Missiles fell on Poland; the state of NATO radars, anti-missile systems and crumbling decision-making

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The 5V55 missiles, normally fired from the S-300P anti-aircraft missile system, fell near the town of Hrubieszow in Poland’s Lublin Voivodeship, on the border with Ukraine, killing two Poles.

Ukrainian Air Defense Forces use S-300 systems. Apparently, with their help, Kyiv tried to repel the onslaught of the Russian armed forces. As a result, one of the missiles veered off course and crashed into Polish territory.

The most distant estimates of the S-300 missiles modified by the Russians to hit ground targets are said to have a range of 120 km. Neither Russia nor Belarus are within 120 km of Przewodów, Poland, where the S-300 missile fell.

5V55 missile fragments seen in Polish video showing the missile attack

While even amateur defense enthusiasts could analyze video footage and distances, US-led NATO was everywhere.

According to flight trackers, an American warplane flew over the Lublin region in Poland for a long time, where Russian missiles allegedly landed. Additionally, a Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, a remote-controlled high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, was spotted in the skies over Poland. The drone, registered MM-AV-SA-001, belongs to the Italian Air Force. The drone is stationed at Sigonella Air Base in Sicily.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk is the pride of NATO, and nothing can hide from its gaze.

How NATO decision-making fell apart

Let’s look at the reaction of the NATO leadership after the missile incident. NATO leaders had no idea where the missiles were coming from and hit areas close to NATO’s logistics route to Ukraine. It is evident by the headlines in the newspapers in the next 24 hours.

  • US cannot confirm details of Poland missile incident but intends to establish facts and decide next steps – White House.
  • NATO allies hold consultations on incident in Poland; all the facts must be established – NATO Secretary General, Stoltenberg
  • Biden’s national security adviser Sullivan spoke with his Polish counterpart after the incident in Poland, the White House said.
  • Biden briefed on incident in Poland; the American leader intends to meet soon with his Polish counterpart – Reuters.
  • The head of the European Council said he would convene a meeting of EU leaders at the G20 summit regarding the incident in Poland.
  • Polish President Andrzej Duda has decided to convene a NATO council on November 16 – media.
  • Head of the Polish National Security Office, Sivira: Polish President Duda talks with US President Joe Biden.
  • The leader of Poland, after a conversation with Biden, talks to Zelensky – the Polish authorities.
  • NATO ambassadors to meet on Wednesday at Poland’s request based on Article 4 of Alliance – sources Reuters
  • Poland hosts a meeting of the Council of Ministers on the subject of national security.

Over time, reactions have changed.

  • Speaking on condition of anonymity, several U.S. officials said preliminary estimates said Ukrainian troops fired missiles as they tried to shoot down a Russian projectile in a “crushing salvo in infrastructure Ukrainian energy on Tuesday”.
  • Washington asks Poland not to make hasty declarations, asks that it coordinate with the allies. The risks are too high.
  • Polish President Duda said there was no definitive proof of the author of the rocket that fell in the east of the country, Reuters reported. Doubt: what happened was an “isolated incident”.
  • BBC diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams, commenting on what happened in Przewodow, said: “Russia has no interest in attacking Polish farms. The Polish government has yet to confirm reports of what happened near its border with Ukraine.
  • But images circulating on social media show a crater, an overturned tractor carrying wheat and fragments of a missile.
  • A Pentagon spokesman said he was aware of what happened but still had no supporting information. There are many possible explanations for what happened. Of course, Russia has no interest in bombing Polish farms. It will be a technical problem. »
  • The BBC then interviewed three military experts: Mark Cancian of CSIS, Andrés Gannon of the US Foreign Affairs Council and Justin Bronck of Rusi. All three confirm that it is an S-300 “surface-to-air” missile, “generally used for anti-aircraft defense”.
  • Biden informed NATO and G7 partners that the explosion in Poland was the result of Ukrainian air defense: media.

One can easily imagine the state of NATO surveillance capabilities. This incident happened before. On the night of March 11, a drone crashed near the capital of Croatia, Zagreb, which was identified as a Soviet Tu-141 Strizh (Swift) reconnaissance drone, also known as VR-2. The drone traveled 1300 km then ran out of fuel. It crossed all of Hungary and parts of Romania until it reached Croatia; however, NATO radars were unable to detect it.

The state of Polish missile defense

Polish Patriot air defense systems began to justify themselves because they “did not have time” to respond to a target that flew only 7.5 km from the border. Why didn’t the “most powerful air defense systems in the galaxy work?”

“No army has an air defense system that protects the entire territory of the country. (A) Missile attack is characterized by a single hit on a selected target rather than the destruction of multiple targets over large areas. The tasks of the systems include (the) defense of critical infrastructures”, said the general command of the branches of the armed forces.

American Patriot system in Poland.
American Patriot system in Poland. Photo. Franciszek Mazur / Agencja Wyborcza

Simply put, the sky is protected from enemy planes and missiles. – The AA defense is on the surface; you must destroy the target in an area. Missile defense is usually point-based – you want to defend a critical installation or group of troops – explains the source of the Polish army in service of the Polish newspaper “Dziennik Gazeta Prawna”. In the event of such a threat, it is always important to assess whether there is something in the area that we want to defend. – Probably also in the case of the rockets that fell on Poland, such an analysis was made. This probably showed that the balls would hit the court. The source adds that it was by bad luck that a tractor was driving there and two people died. It could also be a flight path unexpectedly changed by a bullet due to a fault or lack of fuel. This event does not allow to assess the performance of the quality of air defense over Poland.

This says nothing about the ability of the Alliance to defend the skies – underlined Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Alliance, at yesterday’s press conference.

Currently, anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems, allied and Polish, protect the Polish skies. Shortly after Russia’s special operations against Ukraine, the United States sent the Patriot anti-missile system to Poland, where it is stationed near Rzeszów-Jasionka airport, a vital supply hub to help Ukrainians. Its mission is to defend Poland’s southeastern border against enemy missiles. The British provided personnel from the 16th Royal Artillery Regiment and the Sky Saber anti-aircraft system. On the other hand, the Poles have access to the S-125 Newa/Pechora anti-aircraft systems. It is very likely that if an enemy missile or aircraft entered the space above Poland, one of these systems would disable it. However, if a sniper armed with a Buk launcher fired at a civilian aircraft over northeastern Poland, the chances of successfully defending the aircraft would be low.

The Polish army is actively building a multi-level air defense system, for example, through the “Wisa” (the Patriot system, the first two batteries of which will be operational next year), “Narew” and “Pilica” programs. If Poland carries out the proposed agreements in the coming months, Polish air defense will be among the most sophisticated in the world within five or six years.

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