Russian S-400s Shoot Down Ukrainian Mi-8 Helicopter After Cross Border Attack

Following a strike by two Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopters on a Russian village near the border between the two countries on April 14, one of the aircraft was reportedly shot down by Russian S-400 long range air defence systems. The helicopter was hit around 30km into Ukraine near the town of Gorodnya in the Chernigov Region, according to a Russian Defence Ministry statement on April 15. The attack had struck the village of Klimovo in Russia’s Bryansk Region and left seven residents injured, with six missiles fired by the Ukrainian helicopters at low altitude. Russia has warned that it could retaliate against such strikes with attacks on Kiev, with the Defence Ministry stating that these would be “in response to any terrorist attacks and acts of sabotage conducted by the Kiev nationalistic regime on Russian territory.”

The S-400 is relied on heavily for the defence of Russian airspace, and has been deployed in very large numbers since first entering service in 2007 largely to compensate for the much smaller size of the Russian Air Force’s fighter fleet compared to both the NATO fleet and to the size of the Soviet era fleet. The system saw its first combat engagements in Ukraine, including shooting down a Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 fighter from the territory of Belarus over Kiev in the war’s opening days. The system is prized for its high mobility, its high situational awareness including a 600km detection range against aircraft, its 400km engagement range, and its ability to engage up to 80 aircraft simultaneously. The Ukrainian Air Force has reportedly relied on low altitude flights to better evade detection by such long range assets, with the S-400 and similar systems such as the S-300V4 considered better suited to tackling fixed wing aircraft and missiles than rotary wing platforms such as the Mi-8. 

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