Ukraine’s new American missiles create new problems for Russia

Last week, powerful explosions occurred in several occupied areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions. Available satellite imagery and data from Western analysts suggest that the targeting was very effective.

For months, the Ukrainian military has been begging Western partners for long-range precision artillery and missile systems. Now they have them, and they are deploying them with great success both in the south and in the east of the country.

The Ukrainian military does not release many details, but Vadym Denisenko, a senior interior ministry official, said on Wednesday that over the past two weeks, “primarily thanks to the weapons that Ukraine received, we were able to destroy about two dozen weapons depots and stocks of fuel and lubricants. materials. This will certainly affect the intensity of fire the Russians can muster, he said.

Best in class is the US-supplied HIMARS multiple launch rocket system, but the Ukrainians have also received M777 howitzers from the US and Canada, as well as long-range Caesar howitzers from France.

In addition, the UK has pledged to provide M270 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), which are more powerful than HIMARS, but it is not clear when Ukraine will complete training on this system and deploy it.

The versatility of HIMARS lies in its name: highly mobile artillery rocket system. Its mobility makes it difficult to target, and its crew can be as small as eight soldiers. The missiles supplied to Ukraine have a range of 70 to 80 kilometers (about 50 miles). And their GPS guidance systems make them extremely accurate.

As Mick Ryan, a military analyst and former Australian Major General, put it: “It is used to destroy critical communications centers, command posts, airfields and important logistics facilities.”

Therefore, senior Russian officers are especially vulnerable. The accuracy of HIMARS also means Ukrainians can worry less about civilian casualties. Guided missiles have an accuracy of two to three meters, two Defense Department officials told CNN, allowing Ukrainians to use far fewer projectiles to accurately hit targets at a distance.

Apparently, HIMARS was used during a massive strike on a warehouse in the city of Novaya Kakhovka, Kherson region on Monday night. According to satellite imagery viewed by CNN, the impact caused secondary explosions and caused extensive damage. The pictures showed how accurate the attack was, leaving only one small crater.

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the aftermath of a Ukrainian strike on what she said was a Russian munitions depot in Nova Kakhovka.

Local pro-Russian officials said parts of one HIMARS missile had been recovered; serial numbers matched the weapon.

Strong explosions also took place in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, resulting in multiple explosions. The same thing happened in Shakhtyorsk in Donetsk and in the Kherson region over the weekend, as well as near Melitopol in Zaporozhye last week.

Altogether, it appears that about a dozen targets deep behind Russian lines were hit in July, most of them at least 40 kilometers from the front line, a distance at which the accuracy of the old Tochka-U missiles would have been difficult.

The Ukrainians also fired HIMARS at night, making it harder for the Russians to locate and hit the launchers. Russian troops have struggled to fight at night since the beginning of the conflict, and Ukrainians still use this to their advantage.

Change of battlefield

Targeting may also have been facilitated by the way the Russian military stores and moves its weapons.

Phillips O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews, believes that the strike at Nova Kakhovka shows “the state of logistical warfare and the real problems the Russians are facing.”

The target was close to a railway junction vital to the Russian logistical effort to keep up their advance and was therefore an obvious target.

“The Russians left a ridiculously easy-to-find large supply depot exactly where one would expect to find it. Either the Russians are unable to respond due to crew failure or they are unable to actually move the warehouses because they lack traffic,” O said, Brian tweeted.

One Ukrainian official hinted that it was easy to attack the warehouse. Deputy of the Kherson Regional Council Sergei Khlan said on Facebook: “In Novaya Kakhovka, there is one less Russian ammunition depot.

Ben Hodges, former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, tweeted after the Kherson attack over the weekend: “Least favorite job in the Russian army? Ammunition handler.

At a briefing last week, a senior U.S. Defense Department spokesman said the “emphasis on more powerful, precision-guided and long-range weapons” for Ukraine was in the spotlight.

On Friday, the Pentagon announced it was sending 1,000 rounds of 155mm artillery shells to Ukraine, but newer ammunition with greater accuracy, according to an official. Ukrainians consume 155 mm ammunition at a rate of 3,000 per day. As with HIMARS, more accurate cartridges should mean fewer cartridges are needed.

The official claimed that HIMARS was changing the battlefield. “What we have seen is the ability of the Ukrainians to use these HIMAR systems to significantly undermine the ability of the Russians to move forward.”

“If the Russians think they can outlive the Ukrainians, they need to rethink that,” the official added.

Ukrainian soldiers ride in a military vehicle, towing a towed M777 155mm howitzer, near the front line during the Russian attack on Ukraine in the Donbass.
Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian positions with a CAESAR self-propelled howitzer during the ongoing Russian offensive against Ukraine in the Donetsk region, June 8.

Russian military observer Yuri Kotenok said this week that HIMARS poses “a serious threat. HIMARS.”

The kitten, who has nearly 300,000 followers on Telegram, said the Russian air defense system needs improvement, as does HIMARS guidance, whether en route or deployed. He said that “If this continues, then it is necessary to hit the decision-making centers. Our limitations in retaliatory strikes against the enemy are to some extent incomprehensible to me.

Another Russian reporter, Roman Sapenkov, said he witnessed the attack on a Russian base at Kherson airport over the weekend.

“I was struck by the fact that a whole pack, five or six rockets, landed for almost a penny. Typically, MLRS land on a large area, and at maximum range they scatter like a fan, ”he wrote, referring to multiple launch rocket systems. systems that are less advanced than HIMARS or M777.

“It is clear that this is only the beginning… They will cover all command posts and military installations, the data for this has been collected over the past 4 months.”

The importance of pallets

One problem for the Russians may be how they transport ammunition, and this is where the humble pallet comes into play.

Few Russian military trucks are equipped with a crane to lift heavy ammunition, which is rarely transported on pallets but loaded and unloaded by hand. Many aging Soviet ZIL trucks have been seen in Ukraine.

Moving arms and ammunition in this way is cumbersome, time-consuming, and potentially gives the enemy more opportunities to detect such shipments. By contrast, the UK and US military palletize or ship most of their ammunition in containers.

The Russian way of warfare, which has been observed over the past three months in eastern Ukraine, relies on massive artillery shelling to destroy targets before advancing. Russian military doctrine has always emphasized the massive use of artillery, MLRS and mortars. This requires constant resupply: some analysts have estimated that Russia uses at least 7,000 rounds and missiles a day in the Donbas, and often much more.

The head of the Luhansk regional military administration, Sergei Gaidai, said on Wednesday: “The Russian army does not stop shelling. However, most likely, she retains the existing stocks of shells, because their supply was interrupted by the work of our new long-range long-range weapons.

Why the Biden administration is giving Ukraine new, heavier weapons

Ukrainian officials say the Russians are off-balance due to their growing ability to carry out high-precision attacks at long range.

For example, in Melitopol and its environs, in recent days, the Russians have imposed restrictions on the movement of the civilian population. There have been at least two major attacks on Russian bases in the area this month.

But the Ukrainians need an unhindered flow of ammunition from the West to maintain such a speed of strikes. The Ukrainian armed forces are shifting within months from an organization heavily dependent on Soviet-era artillery and missile systems — with insufficient ammunition — to using precision-guided Western weapons with sufficient ammunition.

It is also unknown if any of the several HIMARS delivered so far have been destroyed by Russian fire. The military and defense ministries of Ukraine have shied away from providing details about their deployment.

Ryan warns that while HIMARS has “given the Ukrainian Armed Forces a new ‘long arm’ to attack Russian invaders, there is no such thing as a silver bullet in war.”

But US officials are confident that the accuracy of these weapons, like other long-range precision systems, will gradually change the battlefield.