The President warns…
Come 24th Aug, and Ukraine will celebrate its 31st Independence Day in commemoration of the Declaration of Independence on this day in 1991. President Zelensky has warned his countrymen to be vigilant as he is expecting something vicious and ‘particularly ugly’ from Russia to coincide with the forthcoming Independence Day. This brief work tries to make a sense of the President’s warning.
A pattern has emerged
Ironically the independence day of Ukraine also marks the completion of six months of Russo-Ukraine war.
While the reports of strikes and counter-strikes causing unprecedented and untold misery and human tragedy on both sides is the ‘normal news staple’ day in and day out these days, a kind of pattern seems to have emerged over time. The same is briefly captured:-
- Starting end April/beginning May, the Russian offensives have shown a kind of signature which runs like this:-
- Heavy use of large-calibre guns, howitzers, and Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs) to pulverise the target before the ground offensive goes in.
- In coherence with the above, increased strikes by all shades of missiles on multiple targets to cause large-scale destruction and impose a feeling of despondency and fear.
- Experts analysing the above pattern have ascribed many reasons to the same; Russia’s return to it’s 200 year old doctrine of ‘Artillery First’ revisiting the Stalin’s dictum-Artillery is the God of war; a bid to reduce mounting casualties of tanks and other mechanised vehicles in contact war by an array of Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) and drones or to reduce aircraft losses in yet contested Ukrainian skies.
In inflicting the above weight-of-attack, the Russian war machine has pressed in multiple arsenal. A brief insight into the same gives an idea of its enormity:-
- The Russian artillery comprising of guns and howitzers in the calibre range of 150 mm and more (heavy artillery) and in the range bracket from 30-90km. Some of the noteworthy weapons seen in streaming videos include 2A36 Giatsint towed and Self Propelled (SP) howitzer, range 30-40km; 2S19 Msta 150mm (SP) Howitzer ; range 30-40 km with rocket assisted shell; 2S35 Koalitsiya (SP) Howitzer, range 40 km; the super heavy 2S7M Malka 203mm SP Howitzer, range 37.5 km range, besides Mortars 82 mm, 122mm.
- The above fire-assaults are duly supplemented by a preponderance of fire brought about by a variety of MBRLs raining as much as 40-60 medium to heavy rockets in a matter of minutes. Some noteworthy weapons in fray include BM 21 GRAD P (range 20 KM), BM30 Smerch (range 70-90km), 9A 52-4 Tornado (range 90 km) to name some of those employed. Some of the MBRLs are claimed to be using the thermo-baric ammunition which has an enhanced kill effect on the target end. One such MBRL is TOS-1- 220mm.
- Russia is a known missile power having in its arsenal all genre and shades of missiles, be it Surface-to-Surface Missiles, air defence missiles (SAM’s), ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, anti-radiation missiles and even the hypersonic missiles. Missiles out of this expansive range, is supplementing the above stated massed artillery fires by striking with a large number of Ukrainian targets. Some of the missiles being extensively fired are the Tochka Tactical ballistic missile (range 120 km); 9k720 Iskander missile (range 400-500km), Kalibr missile (range 1500-2500 km).
- Some media sources have even claimed the use of Kinzhal aero-ballistic hypersonic missile (range more than 2000 km) by Russia as well. This is however not corroborated across multiple sources.
The primary reason for a changed pattern
Besides all other reasons cited above, the massed fire assaults prior to contact war is likely to check the mounting figures of casualties to the Russian tanks and other mechanised vehicles at the hands of multiple ATGMs and drones that have proliferated in the tactical battle area by Ukraine (most kills by Javelin ATGMs of US and some by UK’s New Light Anti-Tank Weapon – NLAWS – besides a large number of kamikaze drone-kills). As per a report carried by Hindustan Times on 07 Aug 22 quoting western sources, the tank casualty figures stand at 1805.
IMPACT AND RETALIATION
As a result of pulverisation of the targets prior to actual assaults, besides tremendous all-round destruction, some of the objectives got vacated with nil or lesser resistance by Ukrainian ground forces. Case in point was city of Lysychansk in Eastern Ukraine which was abandoned on 04 Jul without a fight following its getting converted to ruins prior to attack.
- Feeling the heat of massed fire assaults which Russia is inflicting enjoying an artillery ratio advantage of over 3:1, Ukraine is trying everything to ask US and NATO for artillery and missile fire for effective retaliation.
- Besides its indigenous 155 and 152 mm artillery guns and howitzers, it is reportedly employing the US M777 Ultra-Light Howitzers (range 24.7 km) and the Polish 155mm Krab SP howitzer (range 30 km). There are also reports of Ukraine getting the FH 70 howitzer from Estonia (range 24-30km); Ceaser SP howitzer from France (range 50+km); M109A3 SP Howitzer from Norway( range 18-23 km) and Panzerhaubitse 2000 SP howitzer from Germany (range 30-36km),. Despite all of these, the quantum massed fire advantage is still assessed to be majorly Russia.
- Another weapon which has made news from the Ukrainian battle field is their deployment of the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System or HIMARS (range 40 miles/64 km). This weapon, as per Ukrainian account, has struck more than 30 Russian targets (figure to be corrected for the mis-information campaign).
- In an another retaliatory move, Ukraine (being aware of the long- stretched and largely rail-based ammunition supply chain for Russian artillery and rockets), has struck on a number of Russian ammunition dumps. Open source report the strikes on three such ammunition dumps one each at Kherson, Prydniprovske and Tokarivka.
- In another pattern of retaliation, missile attacks have been reported on Russian air Bases in Southern Ukraine taking out disproportionate number of air assets on ground. The case in point is the attack on the Russia Novofedorivika Air base in South Crimea. Some reports claim of the usage of anti-radiation missiles (AGM-88 HARM) supplied by US in this attack. This is unlikely as the Ukrainian air fleet is not reported to possess aerial platform compatible to launch HARM.
- Be that as it may, the attack indicates a long range strike capability in the gut of Russian held territory in South Crimea.
Following reflections are made on the state-of-things as Ukraine gears up to celebrate its Independence Day tomorrow.
- The erstwhile predominant scenes of aerial duels in the contested Ukrainian skies (which still remain contested) or the long-winded convoys of armoured vehicles grounded to halt by the menacing fire of Javelins or the Bayracter drones is gradually changing shades to massed gun, rocket and missile fires from both sides.
- Russia is currently having a significant quantum advantage in putting out a comparatively much higher weight-of-attack though Ukraine is catching up elsewhere on a number of retaliatory options.
- Massed fires are causing unprecedented destruction often forcing the defenders to abandon pulverised targets without a fight.
- The ghastly shadow of deadly fires and counter-fires often falls on targets which can cause global doom and catastrophe (Zeporizhia Nuclear Plant, earlier Chernobyl).
- Besides leaving much of the cities under ruins, the fires are meant to cause a feeling of despondency and fear in the populace.
President’s warning is, therefore, not without substance.
Ibid.Accessed on 22 Aug 2022.
HIMARS: the new US rocket launchersin Ukraine..”at wwwgrid.news.com. Accessed on 23 Aug 2022.