Since different Western air-defence systems are now finding their way into UA, many commentators rise the issue of their effectiveness against Russian strikes. Among those systems there are some that can be called “legacy”, as well as some of the most modern short to medium range ones. To understand their effectiveness, let’s analyze this issue a bit.
First of all, the first difficulty in defending against low-flying cruise missiles and drones, is the matter of their timely detection. Since most of the air-defense detection capabilities are radar-based, they are inherently limited by their line-of-sight. Earth’s curvature and natural or men maid artifacts make it practically impossible for the land-based radars to detect and track low-flying targets, unless they are passing near those radars.
For example, the most capable Russian air-defence systems of the S-300/400 family, while having maximum engagement range in hundreds of kilometers, are only capable of intercepting low flying targets at distances of around 10 kilometers (give or take, depending on other variables). And this is achieved with special masts that elevate radars tens of meters above the ground level.
This problem is dealt with by using air assets, able to “see” low flying targets from much greater distances. For example, the West will use its large number of AWACS aircraft to detect cruise missiles at long distances. Soviet Union developed a special air-defence aircraft, the MiG-31 interceptor, which was fitted with the electronically scanned array radar and datalink capabilities. A group of 4 MiG-31 interceptors can cover around 800 kilometers of airspace, detecting and engaging cruise missiles from 100+ kilometers range. Israel was developing aerostats, lifting radars (or other equipment) into the air to greatly increase the detection range.
However, a regular air-defense system with its ground-based radar would have greatly reduced efficiency against low-flying targets, because of its inability to provide early detection. That means UA will have to rely on Western AWACS aircraft, operating in NATO or international airspace, or on their fighter jets to detect Russian strikes.
The problem here is that cruise missiles and low-flying drones are harder to detect due to their size and shape, and any detection against ground is more difficult compared to detection against the empty sky. That means, those solutions would have limited efficiency at best. In addition, any Ukrainian fighter jet that patrols the sky in search for incoming cruise missiles, would be vulnerable against Russian long-range ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles. Especially, since their main defense against those is to fly at low levels, which negates the very idea of cruise missile detection. The higher you fly, the farther your radar can see.
So, we established that UA doesn’t have efficient detection assets against low-flying targets. Theoretically, a much larger number of detection radars could compensate for their short effective range against cruise missiles. But we are talking orders of magnitude more, needed to cover or the blind areas. So, it isn’t a practical solution.
Now, regarding the interception of those cruise missiles and long-range, low-flying drones. They are relatively easy targets, once they get into the range of missile or anti-aircraft gun-based air-defence system. If the air-defence systems and its crew had enough time to produce fire solution and engage the target, it can be shot down. Even the legacy anti-aircraft artillery is able to do so. This is especially true for the Iranian Shakhed-136 drones, due to their very low airspeed (around 180 km/h, I believe). The air-defence system should have enough time to detect, calculate the fire solution, and engage those. Since cruise missiles are much faster, operating at around 800 km/h speed, the reaction time would be four or five times shorter. Which means the success rate of intercepts would also be lower, especially if defending with anti-aircraft artillery.
That being said, theoretically, the newly supplied fire-and-forget type missiles could have a big advantage, since they don’t require the uninterrupted external targeting from the time of detection and up until the intercept. Those systems use modern air-to-air missiles, which have the lock-after-launch and/or external targeting capabilities. That means, theoretically, if a cruise missile is detected by some third networked system or radar, the first system can use the general location of the target as the initial rough targeting solution, and launch the missile(s), which would then start to search for the target independently. This requires as many of the detection and air-defence systems to be connected into a single command and control network.
Although, since the number of those modern air-defence systems, delivered to Ukraine, is in single digits, and since those are different systems made by different countries and using different air-to-air missiles, there is probably no simple way of implementing this scheme. Also, using the modern fire-and-forget air-to-air missiles, designed to take down modern enemy fighter jets, is prohibitively expensive. It’s one thing to waste a nearly million-dollar missile to shoot at SU-35, and entirely another to shoot at Iranian drone.
By the way, a few times the Israeli air force was compelled to intercept cheap Iranian drones using very expensive jets and air-to-air missiles. But this was done more for political than military reasons. The same as with the intercepting cheap rockets with expensive air-defence missiles. Israel is relatively reach country with very high defence expenditures, and yet it needs to ask for billions of dollars of US aid to replenish their stocks of the Iron Dome missiles. In other words, this isn’t a feasible solution for any prolonged conflict, even if speaking of Hammas. All the more so, if we are talking about defending the UA against Russian strikes.
If so, what is the point of those modern Western air-defence systems, supplied to UA — one here, two there? I think they are intended for combat-testing and as an advertising. They are expected to shoot down a few of the Russian Kalibr or Iskander-K cruise missiles, maybe even a Sukhoi fighter jet (if Russians will make another stupid mistake), and that will be it. UA won’t be supplied with constant torrent of modern air-to-air missiles to shoot down hundreds of Russian cruise missiles and Iranian drones.
It would be fair to ask when, why is it that Russia is able to intercept hundreds of MLRS rockets, and Ukraine wouldn’t be able to do the same against cruise missiles? The answer is simple — Russian has much more air-defence systems, and its surface-to-air missiles are mostly of non-fire-and-forget variety. Russian legacy, and even many of the modern missiles, are command-guided or semi-guided, which means they don’t require a sophisticated, hundreds of thousands worth “brain” and “eyes” to hit the target. Instead, all the sophisticated (still not as much as the Western ones) electronics are in the launcher, which generates the control commands, transmitted to the missiles. This limits the capabilities of the system but also makes it much cheaper to produce its missiles.
To be frank, the last I’ve heard the Pantsir missiles were grossly overpriced (in my opinion), valued at tens of thousands of dollars each. Yet, it’s still an order of magnitude cheaper than the Western air-to-air missiles, adopted for the land air-defence systems. And if corruption schemes are to be cleansed from the Russian MIC, maybe a Pantsir missile could be produced for around $15,000, instead of $~70,000, or whatever it costs now. I remember that before the introduction of the Iron Dome into the service, its interceptor missiles were estimated to cost about $50,000, and those are much more sophisticated, active-radar guided missiles, produced in a country with higher cost of living. Naturally, since then their cost multiplied a few times, as far as I’m aware.
I’m watching the latest video by Alexander Mercouris, and few things are still seemed no to be misunderstood by the majority of analytics.
First of all, the notion that bridges are some super-hardened targets requires a context. The Crimean bridge suffered a terrorist attack by the explosive charge, hidden on pallets inside a truck. As a result, one of its two automotive wings of Crimea bridge was destroyed. The second wing, as well as the railroad wing were damaged. The repair of all the damage and the return of the bridge to its full operational capacity is expected (if Russians officials are to be believed) in the first half of 2023.
I read speculations about this explosive charge being specially designed to do as much heavy damage to the bridge as possible. Namely, it was a shaped charge explosive device, with the majority of its blast’s destructive power directed downwards in order to destroy the support column or beam of the bridge. Maybe the explosion wasn’t timed rightly, or maybe it wasn’t that kind of explosive device. But in any case, the damage wasn’t as severe as it could have been. And yet, it takes Russia many months to restore the functionality of the recently (relatively speaking) built bridge.
Now let’s imagine similar size of explosive, with a shaped charge warhead, moving with high supersonic speed. I’m speaking about the Cold War veteran, the Kh-22 anti-ship missile. It is extremely fast, adequately precise, and extremely powerful, designed to target and destroy US aircraft carriers. It has capability for radar guidance against not only ships, but also large land-based, radar-reflecting facilities. It is mostly useless against modern aircraft carrier battle groups (unless used with non-conventional warheads, with initial high-altitude nuclear detonation to disrupt the electronics of air-defence systems, and consequent nuclear detonations closer to the ships), but should be present in large numbers in Russian arsenals. They could be launched in great numbers and hundreds of kilometers away from any enemy air-defence. And even one lucky missile could take out a major bridge, making it inoperable for many months.
So, there is no need to send dozens of bombers armed with bombs. No need to endanger any Russian pilots or aircrafts. And no need to deploy modern and more capable missiles. If those Kh-22 or Kh-32 are still in working condition, they are most suitable for this role.
Regarding the latest aero- or quasi-ballistic Kinzhal and Tsirkon hypersonic missiles, they are still not present in large enough numbers to waste them on such targets. The first combat use of Kinzhal was intended to demonstrate its capabilities to the West, so to prevent it from direct interference in Ukraine. There are only limited number of MiG-31K’s in Russian service, and probably Kinzhals as well, and they are the best conventional defence against NATO aircraft carrier battle groups the Russian military has. Same with Tsirkon missiles, but those aren’t even fielded yet. Unlike the subsonic Kalibr or Iskander-K, which are classic subsonic cruise missiles, similar to US-made Tomahawk. And, like Tomahawks, they are intended to be used against lower quality targets, such as military and civilian infrastructure, and in large numbers. It is important to understand the difference between those two groups.
Zatoka Bridge, which connects the two banks of Dniester Liman, was targeted several times in preparations to the Odessa landing operation (that didn’t happen). And it was damaged, though not heavily. Yet, no other attempts to target any other major bridges were made (excluding the recent bridges what were blown up by the retreating Russian forces).
Obviously, there is a political decision in Russia, not to target bridges across the Dnepr River. And it has nothing to do with technical difficulties or risks — the ability was always present, but what was missing is the political will. No new missiles could resolve it. And any attempts to rationalize that political decision with tales about squadrons of bombers needed to carpet-bomb the bridges, are no more than attempts to justify Russian leadership’s lack of willpower and decisiveness.
P.S. Some time ago I was of the opinion that Russia is doing the right thing not targeting the bridges across the Dnepr. The thing is, at that time, it still seemed like Russian Army knew what it was doing. Before the abandonment of Kharkov, the debacle of mobilization, etc. Now it is obvious, that Russia is allowing for almost peacetime logistics in Ukraine, while its own forces are retreating under the excuse of logistical difficulties.
Yet again a massive missile strike on Ukrainian electrical distribution network was reported. Throughout all of Ukraine, Russian missiles hit electrical distribution facilities. Some happen near the Polish border. During the attempted intercept of those missiles the Ukrainian air-defence units launched what seems like S-300 missiles, at least one of them landing in Polish territory, killing two Polish farmers.
Those massive strikes against power distribution network facilities started after the shameful Russian retreat from the Kharkov region. For about three months now, the strikes continued with various degrees on intensity.
Yet even now, after the last, massive strike (supposedly of dozens of long-range cruise missiles), all this had achieved is temporary blackouts. The reason is simple — the Ukrainian power distribution network is redundant, and the destroyed or damaged transformers and other auxiliary systems. Those serve to decrease or increase the voltage before feeding the national and regional electrical distribution networks from the power generating facilities, or from those facilities to consumers.
The Ukrainian national electrical grid uses 750kV powerlines to balance electricity supply on a national or international levels. The electrical power plants produce much lower voltages, but they are being transformed to higher voltages in order to reduce power loses during the transmission over the national power grid. For that, step-up transformers are used.
Then the power is distributed to regional or local consumers, it is being transformed back to lower voltages. 330kV, 110kV, etc., up until the usual voltages of 220V or 400V for one or three phases. Industrial facilities can consume higher voltages, but that only means that they don’t use the final stages of step-down transformers, as the private households do.
In addition to those step-up and step-down transformers, distribution networks also use automatic control facilities, which regulate the load between different segments of upper and lower levels of the electrical distribution network. Automatic protection systems to prevent overloads and non-standard voltages is also used.
The Russian tactic was mainly to destroy or damage those transformers. They are relatively much easier to repair or replace. They could also be substituted by redundant back-up facilities, or the electricity flow can be rerouted through other segments of the network. The bottom line is, all Russians have achieved so far is the temporary blackouts, which are quickly repaired.
If the Russian goal was to destroy or heavily cripple Ukrainian ability to use electricity, then this plan has failed. Only by constant strikes, using hundreds and thousands of stand-off munition like drones or missiles, those temporary blackouts could be sustained. Of course, this is stupid.
I’ve seen some people talk about those transformers being unique and very hard to replace, so after the backups and spares would be exhausted, the entire network will start to collapse. Yet, those people apparently disregard Western ability to supply such transformer units to Ukraine, or Ukraine abilities to start mass producing those units.
On the over hand, if all those hundreds and thousands of missiles and drones would to strike power plants, then that would require many months, or more probably, years of heavy investments and building to replace. And, naturally, there are much less power generation facilities than there are power distribution subsystems.
We can see that Ukraine, using only artillery and rockets, most of them being unguided, managed to shut down Ukraine’s most powerful nuclear power plant. Amagine what would happen if they had strategic cruise missiles of Kh-101 variety, Kalibr or Iskander-K missiles. Russia would enter the medieval era pretty soon.
Yet the genius supreme commander Simpleton Simpletonovich Rasputin continues to play his games of “lose the war to weak opponent, even if everything is going your way”. Hundreds, if not thousands, of strategic-level missiles are being disposed without any real consequences. While hundreds of primitive, extremely overpriced (if Sky News report to be believed) drones are being purchased from Iran, which have no strategic value.
P.S. The usual, flow-of-consciousness rumbling
I dislike when people talk about treason then faced with any little detail which contradicts their own personal paradigm. And yet, then I see again and again that Russia wastes its superiority on fruitless endeavors, while constantly being under the threat of some of NATO powers directly joining the war, I see no other, more suitable way to describe it, but as treason, or at least as fundamental betrayal of the country and its people.
It is being said that every nation has the government it deserves. I refuse to believe Russian people are so stupid, incompetent and corrupt. But assuming they are, maybe it is time to return to old practice of bringing leaders from outside of Russia. Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Putin — they seem initially to have some good intentions, but in the end all they do is weaken the country and humiliate its population, forcing some of its most productive and smart people to flee abroad in despair.
Much was said about the hurdles of supplying Russian troops across the Dnepr River. The thing is, Russia has many great rivers. If we to follow this logic, then any bridge destroyed, or even one which is targeted, is a reason to fall back. Obviously, this notion is ridiculous to the extreme.
First of all, Russia has Railroad troops — a special military service, dedicated to building and repairing railroad communications during the time of peace and especially during the wartime. One of its main objectives, is to build or repair railroad bridges. Since Russian logistics relies heavily on railroad network, much more than in any other country, those Railroad troops (according to wiki) include 10 brigades in 4 districts. Almost 30,000 men serve in those units, and their primary objective is to build and repair railroads.
Yet, during all those months of bridges across the Dnepr being shelled, no new bridges were built in order to prevent a cut-off of logistics. Yes, Dnepr is a large river, but 30,000 men, trained and equipped to build railroads and railroad bridges, are more than enough to build not one, but several such bridges.
Yet this wasn’t done, and now, suddenly, it turns out Russia had bridge problems.
Another related topic is the possibility of Ukrainians flooding the Dnepr by releasing water from some dams. Yet, this possibility was always present. If so, Russian command should have taken its own measures to prevent it. By destroying those dams in convenient manner. It would also probably significantly degrade Ukrainian hydroelectric power generation capabilities, as a bonus. Yet it wasn’t done.
So, we have two factors that were known and present for a period of many months. Any measures that could have been taken to avoid a situation of forces being cut off, weren’t taken or even attempted. And now we got those factors as some kind of force majeure which Russians are unable to resist.
Sometimes, when incompetence goes too far, it turns into plain and simple treason. And the signs of that treason are all over this war. Both Ukrainians and Russian were betrayed by their respective governments. If, in Ukrainian case, it was done to serve foreign masters, then in Russian case the reasons for such betrayal are beyond me.
P.S. Logistics in Soviet Army.
In the USSR, the Army was planning for deep maneuver operations. Tank armies would have to be supplied across thousands of kilometers of enemy territory, including many rivers. This wasn’t something impossible. In fact, Russians could supply large formations via airlifts. Tanker helicopters would fly to the front line to fuel the tanks deep inside Europe. Armament and equipment could be airdropped. Soon, the Railroad troops would follow with railroad infrastructure.
Actually, Soviets were examining some plans ground offence into the United States and Canada through the arctic circle. In the winter, the ice could support heavy armor. This plan was abandoned, as far as I know, but my point is: it was seriously considered. Imagine the scale and the logistical nightmare of supplying multiple armies across the oceans and in another continent.
It was possible then to do all this, for much larger forces, much farther away. And yet, for some unknown reason, Russian Army confessed to be unable to supply its forces across one river, with both banks under its control. While they have superiority in air power. This is truly unfathomable. Again, incompetence has its limits — it borders treason.
In the latest Alexander Mercouris’ video, he talks about the decision to abandon the right bank of Dnepr River in Kherson region. One of his points is that general Surovikin has made this decision and will bear the responsibility for it.
I want to address this point of responsibilities and decisions. First of all, the theater-commanding general cannot make any strategic, and especially no political decisions by himself. He can suggest his plan to his superiors in the military, such as the Chief of General Staff. Who, then, should evaluate this plan. If the Chief of General Staff would consider this plan to be viable and overall beneficial, he should present it to the minister of defence, who should present it to the supreme commander, the President of the Russian Federation. The security council should then discuss the plan and either approve or deny it.
In other words, this may be Surovikin’s initiative, but the plan should have been evaluated and approved on different levels. Which means, the responsibility for any fallout, especially of the non-strictly military nature, would be shared by all the commanders and officials up the chain of command, up to and including the President.
Yet, it was presented as a sole responsibility of Surovikin. His commanders washed their hands, and the President didn’t even acknowledge it. This is the state of Russian government and military, were the first priority of commanders and top government officials is not to take any responsibilities.
That was my commentary to Alexander’s video. Below in some my additional thoughts and impressions regarding general Sergei Surovikin.
I mentioned before I don’t trust general Surovikin. Yet it seems he has one quality which is desperately lacking in any other high-ranking commander or official in Russia — he is not afraid to take personal responsibility for his actions and to demand what is necessary.
I have very little knowledge of the Russian military history and its generals, but my overall impression is that the only quality which is truly needed for Russian commander is to take personal responsibility for his decisions. Zhukov’s only exceptional quality was his ability to say no to his superiors, even to Stalin. He demanded whatever was needed to win a battle and didn’t accept anything less. He wasn’t any kind of military or strategic genius, in my humble opinion. It’s just that Russia could supply him with more weapons and soldiers than the enemy fielded against him. And all what was needed then is to have some basic level of competence so not to lose to inferior opponent. Yet this quality of his to demand and take responsibility was what differentiated him from many others, who made their priority to please their commanders instead of doing their job. The current situation in Russian government and military is highly similar in that respect. And given some basic competence and provided with enough troops and weaponry, Surovikin shouldn’t have any problems bringing victory to the Russian Army in Ukraine.
The video of the Wagner Group’s deserter execution was made public and made it into the major western mainstream news outlets such as Reuters (Video shows sledgehammer execution of Russian mercenary).
He was mobilized from the penal colony after being charged with murder and serving his term, and later deserted to Ukraine and even gave interview on one of the main Ukrainian talk shows.
It seems he was abducted in Ukraine and his execution was filmed and distributed, probably as an attempt to frighten and prevent any other possible deserters from doing the same. This video and the fact of the execution were reportedly publicly endorsed by the Wagner Group’s owner.
The execution of deserters who volunteered to sign a six-month-long contract while serving their terms for major crimes in Russian penal colonies is one of the basic conditions of those criminals’ service with Wagner. Yet, the way it was executed is reminiscent of the practices we can expect from the ISIS, drug cartels or Azov battalion.
Not only Wagner Group has implicated itself with such inhumane and godless style of execution, but it has also implicated the Russian Army and the Russian Federation. Much like Blackwater private military company stained not only itself but the United States image with its war crimes in Iraq, the same was now done by the Wagner Group to the Russian image.
I believe such atrocities must be dealt by harsh and immediate response from the Russian government. Only government has the authority to execute criminals and deserters — not any random private company. Since the Wagner Group isn’t a government organization, but private military company, any such actions outside of battlefield must only be taken by officials of the Russian government, security services or its MoD.
Russian government cannot wash its hands in such matters. By allowing its convicted criminals-citizens to volunteer into military service with private military company, it doesn’t relinquish its responsibilities of those citizens. In fact, its responsibility for them only grows.
Some people were cautious about this scheme of conscripting convicts into Wagner Group. Now we can see they had a good reason to do so. The law and order should be enforced even more rigidly in the time of a crisis. Any unlawful activities would increase the already heighten the state of chaos and endanger the basics of statehood.
It also endangers the moral principles of the entire Russian society, since many people will be tempted to accept this as a moral and righteous action just because it was done to a criminal, deserter and traitor. This judgment can then expand to other groups of people, as it happened in Ukraine, were anyone somehow implicated with Russia, or just reported as such, is seen as a traitor and could be tortured and executed by anyone and without any proof or trial.
The original article is here.
There I wrote:
For now, those improvements, reportedly, led the Russian MIC to think about restoring the production of the past generation infantry combat vehicles (IFV). By “past generation” I get it means BMP-2, since BMP-3 is still theoretically in production, and the new generation IFV is still nowhere to be seen after almost a decade of “fielding” it. Or, alternatively, the KurganMashZavod plant will instead restore and upgrade the old IFV’s — in the event they wouldn’t be able to restore the 80’s Soviet production line, I’ guessing.
But in fact, it seems by “past generation IFV’s” the source actually meant BMP-3, not BMP-2.
In the video, reporting Medvedev’s visit to KurganMashZavod we see a production line for BMP-3’s — about two dozens of them in the process of final assembly, it seems. It is not enough to reach for any conclusions, but the most plausible explanation is they are purchased for the Russian Army.
I have no idea what the actual production rate is. I assume Medvedev made a visit then the large shipment was getting ready to ship to the Army, so that the press footage would seem impressive.
Assuming there are no problems related to the sanctions, and assuming the order for these IFV’s was issued some months ago, and intended for Russian Armed Forces, then it is possible a plant could deliver around 2 to 4 times of that number yearly, at least.
Again, let’s assume four times 24 vehicles a year at the current production rate. It would mean 96 MBP-3’s in a year. One battalion of motor rifle troops would require about 12 IFV’s in total — 1 BMP per squad * 2 squads in platoon * 2 platoons in battalion = 12 vehicles in motor rifle battalion at least.
One motor rifle division would typically require about 2 motor rifle battalions and one tank battalion, so about 30 BMP’s excluding command and support vehicles. So, we can estimate (very roughly) up to 3 motor rifle divisions or up to 6 tank divisions worth of BMP’s, produced in a year.
Typically, BMP-3’s were considered to be the most capable (and expensive) IFV currently in active service, so it would be supplied to the more elite units (such as the disgraced first tank army), and more often to the tank, and not motor rifle units. The better armor and armament of BMP-3 allowed it to operate more efficiently in formations with tank units.
Naturally, in the last decade or so (maybe even longer), the BMP-3’s weren’t supplied to the Russian Army in any significant numbers (the Wikipedia mentions 200 units were ordered in 2015). The reasoning was that the new generation of IFV’s such as T-15 would replace them. Instead, as a temporary measure, the BMP-2’s and (possibly) -1’s were upgraded with a new unmanned turret and some other features. But, as we know, the new generation of weapon systems didn’t reach the Army. A gape was created, when the new generation is not yet in production, but the older one is already out of production.
The Soviet legacy allowed for this situation, since on the paper, the sheer numbers of past era would be sufficient to close this gap for decades, until the new generation will enter in mass production. But in reality, the decay in ground forces lead to poor condition of those vehicles, as well as for a large number of them being abandoned in the field as trophies for the enemy.
Because of that, those new production BMP-3’s would probably only serve as replacement for the BMP-3’s lost or abandoned to the enemy. If my above guestimates are at least somewhat correct, Russia will need about a year or two just to replace those.
Meanwhile, the newly mobilized 300,000 need many thousands of IFV’s to arm them. At the abovementioned rate, it would take tens of years, which is clearly too long. Assuming third of those people will serve as combat personnel in tank and motor rifle units, i.e. 100,000 men, they would need up to 10,000 IVF’s and APC’s. Even assuming large portion would instead receive MRAP-type vehicles, it would still be in thousands of classical APC’s and IFV’s. Those numbers could only be supplied by returning the Soviet light armor vehicles such as BTR-60/70/80 and BMP-1/2/3 into service.
After the establishment of new command over the operation in Ukraine, fortification of the borders and now the retreat from the right bank of Dnepr, the Russians stabilized the entire front for now. The question rises what will happen next.
Russians seem to continue their attacks on the Ukrainian electrical distribution infrastructure. The soft, humanitarian approach (if such description can be used to describe a war) is being gradually abandoned, not as a result of any kind of ideological switch, but because this is the only tool Russians still possess to weaken Ukrainian resistance.
I will disregard any possible diplomatic “solution”, just because of my hope this rotten option will not be exercised by Russian leadership in order to take an easy way out of the mess they themselves created by letting the cancer of corruption to decompose the military.
So, after the other fronts will be fortified, the exhausted paratroopers from the Kherson relieved and given the time to rest and regroup, and the mobilized troops could be made minimally combat ready, the Russian contingent in Ukraine will have to retake the initiative.
Any continuation of wasteful and stupid frontal attacks on the most heavily defended defence lines needs to stop. Imagine what would happen if German Army would storm the Maginot line instead of taking a detour. It is possible the WWII would have ended right there and then. Yet, for some reason, Russians first dispersed their forces all over Ukraine, and then, will being in the process of collapse, directed them into months frontal long attacks against the Ukrainian defence lines in Donbass, to weaken themselves even more.
In order to succeed in such frontal attacks against fortified enemy, one need a supremacy in air, artillery, heavy armor and special, heavy assault units. Soviet Union had developed those in the second half of WWII. They had unmatched numbers of Il-2 attack plane, the most fearsome artillery and rocket forces, heavy IS tanks and special assault infantry with body armor and heavily armed.
Russian has nothing of this. Its army aviation cannot operate effectively because of the inadequacies of soft-defence suite (L-370 “Vitebsk”) it has developed, and no other alternatives are present. Its widely advertised GPS jamming systems are powerless against military grade GPS-guided munition. Its communication jamming hardware is unable to effectively deny Ukrainians satellite communications. Its artillery is lacking in numbers and quality: the Soviet era smart munition is not used widely as it should, and the newer types are hardly ever seen in use. Its heavy assault systems, developed for this kind of warfare, the TOS-1 are present in insignificant numbers only. The combat engineer and ABC-protection troops that had units exclusively intended for heavy assault are nowhere to be seen. It lacks the new heavy armor (T-14, T-15) or active defence systems. Its much-talked-about new netcentric warfare systems doesn’t seem operational in the least. Its missile forces are unable to sustain high rate of fire against high value targets, only making a few launches each day, and that includes strategic cruise missiles and Iranian suicide drones. Its most potent multiple-launch rocket system “Smerch” been rendered impotent thanks to its small numbers and lack of sufficient GPS-guided rockets or even the Soviet-era dedicated tube-launched reconnaissance drones. Instead, we see “dumb” munition fired by rockets troops, artillery and army-aviation, that requires dozens or shells or rockets to be fired in hope on one of them finding its intended target by sheer luck.
That doesn’t mean the Ukrainian defences lines couldn’t be encircled, though. There are still enough armor and mechanized troops to encircle the Donbass defence lines from behind. Cutting their supplies and reinforcements and creating the cauldron will enable Russia to achieve a decisive military and psychological victory, with tens of thousands of Ukrainian POW’s and the bulk of its military hardware captured or destroyed.
After that, the fast advance along the left bank of Dnepr to the north, up to Kiev and including the Kharkov city, and to the south up to and including Zaporozhye region. This will secure the Russian territories and population, as well as the newly annexed ones, from the terror of indiscriminate shelling. This is what the “second phase” was supposed to be.
The “third phase” is reestablishing the beachhead on the right bank of Dnepr and capturing the Nikolaev and Odessa. This will create a corridor to the stranded Transnistria.
After the completion of the third phase, the farther development should proceed according to the fact on the ground. It is very likely that at this point, the Ukrainian regime would fall due to the popular dismay and the abandonment of the sinking Ukrainian project by its Western enablers. If so, a true diplomatic solution could be achieved, provided the remaining Ukraine will disarm itself, gain neutral, unaligned status, outlaw the Nazi ideology and prosecute all those implicated in war crimes or crimes against humanity. If it won’t happen, then the war should continue until the total capitulation and Russian enforced control over its international borders.
In the previous post I said the Kherson retreat seems, or rather feels to me, like a pivotal point in this war. The crisis reached the point of stabilization. The next phase should be the retaking of the strategic initiative. I’m still not certain this will happen, since the political and military leadership that allowed this nightmare to happen is still largely intact and manning its seats of power. The ones dismissed weren’t the top tier, but rather higher middle-management. But hopefully their fates will urge the ones who remain to rethink their corrupted approach to their duty.
The official reasons are:
- Not enough defending troops
- Danger of encirclement
- Troops are needed more on other fronts
- Logistics is too hard because of the strikes on bridges
- Preserving lives of soldiers
- Too hard to defend those positions
First of all, these are the admission of a Russian ground forces inaptitude. Planning, training, equipment, armament — all being deficient. Deficient against extremely corrupted government and a failed state, held up by terrorizing all its citizens into conforming to the Nazi-like pseudo-ideology and propped up by some western military and economic aid.
This means the only bridgehead to the west of Dnepr is being abandoned. And along with it, the ~10,000 Russian peacekeeping force in Transnistria, as well as the pro-Russian Transnistria itself. They are cut-off by Ukraine and Moldova from Russia, without any lines of communications, be it ground, sea or air.
It also means the ethnically Russian cities of Odessa and Nikolaev, and the Russian-speaking majority of their population is practically abandoned for near future to the mercy of explicitly Russophobic and implicitly Neo-Nazi politics of Western-managed Ukrainian government.
The idiotic rationalization that suggests the military personnel which defended the abandoned position will now be used more efficiently elsewhere. The problem is, the Ukrainian personnel will be now free to do the same. And since the defence of Kherson was what resulted in most enemy combat losses recently, especially in comparison to the months-long, snail-pace advance on fortified Artemovsk, it means Ukraine could now switch to a more sustained defence operations in Donbass. While the Russian troops will be now engaged in fruitless and pointless offensive operations against heavily entrenched and reinforced enemy head-on. The result will be higher Russian and lower Ukrainian casualties.
The other aspect is that each retreat moves the Ukrainian long-range artillery and rockets into range of previously unreachable areas. After practically every town and village in the north Kherson was made unlivable, now will be the turn of previously spared ones to the south to share the same fate. So not only it isn’t protecting Russian soldiers, but it also endangers more of the newly annexed Russian civilians.
The political implications, though are of least importance in my opinion, will still have their influence. The Russian image of a military superpower is now so low, that I cannot think of another moment in Russian history to compare it. Not in a post-soviet period, not in the Soviet period, and not in the Russian Empire period can I find a point similar to this one. And with the crashing of the image of Russian military might the nuclear threshold will also be brought down. Russia has weak diplomats, weak leader, and weak army — that is the picture being shown right now to the entire world. It is weakest than ever in East Europe, Central Asia and Caucasus — the traditional back yard of Russian Empire and Soviet Union. The immediate period after the collapse of the USSR might come close, but the fear of Soviet nuclear capabilities was still fresh then, and the enemy was the entire NATO. Now Russian military seems like a joke.
It looks to me like the lowest point for Russia in the war. I cannot imagine it can get much worse. As long as the political leadership won’t go for some “diplomatic solution” dictated by the West, the tide of war should change. But the cost of those changes is much too high that it should have been.
I mainly concentrate on the negatives of the Russian conduct in the Ukrainian war. Some will see it as an anti-Russian position. In fact, it is the total opposite. Turning blind eye to the problems and failures is, in my opinion, the path to degradation. To improve, first the deficiencies should be recognized and accepted as such. Only after that it becomes possible to fix them in order to improve.
Some of the positives of the so-called SMO are cleansing of the incompetent high commanders: district command generals, Black Sea Fleet admiral, generals and officials responsible for cooperation with the Russian military industry, different services intended to support the Russian Army — many had been sacked or quietly moved away from their positions. This is the main step to fix the problems, given these are the real culprits being identified and removed, and not just scape goats to protect the higher ups.
I also wrote about not seeing Nona self-propelled universal artillery systems taking part in the operations. And just now I happen to see some articles in Russian media talking about those weapon systems, operated by the Russian paratroopers to provide artillery support and destroy enemy troops and hardware:
And from what I could see, they are even used quite efficiently. They move into positions, get their targeting info from UAVs, fire and leave to escape the possible counter battery fire. Each evening the results are being analyzed by the commanding officers using the drone footage, in order to improve their tactics, coordination etc.
While all this sounds nice, these are still the paratroopers — the most combat ready and best equipped and motivated of the regular Russian ground forces. And their Nonas are being used just as self-propelled 120mm mortars with unguided munition — not much more. At least that is what I gathered from those short news articles and video clips.
Another positive development is that Russian generals were forces to remember and relearn the lessons of past wars — most of soldier’s work in a big war is in digging trenches and building fortifications. In the beginning Russians did nothing of this. They expected to blitzkrieg all the way, using the highways. Now they build fortifications everywhere, even on their own territory (not the newly annexed republics). If only they would do it from the start, maybe the Kharkov region wouldn’t be abandoned so shamefully to few Ukrainian brigades. Well, Russians are slow learners, that’s why they need such a big country with large and determined population to win a war. First, they need to retreat and experience heavy, unnecessary casualties, and only then they start learning, it seems. It’s a shame these lessons will be forgotten yet again after a few decades of peace.
Another seemingly positive development is the (limited) recognition of mobilization system failures, and the acknowledgement it needs to be reformed and rebuilt. This is a chance to create a much more efficient, centralized system. Instead of local recruitment offices what mobilize middle aged office workers with health problems and zero army experience, or highly needed specialists.
So, there are some positive developments after all. And the end result would be a Russian military victory in Ukraine, unless politicians will intervene to turn it into a political defeat.