Just as we predicted in December, Russia apparently used the powerful emissions from at least one of the two donated MIM-104 Patriot missile systems to target and launch an attack against it by a Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile last week.
“U.S. officials believe the Russians picked up on signals that are emitted from the Patriot, allowing them to target the system” with a ballistic missile that can reach hypersonic speeds, CNN reported Friday afternoon. “The Ukrainian air defenders fired multiple missiles from the Patriot at different angles to intercept the Russian missile, demonstrating how quickly they have become adept at using the powerful system, one official said.”
As we reported on May 6, Ukrainian Air Force officials finally acknowledged that a Patriot interceptor downed a Russian Kh-47 Kinzhal air-launched ‘hypersonic’ ballistic missile over Kyiv the previous day. Ukrainian officials had previously denied that a Patriot was involved in taking down the Kinzhal. The acknowledgment came after Ukrainian media and OSINT trackers posted images of missile wreckage that clearly looked like a Kinzhal, which you can see below.
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, on May 9 also confirmed that a Patriot interceptor downed the Kinzhal.
Back in December, The War Zone predicted that Patriot batteries would immediately become top targets for Russian standoff weapons, especially harder to intercept ones like Kinzhal, which is meant to only be spent on high-priority, and often highly defended, targets.
The Patriots emissions and footprint would be very hard to conceal from detection. David Shank, a retired Army colonel and former commandant of the Army Air Defense Artillery School at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, agreed with this assertion:
“One Patriot battery with a full complement of launchers (six or more) requires 50 to 60 soldiers to emplace and then 25 to 30 soldiers to operate and maintain,” David Shank, a retired Army colonel and former commandant of the Army Air Defense Artillery School at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, told The War Zone Wednesday afternoon. “A Patriot battery uses approximately a square kilometer of land space so it’s susceptible to Russian ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]. The radar when radiating emits a large signal and will ultimately be seen by Russian signal intelligence capabilities.”
A typical Patriot battery includes an AN/MPQ-53 or more capable AN/MPQ-65 phased array radar, which would be the most likely target of a Russian strike.
The AN/MPQ-65 radar is responsible for searching, detecting, tracking and identifying potential threats. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Ruano/Released)
On Friday, Shank told us he was “not surprised” to hear that the Patriot system was targeted and that Ukraine needs a good “emissions control plan coupled with decoys” to help mitigate such attacks.
“If you radiate constantly or for example at 3 p.m. you will die,” he told us. “It’s a big radar and puts off a big signal. What’s needed are decoys that replicate that same signal.”
“It’s difficult with only two Patriot batteries in country, both of which I assume are in Kyiv,” he added. “Alternating radiate times (meaning turning the radar on / off) is a start. Also, radiating when an attack is expected (intelligence is key).”
In addition, Shank said it is important to procure decoys; “several to keep the Russians guessing on exact location. Moving these decoys and the two batteries occasionally will also help. Last and very important beyond the emission control plan is passive air defense measures…..bunkers, camouflage, again decoys, survivability measures, etc.”
It is unknown exactly how Ukraine has defended its Patriot systems, one donated by the U.S., another by a combination of German and Dutch components.
We’ve reached out to the Ukrainian Air Force for details and confirmation about whether the system was specifically targeted and will update this story with any details.
“We cannot confirm any potential targeting of the Patriot battery at this time and would encourage you to ask the Ukrainian Army,” a Pentagon spokesman told us Friday.
Given the additional protection the Patriots provide over Ukraine’s array of largely Soviet-era air defenses, this won’t likely be the last time Russia targets the system. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it would be a target after word began to trickle out that the Biden administration would likely provide Ukraine with a Patriot.
Before we dive into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.
Video has emerged on social media that some claim shows the results of the first strike from a Storm Shadow cruise missile donated to Ukraine by the U.K.
The video, posted on Telegram by Russian war correspondent Adam Kulko, shows a burning manufacturing plant in Russian-occupied Luhansk City, located in eastern Ukraine.
“Three powerful arrivals at the ‘Machine-building plant’ 100 in Lugansk,” Kulko reported. “It sounded like rockets.”
A strike on the city was geolocated by OSINT tracker.
Luhansk City is about 60 to 70 miles from the front lines, which exceeds the roughly 50-mile range of U.S.-donated Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System or GMLRS munitions – fired by the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS and the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) provided to Ukraine.
Luhansk City is about 60 to 70 miles behind the front lines. (Google Earth image)
But the city does fall within the roughly 93-mile range of the U.S. supplied Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB) and at the edge of the range of Ukraine’s own domestically produced Vilkha-M guided rocket, which can reach up to about 68-miles away. You can read more about that unique weapon system here.
The Storm Shadow, by comparison, has a range of at least around 155-miles and could easily reach targets throughout Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine, including all of Donbas and most of Crimea. Beyond increased range, it also delivers a much heavier warhead and offers stealthy features and a low-flying profile that makes interception that much harder.
Speaking in the British parliament yesterday, U.K. Defense Minister Ben Wallace said that his country had begun supplying Ukraine with Storm Shadows, fulfilling a longstanding request from Kyiv for long-range missiles. You can read more about that here.
Another advanced standoff weapon that seems to have appeared on the battlefield is the Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD), a U.S. mini-cruise missile that acts to confuse and distract enemy air defenses. This is a major reevaluation you can read about in our reporting here, and it could have been used in coordination with the supposed Storm Shadow attack.
Luhansk officials, meanwhile, claim that the attack was carried out by “two Ukrainian-made ‘Grom’ tactical missiles, Reuters reported. They also said the attack injured six children and a Russian parliamentarian and damaged two disused factories.
The weapons they are referring do not officially exist in any operational capacity, although there has been rumors that Ukraine could be working to bring what was a shelved tactical ballistic missile program into an operational state. You can read all about that here. But at this time, we have no evidence that this has indeed happened.
At this time, we don’t know with any certainty what type of munition, if any, hit the facility. We’ve reached out to Ukrainian officials for more information and will update this story with any provided.
On the battlefield, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin took to his Telegram channel to continue his feud with the Russian Defense Ministry.
He claimed that Russia’s admitted retreat in the area was “a disaster and not a regrouping.”
Russian officials on Friday claimed more Ukrainian drone attacks behind the lines.
“In the west of Crimea, air defense forces shot down an enemy UAV,” occupation official Sergei Aksenov reported Friday on his Telegram channel. “There were no casualties or damage. The situation is under control. Keep calm and trust only trusted sources of information.”
While we cannot verify Aksenov’s claim, such an attack would just be the latest in a long series of Ukrainian drone strikes on Crimea, which you can read more about here.
And inside Russia, another aerial attack was reported.
“Our air defense system worked over Belgorod and the Belgorod region,” Belgorod Oblast Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov reported Friday on his Telegram channel. “According to preliminary information, there were no casualties. Operational services clarify the consequences on the ground.”
Belgorod, on the border with Ukraine, has been a frequent target of attacks.
In an effort to disrupt Ukraine’s looming counteroffensive, the Russian Navy recently launched eight 3M-14 Kalibr (NATO designation SS-N30a SAGARIS) land attack cruise missiles (LACM) against Ukraine, the British Defense Intelligence directorate (UKDI) claims.
On the night of March 8 to March 9, “the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet vessels launched eight SS-N-30a SAGARIS land attack cruise missiles (LACMs) against Ukraine. This was only the second use of Russian Navy LACMs reported since March 9, 2023.”
UKDI also noted that until March 2023, the Russian Navy often launched Kalibrs. It is likely that Russia suspended using these weapons because it wanted to replenish its stocks.
Aside from trying to disrupt the expected Ukrainian counteroffensive, UKDI said that on a more strategic level, Russia also sees the Kalibr and other LACMs as “having an important role in any hypothetical conflict with NATO. How to use these scarce and expensive weapons is one of the numerous dilemmas Russian commanders face because the war in Ukraine has gone on much longer than they originally planned for.”
This a conundrum we have highlighted repeatedly over the last year or so. Making things even more critical, some of these weapons are dual-role and some need to be retained for strategic deterrence.
And in occupied Crimea, once a beach vacation getaway, Russian forces continue to anticipate the long-stated Ukrainian effort to liberate that peninsula, illegally occupied by Moscow since 2014. Video has emerged of ongoing Russian efforts to fortify the beaches and other areas in Crimea ahead of the expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.
At least one of the four Su-25 Frogfoot close-air-support and ground-attack jets provided by North Macedonia to Ukraine was recently pictured in operation with the 299th Tactical Aviation Brigade. The Ukraine Weapons Tracker OSINT group says the jet, delivered last year, was upgraded to Ukraine’s Su-25M1(K) standards. You can read more about the jets in our coverage here.
The Frogfoot jets join Ukraine’s growing collection of donated Soviet-era airframes which include MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets sent to Ukraine by Slovakia and Poland.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov touted the domestically developed T-84U Oplot, Ukraine’s most advanced homegrown tank.
“It’s always nice to test drive [tanks] that come to the forefront,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “But when it’s Ukrainian equipment, it’s much nicer.”
Reznikov said that on Thursday, “I had the honor to personally test Ukrainian Oplot tanks. The front must have an armored fist, because the most important value is saving the lives of our defenders and defenders. They need armored equipment to protect us from losing their health. And I’m convinced that in the tank coalition in the first rows should be exactly the Ukrainian tank… ‘Oplot.’”
The German Rheinmetall armaments company is implementing plans for a joint venture with Ukraine’s Ukronboronprom defense contractor to set up a tank repair facility, the German news organization Der Spiegel reports.
“The contracts have been signed,” CEO Armin Papperger said.
The cooperation includes the maintenance and repair of armored vehicles in Ukraine, Papperger continued. At the same time, the construction of tanks is being prepared.
Drone-dropped munitions continue to plague Russian forces, as in the case of this Tornado-G 2B17(M) 122mm multiple-launch rocket system in the video below.
The problem is so accuse, Ukraine is dropping practice grenades on its troops to acclimate them to the threat. You can read our full report here on this apparently new training tactic.
The U.S. provided Switchblade kamikaze drone is also wracking up kills, like the reported strike seen below against a rare modernized Russian 2B26 Grad-K multiple launch rocket system.
Switchblade is also meeting a new defense — nets.
It appears Russia made a Ukrainian-style attempt at humor. Moscow’s embassy in Belgium tweeted out a play on the iconic Ukrainian-tractor-towing-a-Russian-tank stamp with a mock-up of one of its own. It depicts the battle-damaged Russian tank from the Ukrainian stamp towing a U.S.-provided HIMARS.
But unlike the Ukrainian tractors that really have towed Russian tanks, there is no evidence that Russia has destroyed nor captured any of the 18 U.S. provided HIMARS.
And finally, Ukraine continued its strong trolling game Friday in the wake of frantic Russian Telegram channel chatter that Kyiv’s troops were seen heading to the border with Russia’s Belgorod Oblast.
Someone created a video, which clearly looks faked, of a Ukrainian soldier chewing on a snack right at the border.
That’s all for now. We’ll update this story when there is more news to report about Ukraine.
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