In an apparent shortage of land-attack missiles, Russia’s K-300P Bastion-P missile system has allegedly been used in the invasion of Ukraine to destroy land-based targets despite it primarily being a coastal defense missile system.

In the video above, you will see three missiles fired by the K-300P Bastion-P system from an unknown location. Earlier sources have said that these missiles were fired from ships off of Sevastopol or Belarus. However, it was later revealed by H I Sutton (@CoverShores) that the Bastion-P had been launched from Western Crimea, with the trajectory going toward Odesa.

It remains unclear about what specific targets they were after. However, the Russian Defense Ministry did say that they had fired the missile to destroy weapons stockpiles owned by Ukraine, which were given by its Western allies. Later on, Sutton would post an update regarding the launch, where a strike north of Odessa was photographed. This would make sense as Russia had previously threatened to attack all weapons shipments going to Ukraine.

It can be remembered that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia would consider all arms supply to Ukraine as “legitimate targets” and warned that they could take military action against it. If a NATO member were carrying arms to Ukraine and Russia happened to shoot it down, it would mean that Russia had directly attacked a NATO member, thus escalating the conflict a hundred times over. NATO countries supplying Ukraine with armaments will most likely use ground transportation in the form of trucks and trains to do so, there is little chance these trucks and rail cars will be marked with “Arms For Ukraine” signs which means in order to interdict these supplies Russia would have to target every truck and train in the country which is an impossible task for them.

While we cannot be entirely sure, the missiles being been used may point to a communication facility in Odesa being the target. This is to hamper the Ukrainian forces’ effectiveness on the battlefield, as various military open-source intelligence online believe. This would also make sense as the Russian Defense Ministry had stated that they were going to destroy the Ukrainians’ radio, communications, and reconnaissance equipment before the launch of the missiles.

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The K-300P Bastion-P, known in the west as the SS-C-5 Stooge, is a highly mobile missile system specifically designed to engage surface ships and carrier battlegroups. It launches the supersonic P-800 Oniks (SS-N-26 Strobile, “Yakhont” for export versions) anti-ship missiles from a truck-based launcher with a range of 75 miles in its low trajectory setting and 187 miles in its default trajectory.

The missile itself is launched with the use of a solid-fuel rocket booster. It is further propelled by a kerosene-powered ramjet motor that can reach speeds up to 750 m/s or Mach 2.2 and reach altitudes of 8.7 miles. Each battery is composed of 4 K340P/MZKT-7930 launcher vehicles. These have two P-800 Oniks missiles loaded (with four loader vehicles on standby) operated by a three-man crew in a K380P/Kamaz 43101 6×6 command vehicle.

SS-N-26 Yakhont anti-ship missile (Navy Recognition). Source:
SS-N-26 Yakhont anti-ship missile (Navy Recognition)

It is reportedly a fire-and-forget type missile and uses satellite guidance (GLONASS) during the initial stage of flight and active radar guidance upon approaching a target, reaching altitudes of 46,000 ft. What sets it apart from other Russian missiles is that it could reportedly work in tandem with other missiles, classify targets based on importance, and select the most valuable target. After it has locked on its target, it shuts down its radars and descends to low altitudes so that it would not be vulnerable to air defense radars. Used at sea, it would allow the missile to ignore the smaller signature of escorting vessels and strike the larger signature of an aircraft carrier.  It also has a number of warhead options, including HE submunitions and semi-armor piercing warheads. It’s reportedly operated by Indonesia, Syria, and Vietnam.

With its reported range, the K-300P Bastion-P missile system can target and attack targets just about anywhere in Southern Ukraine, particularly Odesa. Odesa is an important city for them as it would cut the Ukrainians off from their access to the sea if Mariupol falls. Mykolaiv and Kherson (which the Ukrainians have been working on recapturing), along with a majority of Southern Ukraine, can be targeted as well.

This is not the first time Russia has used a particular weapon to show off its military capabilities and destroy a weapons arsenal. Just a few days ago, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that they had used their hypersonic Kinzhal missile to destroy stockpiles of Ukrainian weapons in the Ivano-Frankivsk region. Kalibr cruise missiles were also launched from the Black Sea to target Ukrainian fuel depots in Kostiantynivka.

Various military analysts have given some insights into why these missiles were used. Russian analyst Vasily Kashin stated that the missiles would be more effective at penetrating underground targets. However, many have also claimed they were using these missiles as they were running out of Iskander missiles to show that they were not afraid to use their more expensive munitions to fire at Ukraine. This would be aligned with the fact that the Russians had fired more than 1,000 missiles into Ukraine since February 24. Another theory was that it was a psychological and morale boost for the Russians, one that they needed as reports of Russian soldiers having low morale are increasingly obvious.

With the Bastion’s usage, it may be another attempt to boost morale, but it can also be the case that the Russians deemed it appropriate to attack Odesa due to its position in the Black Sea. It is important to note that the 126th Coastal Defense Brigade, which operates these missiles, was indeed present in Crimea during this time. With the Ukrainians claiming to have sunk some Russian navy ships.  The Russian navy has no naval targets to engage, thus opting to attack land-based targets suggesting increasing desperation by the Russians to bring every weapon they have to bear on Ukraine

Will we see more of the Bastion-P in action? Nobody knows for sure. However, intelligence does suggest that the Russians are running out of precision-guided munitions like ballistic and cruise missiles after firing more than a thousand missiles into Ukraine. Military analysts are still shocked at the small inventory of the Russian armed forces, considering that they had years to prepare for their invasion. More so, using these expensive missiles to take out relatively low-value targets brings the factor of diminishing returns into the use of such missiles.