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​Potential Difference Between S-200 Versions Used to Take Down A-50 and Tu-22M3, Explained

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S-200 air defense missile system launch / Open-source illustrative photo
S-200 air defense missile system launch / Open-source illustrative photo

The following is a speculation about the modifications of S-200 air defense systems that were designed specifically for these non-trivial tasks

The most important air defense operations by the Ukrainian Defense Forces against russian aviation became the focus of the Brave Hearts talk show released by the 1+1 Ukraine TV channel. Particularly, the episode contained insights about the downing of the Tu-22M3 strategic bomber on the morning of April 19th and the A-50 airborne radar system (AEW&CS) on April 15th of 2024, respectively.

The information revealed in this TV show can be used for some reasonable assumptions on the part of Defense Express about the technical details of these operations as it suggests that the weapon used in both cases, the S-200 anti-aircraft missile system, was tailored for each of those tasks separately.

Read more: Tu-22M3 Shot Down by S-200, But SAM System Likely Completely Revamped
The 5V28 surface-to-air missile of the S-200 air defense system / Defense Express / Potential Difference Between S-200 Versions Used to Take Down A-50 and Tu-22M3, Explained
The 5V28 surface-to-air missile of the S-200 air defense system / Open-source archive photo

"Each time different systems are used," said Chief of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov while referring to the downing of A-50. "This time, we used, let's say, what was made from zero out of old parts, and so on. Something we modernized. The engineers worked well, trust me."

Yesterday, Budanov also spoke with The War Zone where he confirmed that it was the S-200 system that was used to take down the Tu-22M3 bomber, while the official statement from the Defense Intelligence discreetly noted that the russian aircraft was downed with "the same methods and devices as during the downing of the A-50."

However, in the interview to TWZ, Bydanov specified that the Tu-22M3 was hit at a distance of 308 km from the launcher, whilst the A-50, according to the Ukrainian TV show, was shot from over 200 km away.

Upon these scattered data, Defense Express suggests that for the operations against the Tu-22M3 and the A-50, two different configurations of the S-200 might have been used. Particularly, the difference between the distances to the target indicates variability of the interceptor's flight range and/or alternative equipment used for detection and guidance.

The 5V28 surface-to-air missile of the S-200 air defense system / Defense Express / Potential Difference Between S-200 Versions Used to Take Down A-50 and Tu-22M3, Explained
S-200 air defense system deployment site / Open-source illustrative image

As we mentioned previously, the S-200 originally exists in two versions: the S-200M Vega-M with a range of up to 255 km, and the S-200D reaching up to 300 kilometers. Regardless of which one(s) was revamped, the launchers had to acquire chassis because both variants are stationary systems.

Although another explanation remains viable, too: the different range was just a situational condition, or just progressive stages of improvement of the very same modification of the air defense system, deployed for the destruction of both the Tu-22M3 and the A-50 AEW&CS of the russian forces.

The 5V28 surface-to-air missile of the S-200 air defense system / Defense Express / Potential Difference Between S-200 Versions Used to Take Down A-50 and Tu-22M3, Explained
Layout of the 5V28 surface-to-air missile of the S-200 air defense system / Open-source illustrative image
Read more: How Possible It is to Remake S-200 Missiles Into Long-Range Ground Attack Weapon