Espreso. Global

Ukraine modernizes Neptune missiles to use as ATACMS and Taurus analog

5 September, 2023 Tuesday

Ukraine adapts domestically produced Neptune anti-ship missiles for long-range strikes

Newsweek reports.

Western experts have come to such conclusions after Kyiv used its "absolutely modern" weapons in Crimea.

An anonymous representative of the Ukrainian defense ministry told The War Zone that Ukraine used an upgraded version of its Neptune missile and the attack was "100% carried out by it."

Ian Williams, deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, believes that in an ideal world, modern anti-ship missiles, which are specifically designed to sink heavily armored warships at sea, would not be used for land missions. But since Ukraine faces a real shortage of systems to strike deep in the rear, Williams believes that Kyiv is using these missiles.

According to him, Ukraine does not have access to the American ATACMS tactical ballistic missile system or the German-made Taurus long-range cruise missile. Both Washington and Berlin have refused to provide Ukraine with these systems, despite the fact that London and Paris earlier this year handed over the Anglo-French Storm Shadow long-range cruise missile, or SCALP, to Ukraine.

Williams believes that Ukraine is adapting and using what it has at hand, but it should not be seen as a long-term solution for long-range strikes.

Sidharth Kaushal, a defense research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said that the strike on Cape Tarkhankut in western Crimea late last month "proved that Ukraine can use Neptune in a ground attack mode and thus threaten Russian targets in previously secure rear areas."

Hitting a relatively small target that can intercept airborne threats like the S-400 suggests that Ukraine has high-quality intelligence and that a ground-attack Neptune can hide behind obstacles to approach undetected by Russia, Kaushal said. It could also hint that the Neptune could use countermeasures against detection, or be used in conjunction with jamming equipment, he continued.

"All of this would point to fairly sophisticated coordination of capabilities by the Ukrainians," although there are many unknown factors, Kaushal said.

One likely difference between the ground-based version of Neptune and the anti-ship version will be the guidance system, Kaushal added.

It is difficult for experts to judge how many Neptune missiles Ukraine may have at its disposal, but it is unlikely to be a large arsenal. According to Kaushal, even in peacetime, it is difficult to mass-produce this type of weapon, and Russia has made great efforts to hit Ukraine's military-industrial base.

  • As a reminder, explosions were heard in the temporarily occupied Crimea on Wednesday, August 23. The attack hit a military facility on Cape Tarkhankut, destroying a Russian long- and medium-range S-400 Triumph air defense missile system.

  • On April 13, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the cruiser Moskva, was also hit by Ukrainian missiles from the Neptune system. On the evening of April 14, it became known that the cruiser had sunk. On April 16, the Pentagon confirmed that Neptune missiles had hit the Russian warship Moskva before it sank. 

  • Military expert Serhiy Zgurets suggests that the destruction of the Russian S-400 during the Defense Intelligence Service landing in Crimea could have been the first successful use of the Neptune system against Russian ground targets.

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