Russia has already lost more than 12,000 pieces of military equipment in its war with Ukraine. Among them are at least five launchers that are part of the S-400, the main surface-to-air missile systems of the Russian Air and Space Forces, Newsweek noted. Two of them were destroyed over the past month in Crimea, which Ukrainian forces have been increasingly shelling.
According to the Oryx website, which takes into account documented losses during the Russian-Ukrainian war, five transport-launchers (each with four missile containers) were destroyed, as well as several pieces of other equipment, including a control center, radar, and a support vehicle.
Recently, Ukraine has been increasingly targeting military facilities in Crimea, using aerial and naval drones, missiles, and conducting operations to destroy electronic defense equipment. Two S-400 batteries were attacked in late August and September – at Cape Tarkhankut and near Yevpatoria.
Destroying such air defenses is important for two reasons, military expert David Hambling explained to Newsweek. Firstly, “the S-400s previously appeared to be working well, but now they appear vulnerable”, secondly, their destruction “punches holes in the air defense that can then be exploited”.
The Ukrainian Security Service told the BBC that the drones first hit the “eyes” of the S-400s and then AFU struck with Neptun cruise missiles. This allowed them to “open up” the air defense system.
Through the “holes” formed in it, the naval base in Sevastopol could be attacked: on September 13, a ship and a submarine were damaged, possibly with the help of Storm Shadow missiles. The loss of some of the S-400 installations made Russian targets in Crimea more vulnerable to strikes by these missiles, which Ukraine received from the UK, Hambling said. Experts at the Institute for the Study of War have written about “tactical failures” that may “reflect larger systemic problems in air defense in occupied Crimea”.
The cost of the S-400 SAM system (it may contain several dozen launchers, as well as a control center, radar complex, technical support facilities, etc.) may exceed $600 million. Rostec head Sergei Chemezov told Kommersant and Vladimir Putin that Russia had agreed with Turkey to sell four systems for $2.5 billion. And their first foreign buyer was China, which, according to Vedomosti in 2014, decided to buy six systems for more than $3 billion.