The Ukrainian land counter-offensive in the late spring/summer/autumn of 2023 was a total failure. No disrespect to the brave Ukrainians who fought, died or were maimed in these battles, but facts are facts.
Hardly surprising because (a) Ukraine didn’t have air superiority (let alone air dominance) and (b) because of the formidable multi-layered defences that Russia had built, not least extensive mine fields. Plus Russia has the ability to “re-sow” minefields using mine-scattering vehicles.
Western MBTs and other armoured vehicles might enable crews to survive even if the vehicles are hit (as opposed to Russian turrets ending up on the moon), but that’s hardly game-changing capability.
In fact, I really don’t understand why Ukrainian troops were ordered to engage in such suicidal battles in the first place.
Ukraine needs a LOT of things to beat Russia, but above all it needs:
1) Vast numbers of drones. And by “vast”, I mean hundreds of thousands or even a million or more. Ukraine is working on this, but in addition to anti-radiation drones/loitering munitions, Ukraine also needs drones that can operate in the face of jamming and spoofing. More on drones below.
2) Thousands of gun-based defences to shoot down Shahed drones and low-flying cruise missiles. Again, more on this below.
3) More high-end SAM systems to shoot down weapons that less capable SAM systems and gun-based systems can’t shoot down.
4) Huge numbers of EW systems to protect aircraft, MBTs, other armoured vehicles, vital infrastructure, etc.
5) Multispectral camouflage to make it hard for Russia to detect and hit Ukrainian assets. For example, SAAB’s Barracuda MCS system. Russia can’t hit what it can’t detect in the first place.
6) The ability to breach Russian minefields. All the mine-breaching vehicles that have been given to Ukraine to date make absolutely no sense because they’re ludicrously vulnerable. The only system that remotely makes sense imo is the Israeli Carpet FAE system (FAE = Fuel Air Explosive). Obviously Israel won’t supply that system to Ukraine, but it seems inconceivable to me that (a) the west doesn’t already have an equivalent system and (b) western scientists and engineers can’t quickly come up with an equivalent (or better) system.
7) Why can’t the west come up with an equivalent of the Israeli Harpy anti-radiation loitering munition? Harpy has a very long range of 600km, it’s land-launched (so no aircraft needed), it’s relatively cheap by military standards (I’ve read approx $70,000 a pop) and it homes in on SAM radar emissions, so no man in the loop is even needed, meaning it can’t be jammed or spoofed. And I’ve read that anti-radiation weapons can also home in on EW systems, so all the better. Plus give a weapon similar to Harpy any combination of an EO sensor, an IIR sensor, or a mmW radar and it will be able to hit SAM radars even if they’ve shut down or are on the move (and that includes SAM launchers and SAM command vehicles as well). And such weapons will be able to hit ANY moving target, either on land or at sea, so they’ll be VERY versatile.
8) Ukraine needs long-range missiles: 300km ATACMS, 500+ km Storm Shadow and SCALP-EG, and Taurus KEPD-350 missiles (500+ km). These missiles would enable Ukraine to render the Kerch bridge impassable (both the rail and road bridges). This would seriously mess with Russian logistics and seriously help Ukraine.
Right, so breaking these issues down one by one…
1) Drones. I think this war will be won or lost based on drones (and loitering munitions). I think that if Ukraine gets an overwhelming number of drones (of all sorts of ranges, payloads, and warhead options) then it will win. If not, it will lose.
Ukraine is already using long-range drones to hit oil refineries in Russia. This makes total sense for obvious reasons. Nothing moves wihout fuel: tanks, other armoured vehicles, ships, aircraft, trains, trucks, etc.
Also, hitting missile launchers and bombers on the ground in Russia makes total sense. This makes far more sense than trying to shoot down missiles. It’s far better to take out the problem at the source. As the famous saying goes: Shoot the archer, not the arrows.
Also, why isn’t Ukraine hitting subs and ships in port in Novorossiysk? Or is Ukraine trying and all the drones are getting shot down? In that case, Ukraine needs EW drones to jam and spoof Russian radars so that the drones carrying warheads can reach their targets without getting shot down. The same goes for the Kerch bridge. Or any other target for that matter.
Ukraine definitely needs drones and loitering munitions that have anti-jam and anti-spoof capability. The USAI and other funds could (and definitely should imo) be used to provide Ukraine with western systems that provide such capability.
2) Gun-based defences: These could (and should) be massively increased. Gun-based defences are relatively cheap by military standards. Far cheaper than surface-to-air missiles.
3) High-end SAM systems. These make sense (and are definitely needed), but it’s far better (and cheaper) to take out the archer than the arrows. High-end SAM systems shouldn’t be the default position, but rather the back-up system. The first line of defence (or should that be offence?) should be to take out missile launchers and aircraft on the ground rather than having to shoot down missiles (missile debris can still kill and maim even if a missile is shot down).
4) EW systems: EW systems make total sense. The more the better. The more versatile the better. Ukraine is currently working on a range of EW systems, but an EW coaltion would make sense imo in addition to a drone coalition.
5) Multispectral camouflage: I feel like many/most militaries are totally ignoring the benefits of multispectral camouflage.
6) Well I think I already covered this well enough.
7) This to me means that the western MIC is only interested in money and power. When totally good options exist, but the western MIC refuses to either adopt them or make western equivalents, then you know the western MIC is either totally incompetent or totally corrupt. Or both.
8) There are plenty of targets that Ukraine could hit if it had long-range missiles. In addition to the Kerch bridge and other logistics bridges in Ukraine, it could hit the largest fuel and ammo dumps, concentrations of troops and equipment, subs and ships in port in Crimea, command and control bunkers, railheads, rail marshalling yards, and parked logistics trucks.
A few other points:
- Where the hell is GLSDB?
- Where the hell is ground-launched ALTIUS-600?
- Will Ukraine get Laser SDBs to hit moving targets?
- What about SDB II Stormbreaker, can that be used by the GLSDB system?
This story last edited on Fri 16 Feb at 15:42 GMT.