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Ukraine start using old S-200 missile systems to hit Russian ground targets

Based on recent Twitter posts, it is believed that Ukraine employed an S-200 anti-aircraft missile to target an unspecified location within the Bryansk Oblast, Ukraine. It is presumed that the Ukrainians have been modifying these missiles for use against ground targets.
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A Soviet S-200 was apparently used to attack Russian targets (Picture source Wikimedia and

The missile in question appeared to be a V-880 Vega, a part of Ukraine's Soviet-era S-200 long-range anti-aircraft batteries, known as SA-5 Gammon by NATO. Ukrainian officials have neither confirmed nor denied Russia's assertions regarding this incident.

Despite having retired its S-200s a decade ago, Ukraine was believed to possess around 24 launchers, possibly more, from three or four battery units. In the late 2010s, there were discussions about reactivating these missile systems for air defense purposes, similar to what occurred with Ukraine's reconstituted S-125 and 2K12 Kub batteries. However, there had been no concrete evidence of S-200s being utilized by either Ukraine or Russia in the conflict until this recent event.

Furthermore, reports indicate that the United States actively attempted to convince the Bulgarian president to transfer S-200 and S-300 missiles from Bulgaria's military to Ukraine. In exchange, Bulgaria would receive modern equipment, including NASAMS missiles and F-16s. This suggests that the U.S. had confidence in Ukraine's capability to effectively integrate the S-200 missiles into its military service.

If the S-200 were modified specifically to engage ground targets, it could potentially be repurposed to serve as an anti-tank or surface-to-surface missile system. However, such modifications would likely involve significant changes to the system, and it might not be the most practical approach for several reasons.

One of the main challenges would be adapting the S-200's radar and guidance system to effectively track and target ground-based vehicles. This might require substantial modifications or even replacement of key components, which could be costly and time-consuming. The original explosive warhead of the S-200, designed for air defense, would need to be replaced with a more suitable warhead for engaging armored vehicles. Anti-tank warheads are designed to penetrate armored surfaces and inflict significant damage, unlike the fragmentation warheads used against aircraft.

The S-200 is a fixed, ground-based system. For effective engagement of ground targets, mobility is crucial. It might be more practical to use existing mobile anti-tank missile systems or develop new ones rather than trying to retrofit the S-200 for this purpose. The modified S-200 would still face challenges from modern armored vehicles equipped with advanced countermeasures and armor protection. Its effectiveness against highly mobile and well-protected tanks could be limited compared to more modern and dedicated anti-tank systems.

Modifying the S-200 for ground targets would require substantial investment and resources. It might be more cost-effective and practical to invest in purpose-built anti-tank missile systems that are already designed to engage ground targets effectively. Overall, while it might be theoretically possible to modify the S-200 for ground targets, it would likely be more practical to focus on other anti-tank and surface-to-surface missile systems that are specifically designed for engaging modern armored vehicles on the battlefield.

The S-200 (NATO reporting name: SA-5 Gammon) is a long-range, high-altitude surface-to-air missile (SAM) system developed by the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Its primary purpose was to defend large areas from high-altitude bombers and other airborne threats. The system was designed to protect important administrative, industrial, and military installations from all types of air attacks. It can be operated in various climatic conditions, making it an all-weather defense system.

The S-200 missile system consists of a two-stage missile with a semi-active radar homing guidance system. It was intended to replace the previously unsuccessful anti-ballistic missile RZ-25/5V11 "Dal," which was assigned the NATO reporting name SA-5 "Griffon" before it was canceled.

The S-200 missile was officially accepted into service in 1966, and its operational regiments were deployed the same year. Over time, the number of S-200 sites and launchers increased, reaching a peak of 130 sites and 2,030 launchers in the 1980s to early 1990s.

The missile itself comes in different variants, including the 5V21, 5V28, and 5V28V. The 5V28V variant has a mass of 7,100 kg (15,700 lb), a length of 10,800 mm (35.4 ft), and a maximum operational range of 300 kilometers (190 miles). Its flight altitude can reach up to 40,000 meters (130,000 feet), and it has a maximum speed of Mach 8 (9,800 km/h; 6,100 mph).

The S-200 missile system was deployed on the battalion level in Soviet service, with six launchers and a fire control radar for each battalion. Additionally, the S-200 could be linked to other longer-range radar systems to enhance its effectiveness.

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