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.
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