Soviet-era anti-aircraft gun that misfired over Poland – DW – 11/17/2022

The S-300 anti-aircraft system, developed in the Soviet Union, was first fielded by Moscow in the late 1970s. It was used almost everywhere in Eastern Europe until the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War in 1991. According to calculations by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Ukraine alone would have had over 250 S- 300 systems shortly before Russia n invaded Ukraine on February 24.

However, the calculation does not yet include the S-300s from NATO stocks that were delivered as part of military aid to Ukraine. In the spring of this year, the United States had asked Ukraine’s allies who are part of the so-called Ukrainian Contact Group to hand over more S-300s from NATO’s Eastern European possessions to Kyiv. East. In April, Slovakia, a NATO member since 2004, delivered a system of four mobile missile launchers and the corresponding radar. In return, Germany transferred Patriot anti-aircraft systems to Slovakia. This was one of the first “ring exchanges” through which Western partners made old Soviet equipment available to Ukraine.

“The S-300 is an easy-to-integrate system for Ukrainians,” US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said in October. The anti-aircraft system has been used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces for years. However, it will be “difficult to find additional systems” to continue supporting Ukraine with other air defense systems, CSIS said in an analysis of Western options. The German-made IRIS-T system, which is probably the most modern land-based mobile air defense system against rocket fire, has been in use in Ukraine for a long time. And others will follow. But anti-aircraft defense in many regions of Ukraine still relies on the old S-300. It is unclear, however, how many original Soviet systems have been destroyed by Russian missile attacks since February 2022. Kyiv remains silent on technical losses.

US deploys Patriot systems in Poland
In March, the United States began deploying Patriot systems to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank in Rzeszow, in southeastern Poland, on the border with Ukraine.Image: Agnieszka Majchrowicz/AA/picture alliance

In the past, the Russian defense industry competed in the global market with Western Patriot air defense systems. The S-400 system – the newest model of the S-300, which has been modernized several times since the 1970s – has been built in Russia since 2004.

Missile fired at Poland from Ukraine

The Polish government said the missile that killed two people at a farm in Przewodow, Poland on Tuesday was a “very old Russian-made missile”. The missile was “most likely” fired by Ukraine, Polish President Andrzej Duda said. The ranges of the various S-300 ground systems range from 75 to 195 kilometers (47 to 121 miles).

Site of where the missile hit in Przewodow, Poland, near the Ukrainian border on Tuesday
Site of where the missile hit in Przewodow, Poland, near the Ukrainian border on TuesdayImage: UGC via REUTERS

Prior to Tuesday’s heavy shelling, western Ukraine had been repeatedly attacked by Russia. The Ukrainian military base in Yavoriv, ​​as well as energy infrastructure had been targeted. Located about 90 kilometers south of the rocket impact site at Przewodow, Yavoriv was the Soviet Union’s westernmost military base until the end of the Cold War. It is unclear whether the rocket was launched from there or from another location in western Ukraine, possibly to ward off a Russian attack – and then missed.

At a press conference on Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he “did not want to go into details as the investigation is ongoing.” Questions of whether shrapnel from a Russian attack missile had also been found in addition to the missile which was allegedly fired by Ukraine, or whether the apparently failed Ukrainian missile had been intercepted by the protective shield of NATO in south-eastern Poland remain unanswered.

This article has been translated from German.

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