Ukraine is running out of missiles for its S-300 surface-to-air missile batteries. Even if the US goes ahead with transferring ex-Taiwanese launchers for old HAWK missiles, Ukraine still doesn’t have enough Western-made SAMs to replace all of its S-300 batteries.
There is a local solution. But it might be impossible for the Ukrainians to expand it. The SD-300 is a uniquely Ukrainian air defense system. A system that could replace the Soviet-made S-300, but only if the industrial capacity for mass production actually existed.
The SD-300 is no secret. Ukrainian arms company Luch was actively marketing the SAM system before Russia expanded its war against Ukraine in February 2022.
At that time, the SD-300 was not ready for mass production. That may have changed. “We have the latest air defense systems,” Yehor Chernev, a member of the Ukrainian delegation to NATO, told Ukrainian media this week. The indigenous missiles “are being tested quite successfully,” Chernev added.
To be clear, it is not entirely certain that Chernev was referring to the SD-300, although it is unclear what other medium-range SAM he might have been referring to. The SD-300 design captures the best of Kyiv’s air defense assets.
The SD-300 system combines a command vehicle, a four-round launcher truck, and a 300-millimeter-diameter missile that could borrow components from Ukraine’s Vilkha ground-to-surface rocket, which has a 300-millimeter diameter.
An SD-300 battery should be compatible with various search radars. For last-second guidance, the missile relies on its own onboard active radar seeker, perhaps from the Ukrainian defense electronics company Radionix.
According to Luch’s marketing brochure, the SD-300 missile should have a range of “not less than 100” kilometers, or 62 miles. That’s pretty much what an S-300 can shoot.
But the range is not the problem. Ukraine entered the war 17 months ago with some 50 S-300 batteries supervising hundreds of launchers. Ukraine’s foreign allies have promised some 20 Western-made SAMS batteries: IRIS-T, Crotales, NASAMS, Patriots and others. The rumored Taiwanese HAWK launchers could form a dozen batteries.
Kyiv needs another 18 to 20 batteries to fully replace the S-300s as the Ukrainian air force’s Soviet missile stocks run out, possibly in the coming months.
That’s a lot of stuff, probably more than Ukrainian missile companies can make without a lot of foreign help. The question remains whether the SD-300 is worth the money when other Western SAMs could single-handedly meet Ukraine’s air defense needs.