Ukraine says it destroyed almost 60 Russian air defense systems in June, the second-highest number of monthly kills since the war began

  • Ukraine says it destroyed 59 Russian air defense systems in June 2024.

  • It's the second-highest monthly total since the war began, compared to 73 in July 2023.

  • Ukraine has upped its attacks on Russian defenses, especially in Crimea, with longer-range strike packages.

Ukraine's defense ministry said Monday that the country's military inflicted substantial damage on Russian air defense systems last month.

Ukraine said that in June 2024, it destroyed 59 systems, one of the highest monthly totals since the war began, second only to 73 in July 2023.

Last month's number is notably a major jump from 35 in May. It comes as Ukraine has prioritized knocking out Russian S-300s and S-400s, especially in Crimea, with longer-range weapons.

Business Insider couldn't independently verify the claim, but experts have documented an increased focus on knocking out enemy air defenses.

Ukraine didn't say where all of these air defense systems were destroyed, but it has intensified its attacks in Crimea over the past month, with the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reporting major strikes against S-300 and S-400 systems. Ukraine has long made striking occupied Crimea a top priority, and experts have previously assessed that Kyiv's goal is to ultimately make the peninsula "untenable" for Russia.

And as Ukraine has continued to target air defenses on the occupied peninsula, Russia has likely been forced to move more of its air defense systems there, increasing their vulnerability to Ukrainian strikes, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington DC-based think tank.

ISW's war analysts have also assessed that "Ukrainian forces may be conducting an organized effort to degrade Russian air defenses, which could enable Ukraine to more effectively leverage manned fixed-wing airpower (namely using F-16 fighter jets) in the long term.

Ukraine has been suspected of using, among some other assets, Western long-range weapons, such as American-supplied Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), for these strikes.

The West has long allowed strikes in Crimea, deeming it a valid target for Kyiv's forces, but there have been restrictions on striking into Russia. Some have been eased, but others, such as the US provision that its ATACMS not be used to strike targets within Russian territory, remain in effect.

Without these restrictions, Ukraine could "in principle" replicate its success at taking out Russian air defense systems in Russian territory, ISW has said.

For now, though, the US still won't let Ukraine use Western weapons to strike deep inside Russian territory, which Russia uses as a staging area for its aircraft and other assets.

A still from a video shared by the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces of ATACMS in use at night time
A still from a video shared by the Ukrainian military of ATACMS in use.General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces/Screengrab via X

As ISW suggested in its assessment, Ukraine's targeting of Russian air defenses could also improve the effectiveness of its F-16 fighter jets, the first batch of which will arrive this summer. With fewer defensive systems threatening its aircraft, Ukraine could have more freedom of movement for conducting air operations.

Ukraine is only set to receive a smaller number of F-16s, though, which may require it to be more careful with how it uses them. Still, the aircraft will serve as a boost to its arsenal of aging Soviet aircraft and potentially create new opportunities.

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