Russia’s hit-and-miss missile blitz forces a frantic race to shore up Ukrainian defenses


The Russian military appears to have adopted a new tactic in its bid to turn the tide in its faltering war: attempting to overwhelm Ukraine’s largely Soviet-era air defenses with dozens of missiles and drones from multiple directions.

As Ukraine seeks to bolster its missile defenses after the attack, Moscow’s math is simple: a percentage of the projectiles will inevitably get through.

Russia’s airstrike in recent days has been largely aimed at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, using a variety of missiles and newly acquired Iranian drones. But although the damage was considerable, Ukraine claims it knocked out about half of the missiles fired – and it expects that success rate to improve as new anti-aircraft systems arrive from Germany, the US and other countries.

For the past three days, the Russians have deployed a mix of their missile stockpiles. The majority were air-launched cruise missiles, some from bombers based near the Caspian Sea. But they also used Kalibrs launched from Black Sea ships, ground-launched Iskander cruise missiles and dozens of attack drones.

The great unknown is how far such a flash will deplete Russia’s stockpiles — and whether they will increasingly resort to stockpiles of older, less precise but equally powerful missiles.

The estimate of Russian missile stocks is a guess. In May, President Volodymr Zelenskyy said Russia had launched 2,154 missiles and likely used up 60% of its precision missile arsenal. Now that seems like wishful thinking.

The Pentagon considered at the time that Russia’s weapons stockpile was “lowest with cruise missiles, particularly air-launched cruise missiles,” but that Moscow still had more than 50% of its pre-war stockpile.

Part of this inventory was shipped this week. But Russia has recently resorted to much older and less accurate KH-22 missiles (originally made as an anti-ship weapon), of which Western officials say it still has large stocks. They weigh 5.5 tons and are designed for launching aircraft carriers. A KH-22 was responsible for dozens of casualties at a Kremenchuk mall in June.

Even the more modern KH-101 missile has an accuracy of up to 50 meters, which hardly qualifies as a “precision weapon”.

The Russians have also adapted the S-300 – usually an anti-aircraft missile – to some effect as an offensive weapon. These have wreaked havoc in Zaporizhia and Mykolayiv, among others, and their speed makes them difficult to intercept. But they are hardly accurate.

There is no doubt that this week’s rocket attacks not only claimed dozens of lives, but also caused significant damage. Ukraine’s Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko told CNN on Tuesday that around 30 percent of the country’s energy infrastructure had been hit by Russian missiles since Monday.

He told CNN’s Richard Quest that this was the “first time since the beginning of the war” that Russia had “dramatically targeted” energy infrastructure.

But Ukrainian utilities are getting used to repairing substations, high-voltage pylons and thermal power plants. Zelenskyy said on Tuesday: “Most of the towns and villages that terrorists wanted to leave without electricity and communications already have electricity and communications again.”

In the last nine months, the Ukrainians have also had a lot of practice using their limited air defenses, mainly BUK and S-300 systems. But Yurii Ihnat, spokesman for the Air Force Command, said Tuesday about these systems: “This equipment does not last forever, there can be casualties in combat.”

And he noted that “the manufacturer of this [equipment] is Russia, so sooner or later we have to say goodbye to them.”

Ukrainian air defense battalions have become innovative: Video posted Monday, referred to by Zelensky, showed a soldier using a shoulder-launched missile to launch a Russian projectile, allegedly a cruise missile.

Investigators are examining a crater next to a damaged bus following a missile attack in Dnipro on Monday.

Zelenskyy said in a video message on Tuesday that 20 out of 28 rockets fired at Ukraine that morning had been shot down. Ukrainian officials have told CNN that more than half of the Russian cruise missiles launched Monday and Tuesday were shot down: 65 out of 112.

But that still means around 50 hits their targets, enough to deal massive damage.

Estimating the proportion of Iranian-made Shahed drones that are eliminated is more difficult because so many are in use. Zelenskyy said that “every 10 minutes I get a message about the enemy’s deployment of Iranian shahids.” But he also said that most of them were shot down.

Last month, US Assistant Secretary of Defense Sasha Baker said the US had “already seen some evidence” that Iran’s drones “have already suffered numerous failures.”

According to Ukraine, a soldier shoots down a Russian missile

Ahead of the G7 meeting on Tuesday, Zelenskyy called for an air defense shield for Ukraine.

“If Ukraine gets a sufficient number of modern and effective air defense systems, the key element of Russian terror – missile attacks – will cease to function.”

Ukraine’s allies understand this need. Speaking ahead of a meeting of Ukraine supporters in Brussels on Wednesday, General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that “after Russia has attacked Ukrainian civilians, we will look at air defense options that will help Ukrainians.”

A senior Defense Ministry official added that work continues to improve Ukraine’s air defenses, including “finding Soviet-era capabilities to ensure countries are willing (and) able to donate and help build those capabilities.” to move”.

Ukraine’s wish list, circulated at Wednesday’s meeting, included missiles for its existing systems and a “transition to a layered air defense system of Western origin” and “early warning capabilities.”

Milley said that “what we believe can be deployed is an integrated air missile defense system.”

After the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, he said such a system would not “control all of the airspace over Ukraine, but they are designed to control priority targets that Ukraine needs to protect. What you’re really seeing are short-range, low-altitude systems, and then mid-range, mid-altitude systems, and then long-range, high-altitude systems, and it’s a mix of all of those.”

Western systems are beginning to invade. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Tuesday that with the arrival of the first IRIS-T from Germany and two units of the US National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAM) is expected soon.

“That’s just the beginning. And we need more,” said Reznikov said Wednesday before tweeting while meeting with donors of Ukraine at the meeting in Brussels:“ Item No. 1 on today’s agenda is strengthening of (Ukrainian) air defense. Feeling optimistic.”

But these are hardly off-the-shelf items. The IRIS-T had to be made for Ukraine. Western governments have limited inventories of such systems. And Ukraine is a very large country that is being attacked with missiles from three directions.

It’s also uneconomical to waste advanced systems trying to take down cheap drones. But there could be other answers for the hundreds of attack drones that Russia is now deploying. According to Zelenskyy, Russia has ordered 2,400 Shahed-136 drones from Iran.

However, Ukrainian officials say air defense forces are already shooting down the “bulk portion” of the Shahed drones.

Ukraine’s senior military commander, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, tweeted Tuesday his thanks to Poland as “brothers in arms” for training an air defense battalion that had destroyed nine out of 11 Shaheeds.

He said Poland gave Ukraine “systems” to help destroy the drones. Last month there were reports that the Polish government had bought advanced Israeli equipment (Israel has a policy of not selling “advanced defense technology” to Kyiv) and then transferred it to Ukraine.

There is now a race between the Ukrainians’ ability to acquire, train on and deploy new air defense equipment – and the Russians’ ability to inflict massive damage on Ukraine’s infrastructure (civilian and military) with their large stockpiles of missiles, not all of which are precision weapons .

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that Ukraine needs “more” systems to better stop missile attacks. “These air defense systems make a difference because many of the incoming missiles (this week) were actually shot down by the Ukrainian air defense systems provided by NATO allies,” he said. “But as long as not all of them are shot down, of course more is needed.”

Until more arrive, there is a risk all too familiar to the government and people of Ukraine that the Russian missile mix will wreak much greater devastation among civilians, especially if the Russians stick to the tactic of using missile swarms. Air defense flooding.


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