Russia Reinforces St Petersburg Air Defences with S-300 System After Ukrainian Drone Strike

Th Russian Air Force has redeployed S-300 air defence systems from the S-300P family to support the air defence of St Petersburg, after successful Ukrainian drone strike destroyed the Ust-Luga gas export terminal. Footage captured by a local resident showed one battery from such a system being set up, after the Ukrainian attack managed to engage targets over 1000km into Russian territory. While Russian air defences have proven largely effective, the very small sizes of many of Ukraine’s drones, and their very low costs, allow them to be deployed in large numbers meaning even if only a small fraction of attacks are successful it can still cause damage far exceeding the costs of the operations. The S-300P family of systems has been in service since 1978, and has been succeeded in production since the mid 2000s by increasingly capable iterations of the S-400 – an asset originally designated S-300PM-3. Due to the system’s perceived asymmetric value the Russian Defence Ministry has invested considerably more in S-400 acquisitions than it has in all classes of fighter aircraft combined, with the program widely credited with having reindustrialised Russia’s air defence base facilitating production on a scale several times larger than any other system in the world. 

Although the S-300 was originally designed as a medium range system, with Cold War era variants having ranges of under 100km, modernisation in the 1990s and much more efficient missile designs allowed it to provide long range air defence first at 150km with the 48N6 missile, then 200km with the 48N6E2, and finally 250km with the 48N6E3 variant which entered service in the early 2000s. This allowed it to replace the Soviet S-200 system providing area defence, as while the older system was highly capable and had a very long 300km engagement range it was seriously hindered by its entirely static design. High mobility by contest has been a leading contributor to the S-300’s survivability, while the system’s ability to deploy multiple complementary classes of air to air missiles allow each to provide a multi-layered air defence and use cheaper missiles like the 9M96 against closer or less valuable targets. In parallel to the S-400, a more mobile S-300 variant designed to protect Army units, the S-300V4, is currently in production on a smaller scale and integrates many of the same technologies.