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ISW: Ukraine targets Russian air defenses ahead of anticipated F-16 deliveries

Ukraine strikes Russian air defenses, likely aiming to degrade capabilities to leverage airpower with anticipated F-16 fighter jet deliveries, as per the ISW.
Destroyed S-400 SAM launchers near Dzhankoi, occupied Crimea. 17 April 2024. Photo via Telegram/Astra
ISW: Ukraine targets Russian air defenses ahead of anticipated F-16 deliveries

Ukraine’s Defense Forces “may be conducting an effort” to degrade Russian air defenses, which, if successful, could enhance their use of manned fixed-wing airpower in the long run, the US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reports.

On June 12, the Ukrainian General Staff reported that overnight between 11 and 12 June, Ukrainian forces targeted an S-300 air defense battery and two S-400 air defense batteries near occupied Belbek and Sevastopol in Crimea.

The Ukrainian General Staff reported that recent strikes destroyed at least two S-300/S-400 Russian air defense radar systems, causing secondary ammunition detonations, with ongoing assessments to clarify battle damage. Geolocated imagery from 12 June shows damaged and destroyed Russian S-300 assets north of occupied Yevpatoria and a destroyed S-400 radar system south of occupied Dzhankoi, corroborating the June 10 report on strikes against Russian air defenses in these areas.

Geolocated imagery from 12 June 2024 showing destroyed Russian S-300 components near Yevpatoria. Photo: Telegram/Kiberboroshno.

Some Russian sources speculated that Ukrainian forces used ATACMS in the June 11 to 12 strike, but ISW cannot confirm the specific systems used by Ukrainian forces.

On June 12, Kostyantyn Nemichev, founder of the Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (HUR) “Kraken” Regiment, confirmed that Ukrainian forces used HIMARS to destroy four Russian S-300 systems in Belgorod Oblast on an unspecified date. Ukrainian outlet Suspilne cited Nemichev’s statements as the first official Ukrainian confirmation of strikes against a Russian S-300 battery in Belgorod Oblast on June 1 or 2. The destruction of Russian air defense systems in Belgorod Oblast by Ukrainian forces reportedly led Russian command to redeploy air defense assets from Crimea to Belgorod Oblast in early June 2024, consequently weakening the air defense coverage around Crimea.

Ukrainian forces may seek to actively degrade Russian air defenses before Ukraine receives a significant number of aircraft in order to set conditions for Ukraine’s future use of manned fixed-wing airpower closer to frontline areas. Ukrainian forces may be attempting to degrade Russian air defenses ahead of anticipated F-16 fighter jet deliveries to Ukraine, which reportedly will begin in small quantities in summer and fall 2024,” ISW notes.

ISW believes that Ukrainian forces could eventually develop a concept of operations that integrates fixed-wing airpower to support ground activities if they receive enough fighter jets, Western partners train more pilots, and Ukraine effectively degrades Russian air defense capabilities.

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