• Russia at War Updates (2023-02-10)

    UA side distributed a footage of failed Russian assault on Ugledar. Strelkov comments on the attempt, detailing the total incompetency of the commanders who developed the operation. As usual we don’t hear names of those commanders, but we know that the top commander in charge of all Russian Army engaged in the war is none other than the top Russian strategist, general Gerasimov.

    The troops approached in very tight formation using only narrow dirt roads. Ukraine drones operated freely above the Russian force, providing targeting for artillery (and possibly anti-tank missiles). No electronic countermeasures, air-defence or smoke screens were used. All this in direct contradiction with Russian military doctrine. Large number of tanks was destroyed before having a chance to engage the enemy. Strelkov reports ~30 units of armored vehicles, tens of KIA among tank crews only. More KIA among marines, special forces and motor rifle troops. Reportedly not a single casualty among enemy defenders.

    As if after a year of fighting Russian MoD continues to try and lose this war against all odds. The same exact people that crippled the Russian Army are still in charge, continuing failing the same way again and again. While in the rear some government-connected newly created companies get secret MoD’s contracts to provide “new and improved” uniforms. Those are secret contracts according to the MoD itself, which refuses to provide any information on contracts volume and value on this ground.

    Failure in war brings extreme political changes in Russia. It happened after the incompetently managed war with Japan, it happened after the incompetently managed WWI, it happened after the incompetently managed war in Afghanistan, and it seems like it will happen again. The time is running out, and Rasputin’s government demonstrated it isn’t ready to change its ways even in time of national crisis.

    ***

    Russian Kommersant reports the largest national microchip designer MTsST, the creator of Elbrus family of CPUs, will be absorbed by the Rosatom state corporation. While Rosatom seems to do quite well in developing and constructing nuclear power plants in Russia and abroad, lately it has been tasked with managing the Russian nuclear icebreaker fleet, raising the composite materials industry and now the microelectronics (among other things, I’m sure). The stated reason is the financial problems MTsST is having as a result of Western sanctions on Russian economy and industry.

    The nationalization trend continues, after the post-Soviet privatization largely destroyed the Russian industry. But, unlike in the Soviet times, there is almost no real competition or accountability for failures of those nation-wide corporations. Russian Kleptocracy trying to morph into technocracy, built on nepotism, corruption and judiciary system subjugated by corrupt elites.

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  • RU Updates (2023-02-09)

    Two stories seem connected to the previous update.

    Prigozhin no more enlisting criminals. The coincidence is remarkable. It seems after the evil clown Progozhin decided he is now a superstar and started to criticize the Russian MoD, about month ago he lost access to the cheap and dispensable cannon meat from penal colonies. Since those are contracted for 6 months only, it means he will lose the bulk of his forces (by Western reports between 20 to 40 thousand men) in the next five months. Well, maybe if he would be a good evil clown, he’ll get this privilege of grinding Slavs (on both sides) and make money in the process back. Yet it is also possible he will be dethroned, since the last execution-style killing of a known Lugansk militia officer nicknamed Bereg is rumored to be connected to Wagner.

    On the “new uniforms” RuMoD initiative, some new interesting details emerged and got widespread by reposts on Rybar Telegram channel. Specifically, the “new and improved” uniform made of (reportedly) low-quality materials is being sold for thousands of USD worth of rubles. The producer is a newborn company, headed by the son of high-ranking Russian official in charge of government procurements. But no matter how loud the news is, it is obvious any government corruption is unpunishable and won’t be noticed by authorities, as long as doon by the “right” people.

    After the lost boy in nominal charge of the project called UA has visited UK to ask for some fighter jets, Sky News publishing an article explaining why he wouldn’t. The most hilarious part of this farcical sitcom is where it estimates UA pilot would have to undergo a training lasting about 10 years before they could be qualified to fly UK fighter jets.

    The economic fraction of Russian government entered a state of frenzy, trying to keep the broken system afloat instead of fixing it. They put out more and more subsidies to try and stabilize the inherently faulty Russian industry. This is in a situation then the new government budget has swayed deeply into the red.

    Meantime, UA has profited more last year from transit of Russian natural gas than the year before the war. Kremlin Kleptocrats are not only selling to the Europe, but they also transferred more than $1B to UA in 2022 and provided it with all the energy it might need to fuel war efforts.

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  • Updates (2023-02-07): Balloon Panic, RuMoD’s Autofelatio, Prigozhin has Tasted the Glory, Quick Summary of the Situation on the Frontline

    The Western Mainstream media finally may ease off forcing the ChatGPT story to distract the public from important issues, after a devastating earthquake hit Turkey and Syria. Between the two, another news coverage running amok is the Balloon Panic.

    The Pentagon released some additional info regarding the shot-down Chinese spy balloon. First off, they admitted US has no means to reliably detect such balloons. Second, they gave some specifications – the balloon is 60 feet (20 meters) in height, and carries a payload of a “few thousand pounds”, i.e. its mass is about one ton. This is quite significant, since one ton payload is very impressive. For reference, most commercially available optical reconnaissance satellites weight tens or hundreds of kilograms at most. Which might imply a very powerful optics or signal intelligence equipment.

    To delude this debacle and try and take some blame of the current administration, it was also announced that during the Trump administration three Chinese balloons crossed into US airspace. But questions about their specifications or their path were ignored, meaning those were most probably stray meteorological balloons, and not spy balloons similar to the current ones, as government officials are trying to spin it.

    ***

    Russian MoD continues to keep the appearance of “everything is just fine”. During the most embarrassing situation of soldiers sometimes lacking even the most basic equipment, the MoD decided to do what it does best — to simulate development and progress. Namely, it decided to improve the current Russian ground troops uniforms. Which would be disruptive to any attempts by the industry to produce the uniforms and wearable equipment. Currently Russian soldiers can be seen wearing all kind of uniforms and protective equipment of foreign origin, due to the absence of Russian standard military equipment.

    Another initiative coming from the Russian MoD is to allow the participation of conscript (non-professional) soldiers in peacekeeping missions. This demonstrates that UA army is not the only one low on manpower. Not only Russian military uses conscripts in the “Special Military Operation” (while nominally keeping them fighting on the Russian side of Ukrainian border), but now it also wants conscripts to be used outside of Russia.

    ***

    Evgeniy Prigozhin has tasted the fame. Currently being the most productive and socially active than any other Russian military commander. His latest lunacy involved taking a back-seat in the Su-24 frontline bomber flight over Artemovsk (Bakhmut). During the flight Prigozhin challenged UA’s president to fighter jet combat in the air. If the latter would win, he would be given Artemovsk as a price. And if Prigozhin will win, he wants UA troops to get behind Dnepr River, or something like that. While simple but foxy Rasputin (who is nominally still the Supreme Commander of the Russian Army) keeps his hands clean from any involvement in military planning thus leaving the blame for all the failures to his stooges, Prigozhin is obviously has no idea what he is doing. Many see his behavior as a proof he intends to run for President. Even if he has such plans, this behavior shows he is out of his depths. It is possible that from Rasputin’s point of view, having another clown around (in addition to Medved’ev), only strengthens Rasputin’s hand at the next election and in internal power struggles.

    After the cartel-style execution with a sledgehammer and attempts to publicly humiliate Strelkov, Prigozhin has shown he should be kept far away from any public position of power or influence.

    ***

    After some activation of Russian Military that for the last half a year only concerned itself with holding its positions, there is some initiative been taken by the Russian troops. Positional defense now replaced by positional offense. Some progress is finally made in Artemovsk area, after Wagner and Russian military started to cut off supply lines instead of smashing their heads on the frontal assault of the most defended and hardened positions. It only took the most senior Russian military strategist, the Chief of the General Staff, to be put in direct command of the troops fighting in UA, to see a change of painfully obviously faulty tactics. On the other hand, it is possible Prigozhin was the one that pushed for his forces to take the most idiotic approach (as the most “glorious” one), given that his forces are not formally under direct command of the Russian General Staff.

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  • Chinese Spy Balloons: Some Thoughts

    The balloon was shot down. Some reports suggest it wasn’t the only one — at least one other was flying other US in similar trajectory to the first one, and yet another one is flying other South America heading north.

    Point #1. Are balloons worse than satellites?

    How much useful those balloons can be, assuming they are indeed spy assets and not a “science balloon taken off course by winds” as official Chinese version goes. The Western mainstream media tries to play down their capabilities and even make fun of inferior Chinese satellite technologies. They say Chinese satellites lack the needed resolution on their cameras. That is actually quite possible and even probable. But let’s consider something. Best Western spy satellites have reported (unclassified) resolution of about 30cm. (the last time I’ve heard). They operate on low orbits, of 200-300km more or less. The Chinese balloon was reportedly operated at altitudes of 30-40km before it started losing its altitude to ~20km and got shot down. So, ~300km vs ~30km. Buy getting 10 times closer to the target, you get 10 times higher resolution (I’m sure technically it’s not true, but you get the point). If Chinese used less advanced cameras with, let’s say, 1m resolution, they would still get better images from their balloons than the West is getting from theirs best satellites. Or, alternatively, a much less sophisticated cameras can be used to get an image resolution equal to that of the best Western spy satellites.

    And the optical reconnaissance isn’t the only payload those balloons can be carrying. Signal intelligence is also very important. And, theoretically speaking, those balloons might be used to deliver weapon of mass destruction. While such possibility is extremely remote, the US military and intelligence services must also take this into consideration.

    Point #2. It was shoot down as soon as the president made the decision.

    This is most probably not true. There is no point to shoot down a spy balloon after it had passed the continental USA. So, the reason to shoot it down was political in nature. It the balloon was to be shot down before entering the continental USA, then the national security would have been the apparent reason.

    I suspect USAF had no means to shoot it down before, while it was floating at higher altitudes. It US had been able to do so, it would certainly do it. The reported intercept happened at ~18-19km, which required the use of the most powerful (kinetically speaking) US intercept plane, the F-22. The one which was practically sacrificed for the sake of much less capable but much more profitable F-35 project. It used the imaging infra-red guided short/medium range AIM-9X missile.

    USAF operates much more potent active radar-guided missiles, namely the AIM-120D, which has better kinematic performance, allowing it to reach higher altitudes and longer ranges. Yet it wasn’t used, which must mean the balloon was an unsuitable target for this missile’s guidance system. AIM-120 is intended to intercept flying targets such as fighter jets. If the target is not moving relative to its background, in this case the clouds, then the radar-based guidance system will have a hard time detecting and locking on it. For example, the method to guide on hovering helicopters is to detect the doppler shifts in returned radio waves resulting from helicopter’s rotating propellers. In addition, it is possible the balloon used low radio waves reflective materials such as carbon fiber composites, which would decrease its radar signature. So, while AIM-120 AMRAAM should have been the weapon of choice for such high-altitude intercepts, the AIM-9X was used instead.

    So why AIM-9X could have seen the unpowered air-balloon better than radar-guided AIM-120. The probable answer is that the intercept happened during the day, meaning the balloon itself and its payload there reflecting sun’s infra-red radiation, thus making it visible to the AIM-9X homing head.

    It is interesting to notice that some countries had developed a medium-range IR-guided missiles. Soviets were probably the first ones that put it into wide service. Europe also developed or developing medium range missiles with IR guidance. But US stuck to IR for short range and radar for medium range principle (though some IR-guided AIM-120 prototypes were in development in the past). The probable reason for this is the US investment in stealth technologies. IR-guided missiles are much less sensitive to signature reduction measures. As such, it US would to put a medium-range IR-guided missile in service what negates US stealth jets advantages, it would shoot itself in the leg, so to speak, by proving the stealth jets are far from invulnerable, and not worth their high cost.

    In the past US operated a weapon platform that would be perfect for taking down high-altitude spy balloons — the airborne laser (ABL) YAL-1 technology demonstrator. While useless for its original goal of intercepting ballistic missiles on their initial flight phase, it would be a child’s play to burn a thin material of a balloon. Yet this prototype was taken out of test service.

    Another question is why it suddenly become possible to shoot down the spy balloon. It USAF managed to do it now, doesn’t it mean it could have done it anytime? The answer is “probably not”. It was reported, what initially the balloon operated at higher altitudes, closer to 30 or even 40 kilometers above the sea level. Yet it was intercepted then it hovered at below 20km. Obviously, the lower it is, the easier it’s to shoot down. If so, why did it get lower? Probably because the helium which is used to fill the balloon making it lighter than air, is also the smallest atom in the periodic table. As such, is can penetrate materials (e.g. the balloon fabric) much easier than any other substance. So, the balloon was probably leaking small amounts of helium all along, gradually and constantly losing its altitude.

    If so, isn’t the fact that the balloon was shot down immediately after crossing from continental USA into the ocean proves the USAF could have done it earlier, but didn’t for safety reasons? Yes, probably Pentagon could have shot down the balloon earlier. But then the firstly supplied reason for not shooting it down would be compromised as a valid excuse. And any other balloon entering the US air space would have been expected to be shot down as early as possible, before it could gather the information. So, the only way out was to shoot it down after it left the continental USA airspace (and completed its mission).

    ***

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  • Updates (2023-02-03): Russian Microchips, Chinese Spy Balon Over US, Abramovich Money for UA

    Russian Kommersant newspaper published an article Processors are out of stock. Simply put, after the western sanctions were put in place, Russian microchip design companies lost their access to Western fabs, namely the Taiwanese TCMS. As a result, they even lost the microchips that were already contracted and produced, but not yet delivered.

    In this climate of dire microchip shortages, almost all their existing stocks of microchips were sold off. In the short term, they made a nice profit. But in the longer term, they now have to order the production of their designs from two Russian fabs, which only produce much older, 180+ nanometer architecture (for reference, the leading Western architecture today is at 5 nm or lower, though this is no longer a real physical value, but more of a marketing tool). While this technology should still be adequate for most Russian military and space needs, as well as auxiliary lower-tech components for automotive etc. industries, it is far too old for any consumer-grade electronics like personal computers.

    Of course, the microchip production is only a small part of the much bigger problem — the lack of any meaningful electronic components production in Russia. While the microchips are much “sexier” than the very basic resistors or capacitors, without the whole spectrum of components the real domestic production is impossible. While China may provide most of basics, and some of simpler components can be sneaked from the West, the whole project of “domestification” (or “import replacement” in proper Russian) of the Russian high-tech industry has obviously failed. It was widely talked about since the start of Western sanctions in 2014, and it is still talked about in Russian media. Great sums of Russian money were sucked into this black hole, enriching corrupt officials, with almost zero result to show of. It isn’t the only state-level scam pulled on Russians, but it is one of the bigger ones.

    So, while some people talk about Russia adjusting to new realities, they need to understand, that it only possible in a state run by a government mostly concerned with national interests. When fact, Russian ruling elites are mostly concerned with their own wellbeing. And the Russian national project of building a domestic microprocessor industry is a proof and demonstration of this fact.

    ***

    The US officials had no other option but to confirm the existence of a Chinese high-altitude spy balloon, crossing the nation, after an amateur astronomer (?) had photographed it. At least that is my impression from reading the somewhat bloated but also smudged Reuters article. What is even more interesting is the fact that US government admitted it has not means to shoot it down, by giving absolutely idiotic explanations why it didn’t actually do it. The explanation goes something like this: “the Pentagon decided the risk of balloon debris hitting someone is too high, so we are fine of it taking pictures of our strategic ballistic missiles silos sites”. The balloon is flying over the state of Montana, which has the population density of 2.87 persons per sq. km. It is the third state with the loves population density in USA, following Alaska and Wyoming. And most of those people are actually concentrated in cities and towns, which could be avoided by choosing the exact time of an intercept.

    So, the Chinese are flying their spy balloons over the US, knowing it can do nothing about it. I’m guessing it’s connected to the recent US pressure on China over UA and Taiwan issues. Unlike their Russian “more than allies” partners, China has apparently no problem responding to US in a demonstrative way. Well, good for them. India, which is close to US on the Taiwan issue, and neutral on UA issue, suddenly got its top entrepreneur pushed from the number 4 rank in the top richest people in the world to number 10, loosing (as per Western main stream media) $90B, after some US based “short-seller” published some report saying there are some problems with his companies. There can be no neutrality than dealing with Uncle Sam, which goes by the principle: “if you aren’t with me, you against me”. Germany is another great example, having its strategically imported Nord Streams blasted off by its close ally, the Uncle Sam.

    ***

    The Russian “oligarch”, or more precisely a Russian “nouveau riche” who had made its fortune on the Soviet industry and Russian natural resources, had $2.8B of his money donated by the West to UA “humanitarian aid” or something. All his attempts to show his support for the NATO war against Russia in UA, and that is how he is being rewarded. And he isn’t even saying he’s against this “donation”, only that he isn’t in control of the money made by selling his UK assets. Poor thing more afraid of the West than he afraid of Russia, while living in Russia (at least as far as I know).

    To be clear, Abramovich had his own good reasons to try and move to the West. Previously he was “convinced” by Putin to make large donations for development of Russian social programs like sport and education. It was an approach younger Putin (before he transformed to Rasputin) took towards all Russian “oligarchs”. Whey there supposed to repay their debt to Russia by making large donations which would benefit the Russian people. This will cleanse them in Putin eyes and free them from any criminal prosecution for their past financial crimes. Yet, it seems Abramovich didn’t take it well, instead moving the money he made on previously common/state Soviet property and natural resources to the West, buying football clubs and yachts. It turned out the West is much less accommodating than Rasputin is, even to the ones that bring them the money they made immorally (and almost always illegally) in Russia.

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  • US “Deep State” Prepares Ground for UA Abandonment

    There is a RAND paper, published to that end. While it doesn’t go out of its ways to admit the most obvious and probable result of UA losing the war east of Dnepr, leaving ruined country, economy and decimated population, it finds other arguments to push for the need to stop the shooting proxy war against Russia.

    This brings forth the next main topic of the terms for the ceasefire, both acceptable to the West and to Russia. Since it seems the main driving force behind the shooting war, the Uncle Sam, is changing its approach from “bleed Russia out” to “stop the war before the US will bleed out”. Naturally, there is no true regard for the UA itself as well for the EU. It only concerns for US interests, which is actually a reasonable and realistic approach, despite the ideological uncompromising agenda for public and foreign consumption we have been seeing all along.

    Many respected commentators, while seeing behind the propaganda machine of mass media, are unable or (more probably) unwilling to understand the paradigm which drives Kremlin’s inhabitants. They believe Russia will reject any deals from the West, since it had repeatedly shown itself only seeking diplomatic solutions which will allow it to readjust and reinforce itself against Russia, while presenting no real benefits for Russians. Once the Russia will stop its offensive, the West will abandon its responsibilities under the deal, instead creating diplomatic swamp for any productive initiatives and reasonable demands to stuck in. Eventually any deal will be broken, and the fault will be laid on Russia. In the meantime, new strategies and updated policies will emerge to keep destabilizing Russia and preparing new proxy war against it.

    While it how things will develop if Russia accepts Western deal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be rejected. As demonstrated by the war, Russian ruling elites do not care for the general wellbeing of Russia as a country and the people. While West is now providing tanks, artillery, drones, missiles, etc., Russia is still pumping its energy into the West, the only limiting factor being the sanctions West itself has put on the Russian energy imports. There are still no retaliatory measures taken by Russian government, after its sovereign foreign reserves were frozen (practically stollen, without any prospect of returning them back), its companies and property ceased and nationalized, and its enemy provided weaponry which not only kills Russian soldiers fighting in UA, but also Russian citizens in Russia proper. All the Russian “red lines” which were crossed, remained without any response. The most bellicose are Russian diplomats and politicians, in the interviews they give to TV or on their social media accounts.

    The reason for this inexplicable behavior, as I finally came to realize, is that Russian ruling elites don’t view the best interest of their country as their priority. Instead, they are more concerned in continuing making money by exporting Russian natural resources. And the Western market is still very lucrative, considering Russia is geographically, culturally and physically much closer to Europe than to Asia, Africa or South America. Those elites are also preferring the luxury way of life the West has to offer for 1-percenters. So, they cannot see themselves cutting ties with the West and putting their children in Chinese Universities and Indian resort cities. And they have been telling that from the very start: “the West will have to accept us (i.e., the kleptocrats) eventually”. The growing economic and diplomatic ties with China and India are only temporary necessities in their eyes, not the genuine reverse of foreign policy and relationships. Similarly, China and India view this as an opportunity to make money on Russian energy. Neither provided any direct military assistance to Russia akin to that provided by the West to UA. Only Iran, the pariah nation, is selling Russia its stand-off weapons. And if in Chinese case there is some quite support for the Russian military industry, like supplies of electronic components Russia needs, India is staying demonstratively neutral and cold to Russian cause.

    While not all the fractions in Russian ruling elites are there for the money — some are seeking positions of force (the siloviki), while others probably just want the fame and the stage to present themselves to a public as wide as possible (diplomats) — yet they all parts of the same group. And the economic-oriented fraction is seemingly the most powerful one, or at least the closest one to Rasputin. If so, any decision made under their influence, won’t be openly disputed by other fractions. Loyalty to the group is their highest valued virtue, after all.

    If so, it is quite possible they are actually not only open for a “diplomatic solution”, but eager to reach it. On the other hand, things were led so far by the West, that any deals will be highly destabilizing for the governments and parties supporting them. If many of the Western governments are public figures which don’t make the real policy decisions and are being directed by other individuals who remain in shadows, than Russian government is the actual power. That is why West has more flexibility, allowing it to sacrifice some public figures in order to promote their interests, while Russian government has much less room for maneuver, endangering the Rasputin’s government by making deals similar to the Minsk agreements.

    The irony is, while both sides quietly want to stabilize their position and stop the war, they will have a very hard time to actually coming to mutually acceptable terms. Rasputin is mostly concerned by staying in power, so he would need a deal that could be presented as favorable (meaning something close to Ukrainian capitulation, captured territories and a government with less obvious anti-Russian policies). And the Western “deep state” is likely believing that a ceasefire with territories gained will be enough of the bone to throw to Russians to stop the war entirely.

    If my assumptions are correct, it means it’s too late to stop the conflict to the mutual satisfaction of the ruling elites on both sides. Meaning the war will only stop when UA Army will collapse, or its government overthrown. It is by far the weakest link. Any Ukrainian offensives will only hasten this process. Only by gradually retreating to the right side of Dnepr River and making it their ultimate defense line, this conflict can become somewhat sustainable, assuming the West will continue to provide money and weapons in ever larger quantities. At which point, it will hardly look as good a cause for the Western public that was stimulated towards supporting the war by promises of Russian imminent military defeat in UA.

    In such situation, US is most likely to abandon the UA project, much as it did with Afghanistan, etc. In which case it will sustain some farther damage to its international image as a military power, will embolden China and frighten Taiwan, leave EU in metaphorical ruins, and provide Russia a chance (given it will remain politically stable) to reassert itself in Europe, Central Asia and maybe Middle East.

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  • RU-UA War Updates (2023-01-28)

    The idiocy of the Russian officials has no limits. The head of the state-owned Rosteck umbrella corporation has announced the development of “swarm drones” project. This is a dead born project, which will waste a lot of time, money and engineering work hours and will produce nothing more than a few power-point presentations. Today, Russian military mostly uses commercial entertainment-level drones for reconnaissance, fire correction etc. The truly useful designs, like the MiG’s stealth combat drone, that should have been able to penetrate Ukrainian air-defenses and surveil and engage high quality targets (like HIMARS launch vehicles or air-defence systems) with high precision in the enemy rear, has never passed the mock-up stage. The project was revealed in 2007, and since then it was cancelled, joined with the much more advanced and complicated Sukhoi’s project for future unmanned fighter jet, etc. This situation could be seen all over the state-owned corporations. The recent impressive looking video of the Ukrainian S-300 launcher destruction was made from the civilian surveillance drone, produced by a private Russian company for non-military use. The less government officials, who view state-owned companies as their private piggy banks, have control or say in the company, the better it does.

    One of the exclusions of this rule is the Almaz-Antey company, which still manages to do its job. Like the recent announcement that new model of Pantsir air-defence system will “soon” be arriving to Russian troops in UA. Designated Pantsir-SM it should have about twice the range of detection (70 km vs 45) and intercept range (40 km vs 20), in comparison to a basic mode. It could also have more ready-to-fire missiles (24 vs 12) in a gunless variant (not confirmed). The new missiles will have more than twice the speed (3000 m/s vs. 1300 m/s) and higher G tolerance. The system should be based on eight-wheel armored KAMAZ truck. While still far from groundbreaking, this is the move in right direction, making the system better suited to intercept MLRS rockets and drones. One such system has theoretic capacity to intercept two full packets of rockets, launched from one M270 MLRS or two M142 HIMARS. Considering almost daily citizen fatalities and infrastructure destruction caused by those, it is a welcomed update for Russian military.

    That being said, even the one of the best performing Russian MIC companies like Almaz-Antey is dropping promising projects due to MoD incompetent planning and purchase policies. While UA announced it is now expected to receive 321 main battle tanks from its Westen puppet masters (probably more than half of those are actually not Western but Eastern tanks), the UVZ – the only Russian company still able to produce tanks, has nothing to say about its wonder-weapon T-14 Armata, after 13 years of development and investments. The country which was first to field an active protection system for its tanks, the Drozd, in 1983, has no such systems in active service, leaving its tanks exposed to “top attack” anti-tank missiles such as Javelin or TOW-2B. The latter is expected to arrive in numbers as a weapon system of M2 Bradley IFVs.

    In the meantime, the front remains largely unchanged. Slow grind of forces in positional and urban warfare with high attrition rates for personnel and material on both sides. The relentless assault of Artemovsk (Bakhmut), going for months now, is still happening on the outskirts of the town. On Ukrainian side, the line or mobilized units are used, with the high-quality units mostly held in reserves, in hopes of opportunity for Kharkov-still offensive. On Russian side, the “unaccountable” (meaning, not accounted as the Russian Army personnel in MoD reports of losses) assault units of some of the more professional and experienced soldiers as well as volunteered criminals fighting for a pardon is being used. On the rest of the frontline, commando and advance units doing recon missions, and a lot of artillery bombardment. While UA is waiting for Western weaponry to arrive, it is unclear what the Russian military is waiting for, half a year after the mobilization of 300,000 men. Some reports suggest problems with training and equipping the mobilized men, to the point where artillery or armor units are used as infantry, due to the lack of hardware and ammunition. Although, I’m still in opinion that we’ll see a large Russian offensive in February, or else we will see large Ukrainian offensive in the late spring (after the snow has melted and the earth dried up).

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  • Russo-Ukrainian War Updates (2023-01-25)

    The Tank Saga continues. U.S. closer to approving ‘significant number’ of Abrams tanks to Ukraine. It seems US is telling Germany it’s in the process of approving a few dozen of M1 Abrams MBT’s for UA. This will force Germany’s hand, that previously linked the supplies of German Leopard-2 tanks to US tank supplies, to finally approve the supply of its tanks (on company, or ~14 units, according to some sources).

    According to the Politico’s article, the M1 tanks will most likely not come from US military stocks but from new production. If true, that would mean a delay of any number of months or years before the first tanks could actually be supplied. For example, Poland is awaiting the delivery of its new M1 Abrams tanks starting in 2024. On the other hand, it is more likely in my opinion, that UA will not get the latest models of M1 Abrams, but instead will be provided with older variants. I would assume US can make an arrangement with Poland for it to transfer some of its used M1 tanks it ordered from the US, in exchange for the US government to provide more newly build Abrams tanks to the Polish Army. The Polish made a deal for 116 US Abrams tanks, deliveries of which were expected to start until the end of 2022. Those can be transferred to UA in the most expedient manner.

    ***

    Ukraine official had announced what 12 EU countries have approved to supply about 100 Leopard-2 tanks in total, given the Germany’s approval for re-export. As Germany said it will have no objections for re-export of its Leopard-2 tanks to UA, this seems like a done deal. Additionally, the German Chancellor announced the supply of 14 Leopard-2 tanks from the German Army. I don’t expect France to actually supply its Leclerc tanks to UA, but it seems US is willing to do so, supplying up to 50 Abrams tanks as early as this year. Which means UA will receive a 2-3 armor brigades worth of main battle tanks. This will make a difference on tactical and (to lesser extend) on operational level, but not on strategic level. Taking into consideration previous Ukrainian losses in heavy armor and logistical nightmare of supporting two new types of Western tanks, this is not nearly enough to shift the balance into Ukraine’s favor. At best it will match the current Russian production of ~200 T-90M a year, if reported numbers are to be believed. In addition, Russia is also refurbishing and upgrading its T-72 tanks into B3M variant, which makes it similar in capabilities to T-80 or T-90. I don’t take into account the refurbishment of older models like T-62 or T-55, since they shouldn’t realistically be put against T-72, M1 Abrams or Leopard-2 class tanks.

    Looking farther ahead, Germany has dozens of Leopard-2 and many dozens of Leopard-1 tanks in industry’s storage. Those can be potentially refurbished and supply to UA in the span of a few years. Given Germany’s very small (relative to its role in Europe and the size of its economy) operational tank force, it’s unlikely they could donate any more for the war cause, unless they are willing to start disbanding their active tank units. Poland will receive some used M1 Abrams tanks during the next few years, while the newly build ones will start arriving farther down the road. UK and France, like Germany are in no position to send any significant number of tanks to UA, given they have no active production lines for those tanks. Only US in in position to release M1 Abrams tanks from its storage or reserve units, and to produce new ones. But, given the tensions in Asia region and commitment to protect Taiwan, Japan, South Korea etc., their willingness to supply more than a few hundred Abrams tanks in the next few years is also unlikely. Unless Europe and US are willing to restore or expand their tank production lines (a costly and time-consuming endeavor), the disbalance of heavy armor in the war will continue in Russian favor, until UA will be left with no heavy armor to speak of in a matter of few short years. Yet it is unlikely UA will be able to politically and economically survive another few years of this war. Much more likely the West will switch to pushing for a diplomatic solution, trying to freeze the conflict until NATO members weapon stocks can be resupplied and its militaries reinforced.

    ***

    The political cleansing and personnel reshuffle in UA are signs of a crisis. The reasons remain unknown, but it is happening at the same time as Russian forces are taking initiative along the Zaporozh’e and Donbass frontline. While we are still haven’t seen the large Russian offensive, it is generally expected to start soon. For now, the main progress consistently made is in Artemovsk (Bakhmut) area, and it is only of a tactical level so far.

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  • Russo-Ukraine War Updates: Tanks (Again), Spring Offensive, Netherland’s Fighter Jets

    The tank saga continues. After Poles announced they will be ready to supply Leopard-2 tanks to UA despite objections of Germany as the tank’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM), the Germany came out with the statement saying they were never approached by anyone with the request to supply those respective countries’ Leopard-2 tanks to UA. And if they will, then Germany would allow it. So now Poles have green light to supply their own Leopard-2 to Ukraine.

    Some American legislators push for their government and Pentagon to supply some “symbolic” number of M1 Abrams tanks to UA, to demonstrate unity among NATO members in support for Ukraine or whatever. Those are the people who don’t understand the real reasons the Pentagon is not eager to see Abrams tanks burning in UA. Or maybe they do, but just don’t care, if it will somehow promote their political interests.

    The BMPD blog and Telegram channel uploaded some documents regarding the armor protection of the early Leopard-2 versions (up to and including Leopard-2A4). According to those documents, the armor protection of those versions can only protect from some older 100-mm (T-55) and 115-mm (T-62) anti-armor rounds. It is practically useless against modern 125-mm anti-armor rounds or modern anti-tank missiles. Since whose older versions are the ones mentioned so far as candidates to be supplied to UA, they would be very vulnerable in tank duels against T-72/-90 models. This being said, while T-72 and more modern Soviet/Russian tanks should have better armor protection, the Leopard-2 120-mm canon is very capable, and could present the same level of danger for Russian tanks, if modern anti-armor rounds are used. While I couldn’t verify the validity of forementioned documents, the BMPD is a serious source, an unofficial outlet of the Russian CAST military think tank.

    ***

    Netherland’s officials announced they will ask the military to examine the possibility of providing nation’s F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. This is a pointless statement, since any serious intention would first and foremost require receiving a US approval to reexport its fighter jets. Since US would almost certainly deny any such transfer, and since it was never asked to approve such transfer, the Netherland’s gesture is an empty one, made for political or PR reasons.

    ***

    The Russian forces have activated in the Zaporozh’e region. Initial attacks caught the Ukrainian defenders of the first line in surprise. This has allowed Russians to advance, taking a number of villages. Soon after Ukrainian Army managed to activate its reserves and move in to stop the Russian advance. Currently, the fighting is mostly positional, with heavy use of artillery on both sides in the attempt to prevent any attacks and counterattacks, and small commando forces snooping in the no-man’s-land to find targets for artillery strikes and to detect any weak points in enemy’s defence.

    Many commentators already came out saying this is the long awaited big Russian Spring offensive. If so, this tactical offensive seen so far is intended as combat recon only, considering the level of units taking part in it (somewhere at battalion level, probably battalion tactical groups, it seems). That might be so, but it also might be an attempt to fool Ukrainian General Staff into moving reserves to Zaporozh’e region, away from the real offensive. Or it might be an exercise in pulling Ukrainian reserves from the Artemovsk (Bakhmut) area, in preparations of its capture. The bottom line is, we don’t know. And up until now, nothing suggests it is in fact the Russian major spring offensive.

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  • Commentary on Alexander Mercouris Latest Video: Tanks for UA, US Wasn’t Ready for Proxy War

    Alexander’s video is here. I want to address two points which l noted in the header: firstly, the Western major nations of “hot potato” with tanks, and secondly, the seemingly total unpreparedness of the US ruling elites for their proxy war against Russia.

    Regarding the tanks, things are not entirely clear. Will start with the US first, since it possesses the largest main battle tank fleet in the West, by far. The Pentagon is seemed to be very much against the transfer of their M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. While I’ve touched on the possible practical reasons for this previously, namely the value of those tanks as well the difficulty to replace them with newly built ones quick enough, there is also a psychological aspect here.

    Main battle tanks are the Ground Forces tip of the spearhead in any high-intensity conflict. As such, soldiers need to believe their tanks are the best. As they provide most protection of any other piece of military hardware, they intended to get hit and survive. If crew members believe they will be burnt alive or blown up to indistinguishable pieces, they will do anything to avoid the combat. They will report technical issues preventing them from taking part in fighting or avoid aggressive attacks on well defended positions. It is probably not something a politician who never served in ground force can appreciate, but every army, especially if it uses domestically produced tanks, has a mythos of their tanks being the most protected. Actually, maybe the most tank battles experienced in last generation nation, Israel, still produces its own tanks. It is for the purpose of creating the most protected tank. Not the one with the most firepower, or the one with best mobility, but the one most protected.

    The truth is all tanks are vulnerable. As such, any photos of burning Western tanks would have a demoralizing effect on the armies using them. That is probably why the Western armies, especially the tank producers, are so hesitant to send their own tank to Ukraine. The US officials suddenly become aware of the difficulties of operating modern military hardware. Suddenly, the “jet engine” equipped M1 Abrams is too complicated for Ukrainians to use. The same Ukraine that in Soviet times produced thousands of gas turbine powered T-80’s, and was until the start of the war one of the relatively few world producers of modern jet engines. This is obviously just an excuse not to send US main battle tanks to Ukraine. Similarly, Germany, the produces of Leopard-2 tanks, is set against providing, or even allowing third countries to provide their Leopard-2 to the battle zone. And Uncle Sam gave a good excuse not to do so — Germany is only willing to allow German tanks in to take part in the war if US will also do so. It has no practical logic what-so-even, except for the desire not to suffer alone the negative consequences of its tanks shown to the whole world blown to pieces by Russians. And the France is now saying it is willing to supply their Leclerc main battle tanks, but not to UA. They are willing to supply it to the countries, operating Leopard-2, which will be willing to supply those Leopards to Ukraine. So, France is willing to do its part in tank donation extravaganza, as long as the tanks that will actually get destroyed will be German ones. The tank saga is becoming to be a theater of absurd, with NATO partners trying to push others to make the hard sacrifices.

    This brings me to the second point. Namely, the apparent total unreadiness of the US government which initialized this war, to fight it effectively. The lack of ammunition in sufficient numbers for this kind of war, as well as in weapons supplied to UA, is translated into the notion that US didn’t make any serious attempts to prepare for this proxy war against Russia. And as a result, the US (as the rest of the NATO members), are now buying old junk all other the world just to supply something to UA, so it would be able to continue to fight. And as time goes on, the stocks are being depleted, and the production capacities are far from adequate.

    All I can say is that Biden Administration never seriously intended for Ukraine to win this war. It was supposed to serve as a sacrificial lamb in order to isolate Russia politically in the world, and justify sanctions that should had crippled its economy, leading to civil unrest and regime change. Before the start of the war, the only serious conversation was about what will Russia do after its victory. It was expected it to put a “marionette government”, after which the West could say “we told you so”, and push overs away from Russia and into NATO or EU or whatever. This was expected to happen weeks, at most months, after the start of the war. And it was also what the Russian military planners believed. The Kiev offensive was intended to scare the Ukrainians into overthrowing the current government. Instead, Russian troops met with an unexpected resistance and hatred. While the Russian troops were surrendering, expecting to be released soon enough then the Kiev will capitulate, they there tortured and executed by nationalists of the worst kind. All opposition in Ukraine was quickly suppressed, all media taken under the government control, and the rule of terror and propaganda begun. At the same time, Russian forces, turned paper tiger under the patronage of Rasputin’s right hand civilian Minister of Defense, started to implode. Hardly anyone expected this (I disregard people with no capacity for critical thinking, for the are still believe in what mainstream media is feeding them).

    As a result of all this, Ukraine didn’t fall, and the West was obliged to feed its money and weapons because of pressure of the narrative of its own creation. Now UA can’t be abandoned and written off, since it was made to be a David, fighting the Goliath for the sake and education of the “Free Democracies”. So, US didn’t have any reason to plan for serious proxy war against Russia. It intended to sacrifice UA all along, bleeding Russia in the process, and making it a political pariah, expanding the US hegemony into the rest of the post-Soviet borders and tightly encircling China.

    ***

    By the way, recently Uncle Sam has jumped to the next stage of its plan to neutralize China, without finishing what it started in UA. US is now waging a microprocessor war against China, by preventing Western companies from buying Chinese microchips, while also preventing Western and pro-Western Asian microchip producers from supplying Chinese industry. In parallel, the West is starting to relocate its high-tech production from China to third countries, and also trying to move microchip production facilities from Taiwan into US. This is the real hybrid war, the West talked about so much with regard to Russian intervention in Ukraine in 2014. But unlike Russia, China isn’t hated in Europe, or at least not as much. It the war against rising China, US enlist Asian nations to play the same role as the European countries played against Russia.

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