S-400 or mystery system? Russia asserts first-ever Patriot catch

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On February 20, there was surprising news from Russia. The Russian Ministry of Defense [MoD] announced they had intercepted a Patriot anti-aircraft-guided missile with an unidentified air defense system. This marked the first time such an event has occurred in Russia. 

Photo credit: MWM

The Russian Defense Ministry revealed their air defense systems intercepted three HIMARS shells, a Patriot anti-aircraft missile, and seven Storm Shadow cruise missiles. However, the ministry did not disclose which air defense system successfully stopped these missiles. The state-owned news agency TASS quoted the Ministry as saying, “In just one day, our air defenses intercepted seven British-made Storm Shadow cruise missiles, a US Patriot missile, and three US HIMARS rockets.” 

While Russian air defenses regularly intercept British Storm Shadow missiles and US HIMARS rockets, this incident marks the first reported interception of a Patriot missile. Military experts monitoring the situation in Ukraine believe the interception of a Patriot missile is a first for Russia. Squadron Leader Vijainder K. Thakur, a military analyst, expressed his astonishment, stating: “Intercepting seven Storm Shadow missiles is remarkable, but stopping a Patriot missile is truly astonishing. To the best of my knowledge, this has never occurred before.” 

Photo credit: AFP

Thakur concluded that the Patriot missile was likely intercepted at a medium altitude. He speculated that the launch site of the Patriot missile would have been located far from the range of HIMARS MLRS and Lancet operations, and safely distanced from the frontline. 

Even though the precise air defense system that achieved this groundbreaking interception was not confirmed by the Russian MoD, experts hypothesize it was likely the S-400 system. At the time of this report, these claims have not been independently verified by BulgarianMilitary.com.

“Hunting Patriots”

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Social media has been buzzing recently with claims that the Russian military has hit an entire unit of MIM-104 Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems. A video, purporting to show this incident near Kherson, has been shared.  

Before we delve in, you might be wondering – could Ukrainian forces really move the Patriot so close to the frontline? The answer is a resounding yes. This theory aligns with Ukrainian updates stating that Russia has lost multiple Su-34 and Su-35 aircraft in the past 72 hours.  

However, the authenticity of the video claiming that Russia targeted the Patriot is unclear. The quality is so poor that it’s hard to discern exactly what was hit. One transport vehicle, quickly identified by Russian sources as a “Patriot launcher carrier,” has sparked debate. Ukrainian experts argue that the featured vehicle does not match typical descriptions of a Patriot launcher carrier. They posit that it looks more like an LKW 15t MULTI Truck – supplied to Ukraine by Germany – than any known Patriot vehicles.  

Russian sources have claimed that a vehicle situated in a building was a Patriot control station. However, the video details are too hazy to confirm this. The featured vehicle appears too small to be a genuine Patriot control station and could be any green truck or container. Apart from the truck on the road and the one in the building, there’s nothing else in the video to suggest that a Patriot was present. Though there are visible cars in the video, it’s a stretch to associate them with a Patriot. What seems more likely is that the video depicts a strike on Ukrainian military equipment, rather than a Patriot.

MO also says he hit the Patriot 

On February 22, the Russian Defense Ministry made statements claiming that they had successfully shot down the launcher of the American-developed Patriot air defense system in Ukraine. 

Photo credit: Duma

The statement provided details, stating, “Utilizing operational-tactical aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs], as well as missile and artillery forces of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, we managed to effectively strike a launcher and a transport-loader of the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system, manufactured in the United States.” This information was recently reported in a Defense Ministry statement. 

On the same day as the Defense Ministry statement, Russian military bloggers claimed, via a social media video, that Russian missiles had struck a compound in Chernobaivka, Kherson Oblast. This compound is known to house Patriot missile components and a command center. However, pro-Ukrainian bloggers contested these claims, pointing out that the video seemed to show only a cargo truck being affected.

The Patriot is a problem for Russia

Video screenshot

You might already know, through various online discussions, that the Patriot missile defense systems are considered the main agents responsible for downing seven of Russia’s fighter jets in just one week. These systems are thought to be firing PAC-2 missiles that can travel up to a whopping 90 miles. 

Numerous videos are circulating on different social media channels, allegedly showing a Patriot missile hitting a Su-34 jet. As reported by the EurAsian Times, Russia has lost five Su-34 Fullback fighter bombers and two Su-35 Flanker-E jets in a week. There’s some speculation that the Patriots might be retaliating against Russian air defense systems, after intercepting a Su-34 armed with UPMC bombs. 

Here’s something to think about: Ukraine’s Patriot missile defense systems, installed just last summer, have been a significant disruption for the Russian Air Force. According to sources from the Ukrainian war tracking community, these Patriot systems have taken down a variety of aircraft, leaving a notable impact on Russian operations. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The A-50 fell victim to the Patriot

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to December 2023. A Su-30 SM Flanker was escorting a Su-24M on a military operation when, unexpectedly, the Su-24M bomber jet was shot down by a US-made Patriot missile launched by Ukraine. Not too long ago, Ukraine’s Army leader, Gen Valerii Zaluzhnyi, reported that an A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft and an Il-22 control plane were “destroyed”. But the news was quickly followed by serious accusations from Russia. They alleged Ukraine used a Patriot to strike down a Russian Il-76 military transport plane carrying Ukrainian Prisoners of War [PoW] from the sky. 

Investigative teams in Russia have found that the distinctly marked fragments recovered from these events can be linked to the MIM-104A anti-aircraft missile from America’s Patriot system. 

This particular missile is known to be a product of collaboration between Raytheon and Hughes and is manufactured by Raytheon. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why Russia has a vested interest in targeting and deactivating these operational Patriots.

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