LONDON (REUTERS) - Russia has increased its use of air defence missiles in a secondary ground attack mode because of critical shortages of dedicated ground-attack missiles, British military intelligence said on Friday (July 22).
Russia has almost certainly deployed S-300 and S-400 strategic air defence systems, designed to shoot down aircraft and missiles at long ranges, near Ukraine from the start of the invasion, the Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update.
The weapons which have relatively small warheads are designed to destroy aircraft, it said, adding that they could pose a significant threat against troops in open and light buildings but are unlikely to penetrate hardened structures.
There is a high chance of these weapons missing their intended targets and causing civilian casualties because the missiles are not optimised for this role and their crews will have little training for such missions, the Defence Ministry said.
Meanwhile, Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday its forces had destroyed four U.S.-supplied high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) between July 5-20.
“Four launchers and one reloading vehicle for the U.S.-made multiple launch rocket systems (HIMARS) were destroyed,” it said in a daily briefing. Reuters could not verify battlefield reports.
Kyiv has hailed the arrival of eight HIMARS in Ukraine as a possible gamechanger for the course of the war. The advanced weapons are more precise and offer a longer range than other artillery systems, allowing Kyiv to strike Russian targets and weapons depots further behind the front lines.
Moscow has accused the West of dragging out the conflict by supplying Kyiv with more arms, and said the supply of longer-range weapons justifies Russia’s attempts to exert control over a swathe of Ukrainian territory in the south of the country, beyond the eastern Donbas region, for its own protection.
On July 6, just days after the first HIMARS arrived in Ukraine, Russia’s defence ministry said it had destroyed two of them, releasing a video of the alleged strike.
Ukraine rejected those claims and said it was using the U.S.-supplied arms to inflict “devastating blows” on Russian forces.
This week Kyiv has used HIMARS to strike a crucial bridge across the Dnipro river in Russian-controlled parts of the southern Kherson region, putting huge holes in the asphalt and prompting local Russian-installed officials to warn it could be completely destroyed if the attacks continue.
The United States said on Wednesday it will send four more HIMARS to Ukraine in its latest package of military support.