Russia uses S-300 at Ukrainian MiG-29s: one down, one escapes

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In the Kharkiv region, near the city of Volchansk, two Ukrainian MiG-29s launched airstrikes on Russian positions in the area. According to a Telegram account, TG Mach, the S-300 anti-aircraft system based in Belgorod responded by firing three missiles. One missile struck and downed a Ukrainian MiG-29, while the other two missed, allowing the second MiG-29 to evade. 

Photo credit: YouTube

Volchansk sits right on the border between Russia and Ukraine, only about 60 km from Belgorod. The Ukrainian jets reportedly originated from Poltava, which lies over 345 km away from Volchansk. Reports indicate the downed MiG-29 crashed south of the city, engulfed in flames on the ground. As of now, there’s no update on the crew’s condition, with no parachutes reported. 

Speculation suggests the downed aircraft might have been part of the Slovak Air Force, as an ex-Slovak MiG-29AC, equipped with five GBU-39B SDB, was bombs observed near the frontline just the day before.

Photo credit: BBC

Slovakia donated 13 MiG-29s to Ukraine

Last year, Slovakia made a significant move by transferring 13 MiG-29AS fighters from its air force to Ukraine. The planes were handed over in March-April 2023, with four flown by Ukrainian pilots and the remainder transported by ground. 

Currently, the exact number of aircraft in the Ukrainian Armed Forces Air Force is uncertain. Reports still mention MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters, confirming their active presence. Additionally, Ukraine operates Su-24 front-line bombers. While Ukraine also possesses Su-25s, recent observations indicate a lack of reports about their involvement in the ongoing conflict.

Photo credit: Global Look Press

How does the S-300 take down the MiG-29?

The S-300 system, developed by the Soviet Union and later Russia, is a long-range surface-to-air missile system designed to detect, track, and intercept aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles. 

Detection begins with the S-300’s radar systems, which include the 64N6E Big Bird surveillance radar and the 30N6E Flap Lid engagement radar. The Big Bird radar has a detection range of up to 300 km and is capable of tracking multiple targets simultaneously. Once a target is detected, the information is relayed to the Flap Lid radar, which provides more precise tracking and target illumination. 

Photo credit: AFP

The Flap Lid radar is essential for guiding the missile to its target. It locks onto the target and continuously updates its position, speed, and trajectory. This radar can track targets at a range of up to 200 km, ensuring that the system can maintain a lock on the target even as it moves. 

Once the target is locked, the command and control unit of the S-300 system processes the data and selects the appropriate missile for interception. The system typically uses the 5V55 or 48N6 series of missiles, which are equipped with semi-active radar-homing guidance systems. These missiles rely on the continuous illumination of the target by the Flap Lid radar to home in on their target.

As the missile is launched, it receives mid-course updates from the Flap Lid radar to correct its trajectory and ensure it remains on course. This phase of flight is crucial for intercepting fast-moving targets, as it allows the missile to adjust its path in response to any evasive maneuvers by the target. 

Photo credit: AFP

Upon reaching the terminal phase, the missile’s onboard radar seeker takes over, providing precise guidance for the final approach. This seeker ensures that the missile can accurately home in on the target, even if it attempts last-minute evasive actions. The missile is designed to detonate its warhead near the target, maximizing the likelihood of a successful interception. 

The integration of these advanced radar systems, missile guidance technologies, and command and control mechanisms enables the S-300 system to effectively detect and intercept targets at distances of nearly 60 km. Its ability to track multiple targets and provide continuous updates ensures a high probability of successful engagement, making it a formidable component of Russia’s air defense capabilities.

The Slovak MiG-29AS

Photo credit: Medium

The Slovak MiG-29AS is an upgraded version of the Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet, tailored to meet NATO standards. In terms of dimensions, the MiG-29AS has a length of approximately 17.32 meters [56.8 feet], a wingspan of 11.36 meters [37.3 feet], and a height of 4.73 meters [15.5 feet]. Its maximum takeoff weight is around 18,000 kilograms [39,683 pounds]. 

The propulsion system of the MiG-29AS consists of two Klimov RD-33 turbofan engines. Each engine provides a thrust of 18,300 pounds-force [81.4 kN], enabling the aircraft to reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.25 [2,400 km/h or 1,490 mph] and a service ceiling of 18,000 meters [59,055 feet]. 

The avionics suite in the MiG-29AS has been significantly modernized to include NATO-compatible systems. Key components include the AN/ARC-210 VHF/UHF radio, the APX-113 IFF [Identification Friend or Foe] transponder, and the LINS-100 INS [Inertial Navigation System]. Additionally, it features a modernized cockpit with multifunctional displays [MFDs] and a Head-Up Display [HUD]. 

Photo credit: Dzen.ru

The MiG-29AS incorporates several advanced technologies to enhance its operational capabilities. These include a digital fly-by-wire control system, improved radar systems like the N019ME radar, and advanced electronic warfare [EW] suites for self-protection against enemy threats. 

Regarding armament, the MiG-29AS is equipped with a 30mm GSh-30-1 autocannon for close-range combat. It can also carry a variety of air-to-air missiles, such as the R-27 [AA-10 Alamo] and R-73 [AA-11 Archer], as well as air-to-ground munitions like the Kh-29 [AS-14 Kedge] missile and various unguided bombs and rockets for ground attack missions.

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

Photo credit: Reddit

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’.

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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