by the Ukrainian forces during the engagement. The R-360 Neptune is known for its maneuverability and low-altitude flight capabilities, which can make it more challenging to detect and intercept.

Another factor that could have contributed to the S-400’s failure is the countermeasures employed by the R-360 Neptune. Cruise missiles often utilize various countermeasures, such as radar jamming or decoys, to confuse and evade air defense systems.
Photo credit: MWM

The S-400’s failure against the R-360 Neptune could also be attributed to the inherent limitations of the air defense system itself. While the S-400 is highly capable, no system is perfect, and there are always potential vulnerabilities or weaknesses that can be exploited. It is possible that the R-360 Neptune’s design or specific characteristics posed a unique challenge that the S-400 was not optimized to counter effectively.

What is the R-360 made of?

The Ukrainian R-360 Neptune cruise missile is a modern anti-ship missile system. It is designed to engage surface ships and naval targets at a range of up to 280 kilometers. The missile is a significant advancement for Ukraine’s defense capabilities and represents a major step forward in their indigenous missile technology.

The R-360 Neptune cruise missile operates using a combination of inertial guidance and active radar homing. It is equipped with a solid-fuel rocket engine that provides propulsion throughout its flight. The missile’s guidance system uses pre-programmed waypoints and radar updates to navigate toward its target. Once it reaches the vicinity of the target, the active radar seeker takes over to ensure precise engagement.

In terms of materials, the R-360 Neptune cruise missile is primarily constructed using lightweight and durable composite materials. These materials offer a high strength-to-weight ratio, allowing the missile to achieve greater range and maneuverability. The use of composites also helps reduce the missile’s radar cross-section, making it harder to detect and track by enemy radar systems.

R-360’s warhead

The R-360 Neptune cruise missile is equipped with advanced sensors and armament to enhance its effectiveness. It features an active radar seeker that can detect and track targets even in complex environments.

The missile’s warhead is designed to penetrate the defenses of modern naval vessels, ensuring maximum damage upon impact. Additionally, the missile can perform evasive maneuvers to counter enemy countermeasures and increase its chances of successfully reaching the target.

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