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Ukraine War, 4 May 2023
Sorry for no reports ‘for days’ already, but was extremely busy - and a little bit exhausted, the last few days.
Further in my own matter, and before anybody comes to ask me yet more about non-deliveries of Western combat aircraft to Ukraine, or about any kind of a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive…. Please, be so kind, do it to yourself, and check this interview with Ljudmila Nemirya from UKRLIFE.TV:
(Proudly permitted by Tigger, the Übercommanderchiefcat Supremo of the place where I’m living.)
But, lets move forward, because there’s a lot to report in order to catch with the developments. So much so, actually, this can be considered the ‘Part 1’ of my latest update.
Around 04.00hrs in the morning of 28 April, Tu-95s of the VKS have launched some 24-26 Kh-101 and Kh-555 cruise missiles at Ukraine. One of weapons seems to have suffered a malfunction and hit something in Poland, fortunately, without causing casualties or material damage. Makes me wonder how,
a) a non-stealth missile was left to fly that deep into Poland, with ‘half of NATO’ watching and doing nothing, and
b) where’s Trump to complain (on Fox News, of course) about this attack on a NATO-ally now?
Guess, I’ll not get any useful answers to such questions…
Anyway...Ukrainians claimed to have shot down 21 or 23 others, plus two UAVs that supported that strike (most of these over southern Ukraine). However, one of Russian missiles then hit an apartment building in Uman, massacring at least 22 civilians, including entire families… another hit Dnipro, killing two, and a third something in the Kyiv area, wounding one person.
Early on 1 May (around 02.30hrs in the morning), nine Tu-95s and two Tu-160s launched another stream of 18 Kh-101 and Kh-555 cruise missiles. The PSU claimed the downing of 15 of these, but at least two hit something. One hit a chemical plant where 38 old (Soviet-era) RT-23 intercontinental ballistic missiles were stored for their decommissioning (apparently, Ukrainians were recycling their 1,800 tons of solid rocket fuel). The resulting conflagration damaged an apartment building, 25 private homes, 6 schools, and 5 stores. Moreover, they randomly shelled Kherson (City), the last three days, massacring another dozen of civilians.
On 3 May, the Russians released a stream of 26 Shahed-131/136 LPGMs: Ukrainians claimed 21 of these as shot down but, one hit a POL depot in Kropyvnytskyi.
For their part, Ukrainians run a number of missile- and UAV-strikes deep into the Russian rear.
On 25 April, they deployed GMRLS and HIMARS to hit an ammunition train in Mariupol (causing massive volumes of damage). Early on 29 April, Ukrainians then hit a big POL depot in Kazarchy Bay (eastern Crimea). On 30 April, Ukrainians hit a hotel used as forward headquarters of one of units from the 58th CAA. On 1 May, they hit unknown targets in Tokmak and Myhailivtsi, and then a large POL depot outside Sevastopol, setting four tanks with 4,000 tons of fuel each on fire. On 2 May, Ukrainians hit a training base of the Russian forces outside the Simferopol airport (Crimea), and another POL depot, this time on the Taman Peninsula. Finally, the last night, four Ukrainian drones attacked an air base in the Bryansk region: two were shot down, two other hit, damaging – according to the Russians – one An-124 transport.
AIR WAR (TACTICAL LEVEL)
The VKS continues its campaign of combining its tactical aviation armed with UMPK glide bombs and/or TRV Grom/Thunder PGMs, with UAVs, UCAVs and ground-launched loitering precision guided munition (LPGMs) to strike up to 20 targets along the frontlines a day. Here a number of videos shown VKS air strikes on the ZSU in Vuhledar, all flown in April:
….apparently, all released by high-flying Su-34s, from stand-off ranges, in coordination with UAV operations.
Indeed, gauging by the article here, it seems they’re now deploying two versions of glide bombs calibre 500kg: UMPK and MPK – and that in addition to TRV Grom/Thunder, plus the ‘UAV’ (something like Russian ‘small diameter bomb’) and (much heavier, though more complex, and thus rarer) UPAB-1500s.
Even if up to 50% of UMPK/MPKs (and other of laest Russian weapons) are suffering malfunctions upon release, as some say they do, I think there’s no doubt that these air strikes are a major problem – and are going to remain a problem unless the ZSU both bolsters its air defences with systems capable of intercepting high-flying aircraft from ranges of around 80-90km and deploys enough GLONASS- and GPS-jammmers with its forward troops (to block the function of the Russian PGMs to a sufficient degree).
Except for stationary targets, the Russians also claimed the destruction of several Ukrainian air defence units, including one 5P85S launcher (S-300 SAM-system) visible on the video-still below:
…then another one by their Lancets here, one more (by Lancets again), and here another video of a burned-out 5P85S. Furthermore, they claimed a strike by Shahed-131/136 against an Ukrainian Buk SAM-system, plus a strike on an Osa-AKM by Lancet.
Sure, it’s perfectly possible that this is something like ‘collection of videos taken over the last 5-6 months’, but: it’s an indication of their current priorities, too (ah yes and: to make sure why do I insist on calling them ‘Shahed’, i.e. by their original Iranian name, not the Russian ‘Geran’: they’re made in Iran).
Additionally, and depending on the sector of frontline in question, the VKS is flying 6-10 of usual ‘spray and pray’ strikes, foremost against Ukrainians in the Bakhmut area.
In turn, there’s something like a claim that the PSU fighter-bombers returned the favour by deploying JDAM-ERs for the first time – in order to blast Russian forces inside several buildings of Bakhmut. Gauging by the force of resulting explosions: yes, definitely big warheads. Much larger than artillery shells calibre 155mm. One even flew through the taller building and detonated inside the other one, about 100 metres further down its trajectory. I’m not yet sure if this was really an air-launched JDAM-ER, or ‘just’ a GMLRS (the ground-launched version of the JDAM): haven’t seen any photos of PSU aircraft modified to carry them.
‘Instead’, few days ago first photos appeared shown US-designed Zuni unguided rockets, calibre 5in (127mm) next to a Su-25 of the PSU. Notably, the launchers for these have been ‘blackened out’. AFAIK, the USA have announced a supply of 4,000 such rockets back in January. Obviously, they came together with suitable launchers, and these were adapted to PSU’s Su-25s. Is no big deal, because bomb-shackles on hardpoints of that type were designed to be adaptable for deployment of Western-made ammunition right from the start: this was so because the Soviets have planned to, in the case of a major war with NATO, use captured Western ammunition.
PSU’s MiG-29 adapted to carry AGM-88s are still running regular strikes on the Russian air defence systems - although this one had a strange trajectory: HARM should actually ‘go ballistic’ on launch, unless the target was quite close…
Certainly enough, the VKS can run its offensive only thanks to pushing its air defences and electronic warfare systems very close to the frontline. Rather unsurprisingly, over the last week, the PSU managed to knock out at least a few launchers of Russian S-300s and other SAM-systems.
AIR WAR-RELATED QUESTION(s)
….which is bringing me back to the issue of deliveries of Western fighter-bombers to Ukraine, discussed so often (and, by me, about a week ago).
OK, it’s obvious the West does not want to deliver any of its golden-plated fighter-bombers. But, whey not delivering systems that would at least increase the survivability of Ukrainian fighter-bombers?
Like… for example: electronic countermeasures (ECM)?
Here a good example. After realising they’re going to face the Western air power in reaction to their invasion of Kuwait, back in 1990, the Iraqis adapted French-made Remora ECM-pods (originally developed and delivered for use on Dassault Mirage F.1EQ fighter-bombers of the Iraqi Air Force) to their MiG-23MLs and MiG-29s (for details, see books like MiG-23 Flogger in the Middle East and In the Claws of the Tomcat).
Arguably, the Iraqis couldn’t do that with a lot of their MiGs, simply because they haven’t had a lots of Remoras. However, in the few cases they did, this caused quite some confusion on the US side. Arguably, one MiG-23ML equipped with Remora was shot down by F-15s of the USAF, something like one or two hours into the war of 1991, but: it was hit while the pod was not yet active, only seconds after its take-off (and came down mere 4,000m from the end of the runway), and the official USAF is until this very day ‘sure’ it was actually a ‘Mirage F.1’ – because of its electronic emissions. Point is this: that was the only MiG equipped that way actually shot down during that war. All the other examples survived that war. Thanks to Remoras they have carried. Because, as should be known already since the times of the earlier Iran-Iraq War (fought 1980-1988), Remoras tended to cause such weapons like AIM-7 Sparrow, to miss by 15-30 metres…
Another, similar question: why no installation of towed decoys on Ukrainian MiGs and Sukhois? In one of half-hearted tests run by the US Air Force, at least a decade ago, four F-15s ‘shot down’ the same towed decoy some 7-8 times, but failed to actually hit the drone towing it…
However, in the case of Ukraine…..’crickets’…. We do not see anything of this kind happening.
I’ve been quiet about this for months, but meanwhile….well, time is passing by, Ukrainian jets get shot down, pilots killed…. Thus, cannot but ask: how comes none of ‘independent minded’ (and whatever) super-clever engineers, technicians, generals etc. in Ukraine or NATO came to the idea to adapt one of Western-made ECM-systems to Ukrainian aircraft?
How about the ALQ-131 jammer pod, which is in widespread use with NATO air forces?
This even more so considering,
a) PSU is in urgent need of self-protection systems for its combat aircraft (indeed, this is overdue since at least some 12-13 months, if not longer), and
b) PSU hasn’t lost a single MiG-29 or Su-27 over the Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine since the first few days of this re-invasion? (Means: even if any of its aircraft would have been equipped with Western electronic warfare system, the danger of these being shot down and then falling into Russian hands would be minimal.)
Obviously, one of excuses is that while it would be easy to physically attach such a pod to any MiG or Sukhoi, actually operating them is a different pair of shoes. Most important issue would be that of power supply. Remora, just for example, was ‘simple’ in this regards. It had its power supply system installed inside its hardpoint: thus, no need for power supply from the aircraft carrying it was necessary. However….well…after 14 months of this war, nobody in Ukraine or the West came to the idea to develop something similar for, say, ALQ-131, so to enable its adaptation to Ukrainian MiG-29s, Su-25s or Su-27s….?
Nah. Instead, everybody is frenzied into babbling about that ‘coming Ukrainian counteroffensive’ - and then so much so, even the Russian social media is full of related talk….
(…to be continued…)