Following the recent sighting of a Russian-made T-90 tank in the United States, attention has now turned to the sudden appearance of what appear to be Russian-made surface-to-air missile systems on flatbed railcars in Ohio, USA.
Two flatbed railcars were recently spotted at Norfolk Southern’s rail yard in Bellevue, Ohio, carrying what seemed to be Russian-made S-300 and Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile systems.
The images of the railcars and their cargo were captured by bystanders and then shared on social media. The two flatbed railcars spotted in Ohio were carrying a total of four vehicles, with two in each car.
One car was spotted with a Tor-M1 and a 5P85S transporter-erector-launcher (TEL). This TEL is typically linked with various versions of the S-300 system.
Meanwhile, another railcar was seen with a mobile tracking and missile guidance radar, known as the 5N63 or 30N6, along with another Tor-M1. This radar is a common component of different S-300 variants.
Russian Tor-M1 & S-300 air defense system launcher models with 5N63/30N6 radar were spotted in Ohio, the U.S.
Likely ordered & to be used by the USAF for target practice. pic.twitter.com/B1cVHuYBBV
— Clash Report (@clashreport) April 28, 2023
Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, the S-300 air defense systems have played a vital role in Kyiv’s defense capabilities, effectively countering a variety of airborne threats from Russia.
The S-300 is a surface-to-air missile system designed to provide long-range air defense capabilities. It is capable of engaging and neutralizing a wide range of airborne threats, including aircraft, drones, and missiles.
In addition to its primary role as an air defense system, the S-300 also has a secondary surface-to-surface strike capability. Russian forces have actively employed this secondary capability in the ongoing war in Ukraine, where they have used the S-300 system to strike Ukrainian positions and infrastructure.
The Tor-M1 is a short-range surface-to-air missile system designed to defend against helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and cruise missiles. Equipped with two radars, it can track and engage targets while carrying up to eight command-guided missiles at a time.
At the start of the war, Ukraine had a strong air defense arsenal, which included three brigades and two regiments of S-300PS/PT systems (also known as SA-10), totaling around 25 fire units with up to 12 launchers, along with a radar and command vehicle for each unit.
Furthermore, Ukraine’s Air Force had one brigade of S-300V1s (SA-12) with at least two fire units. The S-300 consists of multiple components that differ slightly in different variants.
The S-300PS system and later versions are mounted on 8×8 MAZ truck chassis, such as the 5P85S TEL and the 5N63/30N6 Flap Lid radar vehicle. The 5P85S has an equipment shelter behind its cab that serves as a control node for other TELs within a single firing battery, making it easily identifiable.
Upon closer examination of the photos, it appears that the vehicles on the railcars in the Ohio yard are likely to be well-made replicas of the 5P85S TEL and the 5N63/30N6 Flap Lid radar.
These two “trucks” are mounted on trailers and lack tires on their wheels. Additionally, they have fixed supports that are not present on real versions of either vehicle.
There are several other noticeable visual cues that suggest the vehicles in question are, in fact, mockups rather than operational equipment. For instance, there are variations in the construction of their tracking radars when compared to known real examples.
Additionally, there appears to be an unusual green hue to the tracks of the vehicles, which is not consistent with standard colors for military equipment.
Moreover, the vehicles on the railcars bear a striking resemblance to the mock 5P85S TELs that were previously featured in U.S. Air Force procurement documents posted online in 2019.
At the time, the U.S. military was actively looking to acquire two highly realistic replicas of TELs linked to the PMU-1 and -2 variations of the S-300 system.
The service stated that acquiring them would aid in realistic training exercises and testing events held in the expansive Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR). But, it is unclear whether the service finished the procurement of faux systems.
Over the years, the U.S. military has acquired an array of Soviet-made surface-to-air missile systems and other foreign materials for various purposes.
These purposes include reverse engineering to study the design and functionality of the systems, gathering intelligence on foreign military capabilities, and conducting research and development to improve existing technology or develop new systems.
These activities are critical to maintaining a competitive edge in modern warfare and avoiding emerging threats from foreign adversaries.
Recently, a Russian-made T-90A tank, captured in Ukraine, was spotted on a trailer at a truck stop in Louisiana en route to the Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) at the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
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