Ukraine tried to disable a Russian 500-target over-the-horizon radar

Ukrainian media reported that on May 23, the Armed Forces of Ukraine tried to disable the Russian radar, part of the early warning system Voronezh-DM. The attack was carried out with drones near Armavir in the Krasnodar region of the Russian Federation. One of the 10 over-the-horizon radars of the Russian Federation is deployed there. 

Ukraine tried to disable a Russian 500-target over-the-horizon radar
Photo credit: Wikimapia

The radar, as a structure and high-tech device, was not damaged. However, the administrative buildings from which the radar is operated and commanded were damaged. Defense Express shared a photo of two side-by-side administrative buildings. The publication claims that these are the buildings of the Voronezh-DM radar in Armavir. A drone crashed into the first building in its lower part. The second drone crashed into the middle of the building. Official data on injured employees or deaths are not cited—neither by the Russian side nor by the Ukrainian side. 

Attacking this high-priority asset of the Russian Federation can be defined as the highest-priority target that Ukraine has set for elimination so far. This radar is claimed to simultaneously track 500 air targets at a range of up to 6,000 km. The radar is designed for early warning of threats from ballistic and space objects.

Ukraine tried to disable a Russian 500-target over-the-horizon radar
Photo credit: Defense Express

‘Most Wanted’

The Voronezh-DM radar, which was recently targeted, offers partial visibility over Crimea. However, its main focus spans the Balkans and the Mediterranean, which are vital NATO areas, as well as regions in Asia, including Persia and the Gulf. 

Interestingly, on May 23, Ukrainian UAVs damaged administrative buildings of the Voronezh-DM radar in the Krasnodar Territory. This event was followed just a few hours later, during the night of May 24, by an attack on the satellite communication node near the temporarily occupied Alushta. It’s tough to say which radar was “Target #1” or “Most Wanted,” given that both are incredibly valuable to the Russians. 

Ukraine tried to disable a Russian 500-target over-the-horizon radar
Photo credit: Defense Express

Nevertheless, these incidents may well be part of a systematic effort by the Ukrainian Defense Forces to reduce the strategic capabilities of the Russian Federation.

Less resource intensive

Russian sources assert that the Voronezh family of radars appears to be less resource-intensive to build compared to the Soviet Dnepr project. While the Dnepr project had a construction timeline of 5-7 years, sources indicate that the Voronezh radars are expected to be completed in 12-18 months for around 1.5 billion rubles. 

Ukraine tried to disable a Russian 500-target over-the-horizon radar
Photo credit: Wikimapia

However, it’s important not only to consider the stated costs but also the actual timeline for commissioning. For instance, the Voronezh-DM radar near Armavir, damaged previously, was officially launched back in 2009. Yet, by 2017, it was still on “experienced-combat shifts,” meaning it was still labeled as “harsh” in the Ministry of Defense documents. 

Additionally, in 2020, there were reports of plans to build another Voronezh radar in Crimea near the site of the former Soviet Dnepr radar in Sevastopol. The project was expected to be completed by 2024, but as of now, there is no confirmation that construction has begun.

The Voronezh-DM

Ukraine tried to disable a Russian 500-target over-the-horizon radar
Photo credit: Flickr

The Voronezh-DM is a state-of-the-art early-warning radar system developed by Russia as part of its missile defense strategy. It is designed to detect and track ballistic missile launches, providing critical early warning information to military and defense authorities. The radar is part of the broader Voronezh radar family, which includes other variants like the Voronezh-M and Voronezh-VP, each tailored for specific operational needs. 

One of the standout features of the Voronezh-DM is its high operational range. It is capable of detecting targets at distances up to 6,000 kilometers, making it an essential component for long-range missile detection. The Voronezh-DM employs advanced phased-array technology, which enhances its detection capabilities and allows for rapid scanning of the sky. This technology enables the radar to track multiple targets simultaneously, ensuring that no potential threat goes unnoticed. 

Another significant advantage of the Voronezh-DM is its modular design, which simplifies construction and deployment. Unlike older radar systems that require extensive infrastructure, the Voronezh-DM can be assembled relatively quickly and with fewer resources.

Ukraine tried to disable a Russian 500-target over-the-horizon radar
Photo credit: Wikimapia

Effective for early warning

The radar operates in the decimeter wavelength range, which is particularly effective for early warning purposes. This wavelength range provides a good balance between detection range and resolution, making it suitable for identifying and tracking various types of ballistic missiles. The decimeter range also helps in reducing the radar’s susceptibility to electronic countermeasures, enhancing its reliability in hostile environments. 

In addition to its primary function of missile detection, the Voronezh-DM can also contribute to space surveillance. Its ability to track objects in space makes it a valuable asset for monitoring satellite activities and potential space-based threats. This dual capability underscores the radar’s versatility and its importance in Russia’s broader defense strategy. 

The Voronezh-DM is strategically positioned at various locations across Russia to provide comprehensive coverage of potential threat vectors. These locations are chosen to optimize the radar’s detection capabilities and ensure that any missile launch can be detected as early as possible. This strategic deployment is crucial for maintaining a robust early warning system and ensuring the timely activation of defensive measures.

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

On February 21, 2022, Russia stated that its border facility was attacked by Ukrainian forces, resulting in the deaths of five Ukrainian fighters. However, Ukraine quickly dismissed these allegations, labeling them as ‘false flags’.

RPG round mounted in a drone's nose cone will engage Russian tanks
Video screenshot

In a notable move on the same day, Russia announced it officially recognized the self-proclaimed areas of DPR and LPR. Interestingly, according to Russian President Putin, this recognition covered all the Ukrainian regions. Following this declaration, Putin sent a battalion of Russia’s military forces, tanks included, into these areas.

Fast forward to February 24, 2022, global headlines were dominated by a significant incident. Putin commanded a forceful military assault on Ukraine. Led by Russia’s impressive Armed Forces positioned at the Ukrainian border, this assault wasn’t spontaneous but a premeditated action. Despite the circumstances resembling a war, the Russian government refrains from using this term. They’d rather refer to it as a “special military operation”.

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