Following Ukraine’s use of recently provided US artillery missiles in long-range attacks of airfields, air defense systems, ammunition facilities and other infrastructure in Russian-occupied areas, the Kremlin has now begun conducting simulator missions throughout its air defense forces.
On Oct. 17 Ukraine carried out attacks against two airfields in occupied Berdyansk and Luhansk, using the M39 cluster munition variant of the US-supplied MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).
The attack destroyed or damaged over a dozen Russian helicopters, air defense systems and ammunition dumps at the sites.
That said, there is mounting evidence that Ukraine’s missiles had actually struck a Russian S-400 air defense complex.
Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor and one of the highest-profile Ukrainian spokespersons, took great delight in pointing out the unreliability of Moscow’s claims in an Oct. 26 post on X (formerly Twitter).
Russian Telegram channel reports on Ukrainian use of ATACMS missiles:— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) October 26, 2023
"Yesterday, the Russian Defense Ministry reported the shooting down of two ATACMS.
The source of VChK-OGPU described the reality ironically as follows: 'It is exactly like this. Two ATACMS missiles were… pic.twitter.com/LCPcSKBRzT
On Oct. 30, Ukraine struck a Russian air defense system on the Black Sea in occupied Crimea with a series of combined missile and special forces attacks on the peninsula. Details of the attack and whether ATACMS was used have not been confirmed but there are suspicions this may have been the case.
Moscow has responded to this apparently successful use of ATACMS by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), in traditional ways.
Despite Russia’s claims to have brought down the missiles during these attacks it was soon being reported that Moscow’s forces were moving logistics and command facilities farther from the front line and out of range of the AFU’s ATACMS.
On Thursday it was further announced that air defense units throughout Russia were starting to train on simulators, specifically to intercept and destroy ATACMS.
Former Deputy Commander-in-Chief for Integrated Air Defense throughout the CIS, Lieutenant-General Aitech Bizhev, said: “Combat teams of all air defense weapons in service with the Aerospace Forces are training on simulators as part of the combat preparation of the entire air defense system across the country.”
He added that the reason for extending the training beyond those teams deployed for the war in Ukraine was that “today Ukraine has ATACMS missiles and tomorrow they may emerge in borderline and adjacent countries hostile to Russia in the northwestern, southern and other directions.”
Bishev is under sanctions because of his current role as General Director of the “ELTOM Scientific and Production Enterprise,” a Russian arms manufacturer involved in the production of tactical missiles that have been used in the war in Ukraine.
He also restated Moscow’s Oct. 25 claim that two ATACMS had been shot down by Russian troops using S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.
He claimed that the ATACMS missile flight speed of less than 1,400 meters per second (~4593 feet per second) made it vulnerable to all Russian air defense weapons from the Pantsyr-S1 anti-aircraft gun/missile launcher combo to the S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
Colonel Yurii Ihnat, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, talked about Russia’s claims to have shot down ATACMS on Ukraine’s national telethon on Oct. 26.
He said that that Ukraine’s use of Patriot air defense systems showed that it was feasible to shoot down ballistic missiles and that, in theory, Russia’s S-400 and the latest version of the S-300 air defense systems could shoot down ballistic missiles including ATACMS – but he had yet to see any evidence that Russia had achieved the feat.
Reports in the Western media said that Ukraine had received about 20 of the M39 ATACMS missiles which were later followed by comments from Oleksii Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) in an interview with Ukrainian Radio, that more were expected.
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