S-300 / S-400 - Surface-to-Surface (2024)

Starting in 2022 the Russian army began shelling targets on the territory of Ukraine with the help of anti-aircraft missiles of the S-300 complex. There are many modifications of the S-300 systems, and they differ very much from each other. In order to shoot at ground targets, Russia began to install GPS or GLONASS on air defense missiles. So many missiles of the 5V55 family had been made that they could compensate for the lack of Caliber and Iskanders.

Russians initially claimed that since the Ukrainian air defense is located mainly in large cities, the centers, and its backbone are the same S-300PS and PT, that is, the air defense systems of the first wave. Naturally, armed with very old missiles. Given the age and safety of the missiles, it is not surprising that they both work abnormally and fly God knows where.

The use of anti-aircraft missiles for ground strikes involves launching them along a ballistic trajectory. The ballistic trajectory of a rocket resembles a parabola. The marching flight of a ballistic missile is carried out at an extremely high altitude (up to 50 km or more) with access to near-Earth orbit, and such a missile passes the impact part of the flight at high speed almost at a right angle to the surface, so it is difficult to detect in time and even more difficult to intercept.

Since the missiles follow a ballistic trajectory, they were not detected by air defense systems. Actually, that's why the air raid alarm sounded after the strike. In addition, S-300/S-400 missiles have a high speed. According to Ignat, S-300s reach 3,500 km/h, S-400s reach 4,500 km/h , and the flight time is only 1.5-2 minutes. S-300 missiles launched along a ballistic trajectory have an effective range of 110-120 km. In the case of the S-400, up to 230 km (at least) for 40N6 missiles

The S-300 is not the newest weapon, its production began back in 1975 in the USSR. The first serial production started already in 1979. Developed in the late 1960s and 1970s, the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system uses more than 20 missile variants. Russia now uses 5V55K, 5V55R and 48H6 missiles The fragmentation warhead has a mass of 133 kg for 5V55 missiles, 143 kg for 48N6 missiles and 180 kg for 48N6M missiles. The missiles have non-contact radar and contact fuses. The warhead is stuffed with ready-made striking elements in the form of cubes. Depending on the type of anti-aircraft guided missile (SAM), the launch weight is from 1450 to 1800 kg.

Over the decades, the S-300 has been modified several times, and already in modern Russia, the latest S-400 air defense system was created on its basis (the export version is called "Triumph"). After the collapse of the USSR, Russia developed new anti-aircraft missiles 48N6 and 40N6, which use the S-400 air defense system. At the same time, the developers claim that the complex can shoot down even hypersonic missiles. The Russian Federation adopted the S-400 in service in 2007. In addition, the complexes were sold to Turkey, India and China. For attacks on Kiev, Russia used guided surface-to-air missiles against S-400 complexes, using them as ground-to-ground weapons for the first time on 14 January 2023.

The S-400's 48N6, depending on the version, can destroy air targets at distances from 150 km to 250 km. The weight of the warhead ranges from 140 to 180 kg, respectively. The 48N6DM rocket for the S-400 air defense system is capable of hitting ground targets at distances of up to 230 km (at least). For the 40N6, the manufacturer, the Almaz-Antey concern, claims a strike distance of up to 380 km. However, this is a very expensive missile, which was adopted only in 2018 and has not yet been put into serial mass production. Therefore, its use for strikes on Ukraine is unlikely.

Despite the fact that the Soviet Union developed the S-300 with the possibility of "surface-to-surface" action, they did not find a practical application of this system. Instead, they relied on special ground-to-ground systems, such as the OTR-21 Tochka. This is not a new possibility. In October 2011, the armed forces of Belarus practiced hitting "important ground targets on the territory of a potential enemy" with modified S-300s. A similar exercise took place in Russia in May 2017, when Russian newspaper reported that units of Russia's Eastern Military District fired five S-300 missiles at simulated "unknown weapons" of enemy equipment during the exercise. According to RIA "Novosti", the S-300 "receives its coordinates from the intelligence units of the ground forces." Belarusian mass media claim that the S-300 uses the coordinates of the target set before launch to guide the on-board inertial system.

For the first time, Russian troops fired at the northern regions of Ukraine with the S-300 / S-400 air defense system on July 28, 2022. At that time, more than 20 "arrivals" were recorded on the territory of the Gonchariv Territorial Community of Chernihiv District. According to the Operational Command "Pivnich", the shelling was carried out from the Belarusian airfield "Zyabrivka", which the Russian troops turned into their base.

The S-300 is in fact less effective than the same 9M528 missile from the Smerch MLRS. The warhead of an air defense missile system is always fragmentation or fragmentation rod. High-explosive action, even for hitting air targets, is minimal, the main damage comes from striking elements. If we take the warhead of the 9M55F Smerch missiles - 258 kg, of which 95 kg of explosives and 1100 submunitions weighing 50 grams each. And a rocket of the 5V55 family - there the warhead has a weight of 133 kg, of which 47 kg of explosives. The number of fragments is also many times less.

Depending on the specific type of installation and interceptor missiles, the maximum range of destruction of air targets can reach 300 km. At the stage of system development, the possibility of working on ground targets was provided. But in this case, according to a specialist from the Kharkiv National University of the Air Force named after Ivan Kozhedub, Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Nechitailo , the strike distance for S-300 missiles is only 25-30 km, which is due to the need for radio guidance of the missile on the target. That is, the firing range is limited by the range of radio visibility.

The most common missiles for S-300 anti-aircraft systems are 5V55, which have a range of up to 75 km, and a warhead weight of 133 kg. The proven range of launching 5V55 missiles against ground targets is 120 km and these missiles fly along a ballistic trajectory (obviously, we are talking about some new, previously unknown modification). That is, by deploying S-300 launchers on the territory of Belarus, the Russian military can target Ukrainian cities on the conditional Kovel-Sarny-Korosten-Kyiv line, and initially Ukrainian air defense system was powerless against them. The specifics of the operation of such a missile is that it creates a cloud of damaging elements. In the case of the 5V55 rocket, these are 133 kg of steel cubes approximately 1 × 1 × 1 cm in size each, flying tens of meters from the epicenter of the explosion.

Compared to the 5V55 missiles, the 48N6DM missile has a larger warhead and flight range - 180 kg and 250 km against air targets, respectively. Director of Defense Express Sergey Zgurets claims that the proven launch range of 48N6DM as a ground-to-ground missile is from 230 km and it also flies along a ballistic trajectory, covering a distance of 200 km in one to two minutes. This zone of destruction allows shelling such cities as Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Rivne, Lutsk and even Lvov from the territory of Belarus. How many of these missiles are left in the Russian army is still unknown.

The Russians used S-300 missiles in Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion. They even modify and remake to destroy ground targets. The Russians made a humanitarian convoy in the Zaporozhye region one of the many targets, aiming to shoot people on 30 September 2022. In addition to Zaporizhzhia, Russia constantly affects other cities of the country: Kharkov, Nikolaev.

The S-300P was designed to defend large industrial and administrative buildings, military bases and other important facilities. Modern modifications of the S-300 with one set can hit up to 36 aerodynamic or ballistic targets, bringing up to 72 missiles to them. It is noteworthy that such missiles are also in service with Ukraine, because post-Soviet weapons of this type are in all countries of the former members of the USSR.

The Russian Federation is improving the accuracy of S-300 missiles by adding a GPS navigation system to its warhead. "So that the missile could fly along exactly the given coordinates," Ukrainian military expert Oleg Zhdanov said 28 April 2023, answering the question whether Ukraine can convert S-300 missiles to the ground-to-ground class. According to him, any air defense system has such a function - to use missiles against ground targets.

The Russians often launch old S-300 missiles in Ukraine, which need to be disposed of. And they have many. There are about 7,000 of them. Instead of spending money on disposal, they are simply released across our territory. Counting how much they used them, then these missiles will last them for another 3 years. At the same time, in September 2022, the main intelligence department of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine noted that Russia would have enough missiles for at least three years to strike at the territory of Ukraine.

Vadim Skibitsky, a representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, spoke about this in the podcast of Ukrayinska Pravda "(Not) a Safe Country" on 09 September 2022. “The number of missiles depends on what the Russian Federation is currently using. We calculated: S-300 are missiles that have been in storage for more than 30 years, and most of them for 35-40 years. This is actually a missile that needs to be removed from They are being processed. There are about 7,000 of them. Instead of spending money on disposal, they are simply released through our territory. If you count how much they use them, then they will have enough of these missiles for another 3 years."


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S-300 / S-400 - Surface-to-Surface (2024)
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