A missile vs. missile war in Ukraine? The two systems are considered among the very best in the world – the U.S.-made M142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) and the Russian-produced S-400 Triumf.
The former is a light multiple rocket launcher that was originally developed by Lockheed Martin for use with airborne troops, while the latter is an air-defense system.
In an exchange that occurred earlier in May in the Kherson region, the HIMARS successfully targeted the S-400, destroying the 55K63 truck-mounted command and control center, which was designed to integrate and interface with the Triumf’s radar systems.
The mobile command post was developed to provide automated control of separate air defense missile systems, creating an air defense group.
It is in essence the “brains” of the S-400 (NATO reporting name SA-21 Growler), the advanced mobile, surface-to-air missile (SAM) system that was developed by Russia’s Almaz Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering as an upgrade to the S-300 air-defense platform.
The S-400 is reported to be capable of destroying all types of airborne targets, including ballistic missiles. It has a range of approximately 400 km (250 miles).
It has been in service since 2007, and the Triumf has even been used to strike ground targets in Ukraine due to a shortage of Russian ballistic missiles.
Moscow recently deployed another S-400 system to Belarus.
Clash of the Armament Titans
A few months back, images showed the aftermath of the HIMARS strike on the S-400. Though the destruction of the Triumf was not independently verified, it would be a notable setback for the Kremlin.
The S-400 had been used successfully to shoot down a Ukrainian Su-27 fighter over Kyiv in the early stages of the ongoing war.
This could mark the first destruction of a command and control center, although Ukrainian forces claimed to have destroyed a 92N6E radar unit last summer, while a launcher was reportedly destroyed in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast in November.
The HIMARS has been employed by Ukraine to strike Russian military high-value targets, and military expert David Hambling told Newsweek on Wednesday that the 55K63 mobile command center would be “exactly the sort of equipment that HIMARS would be used to target.”
Hambling added, “Taking this one vehicle out is an effective way of disabling a battery.”
The destruction of the S-400 command vehicle could also improve the tactical position of the Ukrainian forces, as its drones and even manned aircraft would fly more freely, Hambling also noted, while further suggesting that it might have been a “straight duel” between the HIMARS and the Triumf. “The S-400 may have shot down several incoming rockets, but missing one was enough to seal its fate.”
The United States has to date provided Ukraine with HIMARS as part of its military aid package. None have been confirmed to have been destroyed, although Russia has made claims to the contrary.
It would also seem in a head-to-head duel; round one goes to the HIMARS.
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A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.