Monday, June 5, 2023

‘Dream Target’: Ukraine’s Patriot Operator Says Russia’s Glide Bomb-Firing Su-35 Jet 1st Ideal Target To Shoot Down

The Ukrainian troops training on the US-made Patriot air defense system revealed in a recently released video that their ideal target to shoot down from the newly acquired and “now operational” Patriot is the Russian Su-35 fighter jet.

Ukraine has secured the delivery of its second IRIS-T air defense system from Germany, days after it received the PAC-3 Patriot missile battery. The second IRIS-T air defense missile system is part of a new military aid package that the German government has given to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, European Pravda reported.

Ukraine’s defense minister Oleksii Reznikov announced on April 19 that Germany had sent a second IRIS-T air defense system to Ukraine, several months after the first battery was delivered in October 2022. Ukraine has finally managed to deploy the West’s most advanced air defense systems: the German IRIS-T, the US-made NASAMS, and the newly received PAC-3 Patriots.

In a video published in late April by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) on its official Twitter account, the Ukrainian troops could be heard talking about the prowess of this cutting-edge system and their first dream target to shoot down by the PAC-3 Patriot missile and air defense systems.

The video highlights how the Ukrainian troops mastered the new equipment by finishing their training in record time. As the footage progresses, some operators are asked what their first ideal target is. Without thinking long or hard, one of the troops standing in the extreme right corner says, “Su-35, which drops guided bombs.”

Moreover, the troops also claimed they could now protect themselves against Kh-22-style missiles and other ballistic missiles that descend from very high altitudes at a very high velocity.

Media reports had earlier indicated that the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) had changed tactics to attack Ukraine without entering into its airspace, where the Russian fighters could be shot down by the air defense systems at work on the ground.

To bypass the threat posed by Kyiv’s air defense systems and MANPADS, the Russian fighter pilots have been lobbying for precision-guided aerial bombs at pre-designated targets inside Ukraine.

The two VKS workhorses, the Su-34 Pullback and the Su-35 Flanker-E launch these aerial bombs from 50 to 70 kilometers away.

Russia has increased the usage of guided bombs recently, especially the FAB-500M-62 bombs that have been modified. These bombs are thought to include an aerial guidance system known as the Modul Planirovaniya I Korrektsi (MPK), or “gliding and correction module.”

File:Sukhoi Su-35S Medvedev-1.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
File Image: Su-35 Flanker-E aircraft

Sukhoi crews are no longer within range of Ukrainian air defense, giving them enhanced survivability. In terms of operation, this weapon may be most effective when released at great heights to provide a better glide range.

Before the attack pilots take off, satellites, drones, or forward observers locate targets and provide the attackers with their coordinates.

These aerial bombs have wreaked havoc on Ukraine, which struggles to shoot them down. Last month, the embattled country reported that up to 20 guided bombs are fired daily along the front line, with Russian Sukhoi Su-34 and Sukhoi Su-35 jets mainly used as carriers.

The Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson, Yury Ihnat, said, “This is a new threat that has emerged before us… 500-kilogram bombs flying dozens of kilometers.

“Something needs to be done about this. Not only with air defense systems that we are waiting for but also to increase pressure and work with Western partners to create an aviation coalition and provide Ukraine with fighter jets.”

With the deployment of the Patriots now, it may be prudent to analyze whether the system could shoot down the Su-35s.

su-35
Front view of the Su-35S before taking off, showing its payload of air-to-air missiles

Patriots On Duty, Can They Shoot Down The Su-35?

The American-made and much sought-after PAC-3 Patriot missile batteries arrived in Ukraine in mid-April amid much fanfare. As recently reported by EurAsian Times, Ukraine has been ‘flaunting’ its much-touted Patriot air defense system that Kyiv was eagerly awaiting to thwart Russian missile strikes.

Ukrainian soldiers have been receiving training at the Fort Sill US Army installation in Oklahoma since January. The American and Ukrainian parties agree that things moved along considerably more quickly than anticipated.

When asked whether the Ukrainian soldiers would be able to shoot the Su-35 down as their first dream target, Indian Air Force veteran and an avid follower of the ongoing war, Squadron Leader Vijainder K Thakur, told EurAsian Times: “The small number of Patriot systems available to Ukraine, precludes tactical employment. The Patriot system is meant for strategic employment. It can shoot down aerodynamic targets, but it’s primarily meant for defense against ballistic missiles such as the Iskandar.

“Patriot batteries are not meant to be positioned close to the battlefront. Within 70 kilometers of the border, a Russian Tornado-S MLRS, with a range over 100 kilometers, firing from 30 kilometers behind the Russian defensive position, would degrade a Patriot battery with a 12-rocket salvo fire. The battery would be in easy range of ground-launched Iskandar and Oniks cruise missiles.”

Patriot
File Image: Patriot missile air defense system

Based on these observations, the Ukrainian troops might be unable to shoot down the Su-35 fighter jets that continue to rain down aerial-guided bombs at a significant distance from Ukraine’s saturated airspace.

Additionally, there are speculations that Ukraine has deployed the Patriot battery near Kyiv, far from the frontlines. EurAsian Times could not independently verify these claims. However, officials in Kyiv continue to boast of the deployment as revolutionary.

During the joint national newscast that runs 24/7, the Air Force of Ukraine’s spokesperson made an on-air announcement about the deployment of the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system to Ukraine. However, the location of the deployment was not disclosed by the spokesperson.

The Patriot system, one of the most sophisticated defense systems created by the US, is designed to counter hostile aircraft, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles. It has a greater range than, say, NASAMS and IRIS-T. Since the two weapons complement one another and offer a robust and multi-layered air defense, western military experts have touted their combination as ideal.

As Russia launched its worst missile strike on Ukraine in days, there were reports on social media that Ukraine’s air defenses were working well and thwarting most missile attacks.

However, the Patriot has been designated a target by the Russian troops. In December last year, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Patriots would undoubtedly be targeted if they were sent to Ukraine.

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