Destruction of Russian ship in Feodosia and Zaluzhnyi's first press conference. Column by Serhiy Zgurets
On December 26, at 3 a.m., near Feodosia, a large landing ship Novocherkassk from the Russian Black Sea Fleet was hit by cruise missiles from Ukrainian Air Force aircraft. In addition, this area is home to the Chauda military training ground, which Russia uses to launch Shahed attack drones at Ukraine
Destruction of a Russian landing ship in Crimea
I'll start with the good and epic news about the destruction of a Russian ship. On December 26, at 3 a.m., near Feodosia, cruise missiles launched by Ukrainian Air Force aircraft targeted a large landing ship, Novocherkassk, from the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The ship was destroyed while docked, and in the vicinity, there is the Chauda military training ground, which Russia employs for launching Shahed attack drones towards Ukraine. One speculation is that Novocherkassk may have transported a new shipment of Shahed drones for unloading. The detonation was likely caused by the warheads of the drones. However, considering the instantaneous and extremely powerful explosion that disintegrated the ship into pieces, it's possible that other cargo was on board as well. Some of these fragments were propelled as far as the center of Feodosia
The Ukrainian Air Force confirmed that cruise missiles were used without specifying the types of missiles. However, we know that our Air Force now has Storm Shadow/SCALP missiles in its arsenal, which we received from our British and French partners. And they are launched from Su-24M aircraft.
Let me remind you that in the first months of the large-scale invasion, Russia concentrated 11 large landing ships of this type in the Black Sea. These ships were redeployed from Russia’s Northern and Baltic Fleets, and 4 large amphibious ships have already been destroyed. Their loss is very significant for Russia because, among other things, it uses such ships to establish ferry crossings across the Kerch Strait, especially when the Crimean Bridge is not working. Therefore, it is extremely important for the destruction of Russian military power.
The reaction of our foreign partners is equally important here. British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said that the strike by Ukrainian forces on a Russian warship in occupied Crimea proves that those who believe that the war in Ukraine has reached a dead end are wrong. They have not noticed that 20% of the Russian Black Sea Fleet has been destroyed over the past 4 months. The British Defence Secretary wrote about this, and it is absolutely true.
Valerii Zaluzhnyi's first press conference
On December 26, Valerii Zaluzhnyi held his first conference, where he spoke primarily about mobilization, the new law, and the nuances associated with mobilization. But he also talked about technology, noting that 2024 should be different from what it was this year to avoid the deadlocks that were mentioned in his notable article published in the Economist. Zaluzhnyi says that we already see the problems and have found 90% of the solutions to these problems.
Anton Mikhnenko, a military expert and editor of the Ukrainian Defense Review magazine by Defense Express, highlighted that the Ukrainian defense industry is not stagnant. International partners are closely monitoring the course of hostilities, observing Russia's actions, and taking note of Ukraine's efforts to counteract, prompting the exploration of various solutions. Zaluzhnyi underscores the significance of modern technologies. The question arises: what might these modern technologies encompass? Recently, the issue of increasing the capabilities of electronic warfare means has been actively discussed. In this context, the discussion revolves around acquiring various types of systems from Ukrainian manufacturers and international partners. These systems aim to effectively disrupt enemy signals used for communication and navigation in drone control. This toolkit is seen as a means to gain a strategic advantage. Russia possesses a substantial arsenal of electronic warfare systems, and the emphasis is on enhancing our own arsenal. Ukraine has several manufacturers producing electronic warfare systems, and these systems are already being deployed on the battlefield.
The editor of Defense Express' Ukrainian Defense Review magazine highlighted a second direction, emphasizing the ground-based robotic platforms. Acknowledging that people are the most valuable asset, there is a focus on protecting them by employing diverse robotic ground-based platforms. These platforms could be utilized for delivering firepower, evacuating the wounded, and transporting ammunition or weapons. The development of this area is crucial, as it represents the future of military technology. The third area is UAVs, including FPV drones, drones for various purposes, both reconnaissance and strike drones. This is also a factor that will further contribute to gaining a technological advantage over the enemy. In Ukraine, the government has announced that drone production will be increased, and it has already announced 1 million drones. This area can be developed, and this is the technology that will give us an advantage over the enemy.
Mr. Mikhnenko continued that the next step is to build up air defense systems. The more air defense assets there are on the territory of Ukraine, the more echeloned it is, i.e., the more it covers at different distances, the more it is saturated, the better the coverage of our facilities will be. Enhanced air defense will ensure the functioning of our economy, which will allow our state to function.
The military expert added that Zaluzhnyi also emphasized the need for an aviation component that would use a wide arsenal of weapons that could strike deep into enemy territory and drive Russian aircraft away. Gaining air superiority is an important factor that can contribute to our technological advantages in combat.
Prospects for modern weapons
Now we will discuss modern weapons, exploring their current applications, tactics, capabilities, and future solutions.
Valeriy Romanenko, a leading researcher at the State Aviation Museum, raises the question of what was used to strike the Russian ship. According to DeepState maps, the distance to the point of impact was 250 kilometers, which is the maximum range for the Storm Shadow missile. The first impression is that longer-range versions of these missiles might have been supplied to Ukraine. In terms of tactics, Ukrainian pilots took a calculated risk by getting very close to the front line. Approaching the front line within 30-40 kilometers is dangerous when the distance to the target is 300 kilometers. The enemy air defense was likely suppressed either through electronic warfare or by launching HARM anti-radar missiles. Despite the challenges, the pilots found a niche and successfully launched the missiles, resulting in a spectacular explosion akin to New Year's fireworks that warmed the soul even at that distance.
The leading researcher at the State Aviation Museum emphasized that operations of this nature are meticulously planned. To program the Storm Shadow's flight, extensive work with digital maps of the area is required. Such operations are likely to be repeated, but they need to be meticulously prepared, utilizing as much intelligence information as possible on the locations of enemy anti-aircraft missile systems. Instances of enemy shooting down such missiles have already occurred, and given the limited availability of these missiles, efforts should be made to avoid such occurrences in the future.
As for the F-16, Romanenko noted that in the future, based on the results of air battles, it will eventually be possible to figure out what equipment is installed on the F-16s that we have a chance to get. Because there was standard equipment for these fighters in some NATO countries at the time of decommissioning, but now the process of modernization of these aircraft is underway. There are hopes that they will receive modern missiles, more modern radars and the latest models of electronic warfare stations. In addition, if we can increase the detection range of the radar installed on these F-16s or install new modern radars with phased array antennas, then the chances of destroying Russian aircraft increase. And if we get these aircraft with old weapons, we will use them as air defense fighters and means of destroying Russian attack helicopters and attack aircraft without flying close to the front line. That is, the extent to which the F-16s will be useful will depend on the equipment they receive.
The aviation expert spoke about the tandem of F-16s and AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control Systems) and said that F-16s have a tactical information exchange system. If our F-16s have this function, we will only need permission to receive information from NATO's AWACS, which are now based in Romania. Then, over the southern regions and the Black Sea, we can easily receive this data directly on board the fighters, meaning that we can know in real time about the location of Russian aircraft, ships, or SAMs. In other words, in some areas, we will be able to close the issue of situational awareness of the pilot. However, in the eastern regions, for example, it will be difficult to do this because AWACS is not delivered there from the territory of neighboring countries. So this will help us partially but in certain areas.