Ukraine incites Russia to waste bombs to destroy their “artillery”


KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine may be outgunned, but in the latest sign it’s not outgunned yet, a fleet of decoys resembling advanced US rocket systems has caused Russian forces to squander missiles expensive long-range cruisers on dummy targets, according to interviews with senior US officials. and Ukrainian officials and photographs of the replicas reviewed by The Washington Post.

Ukrainian decoys are wooden but can be mistaken for an artillery battery through the lens of Russian drones, which transmit their locations to naval cruise missile carriers in the Black Sea.

“When the drones see the battery, it’s like a VIP target,” a senior Ukrainian official said, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles encountering long-range artillery aftershocks.

After a few weeks in the field, the decoys have attracted at least 10 Kalibr cruise missiles, a first success that has led Ukraine to expand production of the replicas for wider use, said the senior Ukrainian official, who as others spoke on condition of anonymity. discuss sensitive military issues.

The previously unreported use of decoy rocket systems is one of many asymmetric tactics the Ukrainian Armed Forces have adopted to retaliate against a larger and better equipped invading enemy. In recent weeks, Kyiv operatives have blown up rail and power lines in occupied Russian territory, detonated explosives at Russian arms depots and murdered suspected collaborators.

The destruction of Ukrainian aftershocks may partly explain Russia’s unusually boastful battle damage assessments of Western artillery, particularly the American-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS.

“They claimed to have hit more HIMARS than we even sent,” observed a US diplomat.

Ukraine’s efforts to protect Western-supplied rocket systems underscore their importance on the battlefield.

The systems are credited with blunting Russia’s advance to the east and south by giving Ukraine the ability to strike from 50 miles away, devastating hundreds of high-value Russian targets, including supply lines, weapons depots and logistics and support centers, US defense officials say.

Last month, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu order his generals to prioritize the destruction of long-range artillery systems after hitting the main Russian supply lines.

Almost every week, Shoigu and other Russian defense officials announce new successful strikes on Western-supplied rocket systems, including the lightest US-made HIMARS.

US-supplied HIMARS changes the reckoning on Ukraine’s frontlines

Earlier this month, a Pentagon spokesman flatly denied Russia’s claims, saying all US-provided HIMARS were accounted for.

“We are aware of these latest claims by Minister Shoigu, and they are again patently false,” said Todd Breasseale, acting Pentagon spokesman. “What is happening, however, is that the Ukrainians are using each of the fully accounted precision missile systems with devastating accuracy and efficiency.”

The Pentagon claims to have provided 16 HIMARS in Ukraine since the beginning of the war. US allies have provided M270 rocket systems that have similar functionality. It has not been possible to independently verify how many are still operational or how many, if any, have been destroyed.

Crimean airfield blast was the work of Ukrainian special forces, official says

Russia’s habit of embellishing battlefield performance isn’t new, but experts say the decoys likely explain a dramatic disconnect.

“If the Russians think they hit a HIMARS, they’ll pretend they hit a HIMARS,” said George Barros, a military researcher at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank. “Russian forces may very well be exaggerating their battle damage assessments after hitting HIMAR decoys.”

The use of decoys for deception has a long history for both Eastern and Western militaries.

The Russians call the tactic of disguise and cunning “maskirovka”, which involved the acquisition of MiG-31 inflatable fighter aircraft and simulated S-300 missile systems, among other tools. Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslav forces used dummy tanks and dummy targets against NATO forces during the Kosovo conflict. The Allied powers during World War II used decoy equipment and false signals intelligence to attempt to divert German forces ahead of the Allied invasion of Normandy.

Ukraine could turn the tide of war again as Russian advances stagnate

For Ukraine, the benefits of decoys on the battlefield are two-fold, military analysts said.

In a protracted artillery war, finding ways to degrade and exhaust Russia’s largest arsenal of rockets and missiles is essential for Ukraine’s small army.

U.S. defense officials say Russia’s stockpile of precision-guided missiles is running low and U.S. microchip export controls are making it “much more difficult” for Russia to replenish that ammunition, Colin Kahl, deputy Secretary of Defense for Policy, said earlier this month.

“A Kalibr missile launched at a fake HIMARS target in a field is a missile that cannot be used against a Ukrainian city,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Another advantage of the decoys is that they could force the Russians to take precautions and move their ammunition depots and command and control nodes farther from the front lines – beyond the intended range of the HIMARS.

“Such a reorganization would degrade the Russians’ ability to do mass artillery fire – a tactic they relied on to make gains in eastern Ukraine,” Barros said.

The challenges facing the Ukrainian military remain daunting. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree last week to increase the size of Russia’s armed forces to 2.04 million from 1.9 million, in a move analysts say indicates a determination to keep fighting.

US officials estimate Russia has lost up to 80,000 troops, but Ukrainian forces have acknowledged losing 100 to 200 troops a day as the country prepares for one of its coldest winters in decades.

In describing the country’s aftershocks, the Ukrainian official said his military had no choice but to resort to unconventional tactics to fend off a larger adversary. “A small Soviet army cannot beat a large Soviet army,” the official said. “We have to fight asymmetrically.”

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