A recent video posted by the Ukraine Weapons Tracker account on X shows the destruction by Ukrainian-guided rockets of several Russian Buk air defense systems.
The account reports that the action took place in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Oblast, a province in Ukraine’s southeast that has seen heavy fighting recently as a main axis of advance for the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ counteroffensive.
Introducing the Buk Air Defense Systems
Three explosions are clearly seen in the video, each targeting a separate vehicle stationed in a tilled field.
Two of the three vehicles can be positively identified as types of the Buk system.
The Buk system consists of medium-range surface-to-air missiles mounted on tracked vehicles for mobility.
They can target everything from helicopters to cruise missiles. Developed in the 1970s by the Soviet Union, this air defense system falls between larger, longer-range systems such as the S-400 series, and smaller point-defense systems such as the Tor or Pantsir.
Four types of vehicles make up the Buk system. A command, target acquisition radar (TAR), transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR), and transporter erector launcher (TEL). The TAR strictly detects and tracks potential targets, while the TEL carries up to six missiles.
The TELAR combines a radar with four missiles. Buk is organized in battalions, with a command vehicle, TAR, six TELARs, and three TELs. These are further organized into batteries of two TELARS and one TEL.
The Buk family has seen service in several conflicts. Following Russia’s 2008 aggression against Georgia, U.S. intelligence confirmed the Buk system successfully downed a Russian Tu-22M strategic bomber as well as contributing to the loss of three Su-25 close air support aircraft.
In Syria, the Russian Ministry of Defense has proclaimed the success of the Buk system in shooting down American, British, and French missiles launched in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.
Destruction of Equipment
Prior to the explosions in the video, the two clearly discernible vehicles are a TELAR and a TEL.
While the third is somewhat obscured by foliage, it stands to reason this could be a second TEL, making this a full Buk battery.
Its destruction by Ukrainian guided rocket artillery will come as a blow to Russian forces as they try to consolidate their defensive lines in the face of potential Ukrainian breakthroughs in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
#Ukraine: In #Zaporizhzhia Oblast, an uncommon and modern Russian 9A317M TELAR of the Buk-M3 air defence system was taken out of action by a GMLRS strike of the Ukrainian army, along with a 9A316/9A39M1 TEL and another vehicle from a Buk AD system being destroyed. pic.twitter.com/Xp70QVAla3
— ???????? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) September 8, 2023
While the UAF has yet to achieve a decisive breakthrough, this video constitutes further proof that they are winning a significant war of attrition against Russian weaponry and defensive platforms. Destruction of Russian missiles and artillery means less counter-battery fire, allowing Ukrainian artillery to expand their target list to include systems such as the one destroyed in the video.
While it’s unlikely the UAF will be able to destroy enough of these systems to achieve air superiority, each loss will leave a further gap in Russian defenses that the UAF may be able to exploit in their advance.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.