One Russian soldier appears to have taken quite a dangerous path to dispose of the military equipment. In a video, he is seen in a prone position not far from an S-300 surface-to-air missile launcher, aiming at it with a PKM belt-fed machine gun. He then fires on the missiles… with predictable results.
Clad in camouflage and a ballistic helmet, the soldier charges his weapon, aims, and fires, resulting in a huge explosion. The missiles, four of which can be carried, run on volatile solid rocket fuel and have large blast-fragmentation warheads with weights ranging from around 220 to 330 pounds.
It is unclear if the S-300 transport-erector-launcher (TEL) in the video was disabled, ran out of gas, or if was overrun.
S-300s comprise Ukraine’s upper-tier ground-based air defense capabilities. There have been massive losses, and authorities in Kyiv have repeatedly asked for more S-300 systems. A single S-300PMU battery was transferred from Slovakia, but we also know that Ukraine has been left with what it began the war with to keep Russian airpower at bay. If the S-300s are eliminated without replacement, Russia could operate over almost all of Ukraine’s airspace with far less risk than what is expected today.
Ukraine’s air defense situation will change as the country’s first western-built SAM systems capable of area air defense over medium ranges arrive. Currently, the U.S.-Norwegian NASAMS will be on the way and Germany will be providing its IRIS-T SLM system, but the latter is still months away from being deployed, at soonest.
This could be Russia trying to compete with Ukrainian info operations. Ukrainian forces regularly post videos online of captured Russian armored vehicles and other tactical ups. Russia is seemingly trying to catch up with Ukraine’s social media usage. In this case, we have an example of Russian forces sacrificing not only a SAM launcher but probably themselves to get a viral victory shot.