The noose continues to tighten around Kherson:
With Ukraine’s relentless trumpeting of a forthcoming offensive in Kherson, Russia has taken the bait and rushed around 60% of its total forces to the region.
Russia has around 120 BTGs in the country (individual size and strength varies by BTG). There are an estimated 22 around Kherson, 27 between the east bank of the Dnipro river and Melitopol, and 17 south of Zaporizhzhia and southern Donbas. That is 66 deployed to the south, or over half the total. Def Mon has an unconfirmed report claiming that Russia’s current strength in or around Ukraine is 175,000 troops, 1,461 tanks, 3,295 armored personnel carriers, 1,488 barrel artillery, 710 rocket artillery, and 80 missile launchers. About 25% of those are in combat reserves (refitting, rotated out), with another 10% severely undermanned and in a second reserve.
For context, Russia invaded Ukraine with around 190,000 troops, plus another 34,000 from its Donbas proxies. Before the invasion, Russia supposedly had 2,800 active tanks, plus around 10,000 in reserve. The Oryx list of visually confirmed Russian losses stands at 931, while Ukraine claims 1,800 destroyed. If DefMon’s report is real and accurate, that means only around 123,000 Russians are left in combat-capable units. And remember that only about 15-30% of troops are actually in combat roles. It takes a lot of support troops (like all those mean loading and unloading supply trucks) to make an army work.
Russia is using four ferries to move military equipment, two by the Antonovsky bridge, and another two hidden in a river nearby. The OSINT (open source intelligence) guys have ferreted out those latter two. Here’s one of them in action:
It almost behooves Ukraine to allow Russia to continue flooding vehicles into the Kherson region before fully closing the trap. Even as is, it’s perplexing Russia would reinforce without an easy way to supply those forces. On paper, 22 BTGs would means 220 tanks, 880 armored personnel carriers, several hundred artillery and rocket guns, and around 20,000 men. How are they supposed to feed all of that (men and guns) with four freakin’ ferries? Perhaps Russia has other surreptitious means of resupply, and they can certainly fly goods in via helicopter. But that’s an inefficient way to support the Russian way of war—leveling the opposition with thousands of artillery shells per day. Heck, it’s not even about efficiency, but capability. It might actually be impossible
Ukraine is working the major bridges, preventing Russia from repairing them. The barges will be harder to hit, especially if they move around enough, but they are nevertheless vulnerable. Ukraine is working hard to degrade Russian air defenses in the region, which would allow TB2 Bayraktar drones and the Ukrainian Air Force to operate closer to river and any barges moving equipment and supplies. As such, this was an interesting find:
This AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missile, reported by Russian sources, is of American origin, yet was curiously never announced by the Pentagon in any of its aid packages. Anti-radar missiles are exactly what they sound like—missiles that hone in on radar signatures, usually employed by air defense batteries scouring the skies for enemy aircraft.
These are quarter-million dollar missiles, incredibly valuable in establishing air superiority. Their appearance was particularly surprising because they are designed to be launched from NATO-standard aircraft. They simply aren’t compatible with the targeting systems in Ukraine’s Soviet-era aircraft. So it’s a mystery how they were launched.
HARM has a range of around 150 kilometers when launched from the air. Any ground-launched modification won’t get that kind of range without a Mach 2 assist, at altitude. Still, it should meet or exceed HIMARS range, meaning Russia’s rear-area air defenses are all vulnerable.
Ukraine has recently claimed the destruction of a great number of Russian S-300 anti-air systems, including four yesterday. It’s been assumed such kills were a result of HIMARS rocket artillery strikes. But this new information, if confirmed, would indicate Ukraine has an even better weapon to reclaim its skies. AGM-88 HARMs might not have the flashy impact of HIMARS, but they are incredibly important to any Ukrainian effort to isolate and cut off Russian forces around Kherson.
Ukrainian air superiority over Kherson would be a legitimate game changer.
Hunter wrote about this bullshit yesterday.
As mentioned, Russia is throwing a great deal of bodies (including lots of Wagner mercenaries) at the area around Bakhmut. Here’s where that is, as a reminder:
Ukraine is deeply entrenched from Toretsk, to Bakhmut, to Sivers’k. Indeed, Russia hasn’t budged from Lysychansk since taking that city a few weeks ago. That entire northeastern corner is currently quiet. Russia’s biggest effort is in this Bakhmut direction.
The big question, of course, is why. Why are they wasting effort, manpower, and equipment on a town that has marginal strategic value. Say Bakhmut falls. I don’t think it will, but let’s give Russia Bakhmut. Then what? It doesn’t cut any supply lines. Toretsk and Sivers’k would remain well supplied.
Bakhmut used to be important because it supplied Lysychansk. That’s no longer the case, obviously. So the road connecting the two is irrelevant. Will Russia push to Kostyantynivka? Good luck maintaining those supply lines. North to Sivers’k? Those flanks will be juice targets. Maybe they’d push south to connect with previously-occupied Donetsk territory (the purple on the map). That would cut of a slice of Ukrainian-held territory, but … so what? This war isn’t being lost or won based on territory held, but on attrition, and Ukraine would be thrilled to trade that little chunk of Donbas for several thousand Russian soldiers and dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers.
Once again, Russia is advancing for the sake of advancing, lacking any ultimate strategic aim or focus. And even when they conquer anything of value, they are so spent they remain stuck. Here’s the furthest they’ve advanced from key cities:
Izyum: (captured April 1)
15 kilometers south (to Dovhen’ke)
Popasna: (captured May 7)
22 kilometers north (to Lysychansk)
24 kilometers south (closed a small salient)
18 kilometers west (toward Bakhmut)
Lysychansk: (captured July 3)
<10 kilometers west (toward Sivers’k)
This isn’t playing for strategic victory, it’s tactical scraps. And the fact that only around 13-15 BTGs are left around Bakhmut, while Russia floods forces to the south, makes this advance particularly bizarre. It means that even if they take Bakhmut, there won’t be anything left to press any advantage. So once again … why.
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