Espreso. Global

Emerging weaponry trends in Russian ranks — military expert Zgurets

29 September, 2023 Friday

The topic of Russia potentially acquiring Iranian intermediate-range ballistic missiles like the Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar, which have respective ranges of 300 and 700 kilometers, has resurfaced


Russia's attempts to get Iranian missiles

One notable trend in the enemy's ranks worth noting is the possibility of Russia acquiring Iranian intermediate-range ballistic missiles like the Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar, which have ranges of 300 kilometers and 700 kilometers, respectively. The Institute for the Study of War suggests that Iran may agree to transfer such missiles to Russia after October 18, as the UN Security Council resolution prohibiting Iran from making such agreements is set to expire. It's important to remember that Russia has been pursuing these missiles since last year, but Iran has been hesitant to take this step. Additionally, Israel's intelligence chief has made statements suggesting that Iran attempted to make such a deal but failed.

I hope that this delay will persist, preventing Russia from acquiring these missiles. However, we must acknowledge the risks associated with Iranian missiles, as they are ballistic in nature, and countering them would require the use of Patriot and SAMP/T systems. It's worth noting that the limited number of these surface-to-air missile systems poses challenges in providing comprehensive coverage for all of Ukraine.

The second trend is about the Iranian-Russian Shahed drones. Today, on September 28, the Center for Research on Trophy and Advanced Weapons of the Ukrainian Armed Forces demonstrated the attempts of the Russian military industrial complex to modify the Shahed-136 barrage munition. The changes include the manufacture of the body using a simplified technology, the use of new individual components, and a new engine. The Chinese engine is supplied either to Iran or directly to Russia. However, these transformations are cosmetic in nature. They do not significantly improve the TTC (tactical and technical characteristics) of this model. However, the Russians' desire to establish mass production of this UAV at home only means the risks of scaling up the production of this type of weapon, which will once again complicate the work for Ukrainian air defense. It will also complicate the load on the air defense systems or other types of equipment that Ukraine will use to shoot down these Shahed.

The third concerning development this week is Russia's production of universal planning and correction modules, which are used to convert conventional FAB-250 and FAB-500 bombs into gliders. There has been an increase in the number of these modules, raising questions about Ukraine’s ability to counter this threat effectively. We anticipate that F-16 fighter jets will play a crucial role in deterring Russian aircraft dropping these glider bombs without entering Ukrainian airspace. The F-16s will work in tandem with Ukraine’s air defense systems to mitigate the risks posed by these modular glider bombs.

Frontline developments and events in different areas

Each section of the frontline has its distinct characteristics and impacts other fronts. The success in each area hinges on the dedication and valor of Ukrainian soldiers who are either in the trenches or carrying out assault operations.

Yevhen Iyevlyev (call sign Sheikh), a soldier of the Ukrainian Armed Forces stationed in the Horlivka direction, has been deployed south of Bakhmut since February. The situation there remains relatively stable. Ukrainian forces maintain their positions, keeping the enemy at bay and engaging them effectively. The Russian army faces significant challenges when trying to advance due to the presence of extensive minefields in the area.

The situation around Kurdyumivka, Klishchiivka, and Andriivka has caught the attention of Russian forces, suggesting that some actions may be imminent in their direction. As the nights grow longer, we have observed their movements from Mavic drones. During the night, Russian troops are bringing in equipment and concealing it in forest strips. They are also transporting and hiding howitzers in these areas. It appears that Russia is concerned about the possibility of a Ukrainian offensive developing from this direction. There has been a slight decrease in the density of mortar attacks recently.

The Ukrainian serviceman added that they can see Horlivka in clear weather without binoculars. Since May, Russian forces have started using anti-tank guided missiles, which are used even against civilian cars moving through the city. They are also deploying these systems in residential areas, realizing that the Ukrainian army does not hit residential buildings. And this story has been gaining momentum for three months now. The invaders have been deploying various weapons in residential areas that can hit Ukrainian equipment and personnel.

The southern front

And then we have the opportunity to take a more detailed and large-scale look at what is happening on the front line, which is now more than a thousand kilometers long. I would like to start with positive things, with the announcements made on September 27 by the commander of the Tavria operational and strategic group of troops and the command spokesperson that there would be good news from the south.

Serhiy Hrabskyi, military expert, participant in peacekeeping missions, and reserve colonel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, noted that Ukrainian troops are currently blocking enemy units in the area of Novoprokopivka and advancing near Verbove, actually entering it. According to some sources, there are already reports that a large part of this settlement is under the control of the Ukrainian Defense Forces. But let's wait for official reports from Ukraine’s military leadership. After all, we may already be talking about the so-called corridor from Novoprokopivka to Verbove. Holding this corridor and crossing through the main enemy defenses, as well as deploying armored vehicles there, will allow Ukraine to maneuver while in the enemy's operational space. And then move on to the Ocherevatove-Tokmak line. Therefore, the dynamics and progress we are seeing reinforce our cautious optimism that we will be able to fulfill the objectives of this campaign. At the very least, to cut off Russia’s logistics and significantly weaken it on the southern front. We need to understand the way the events on the southern front will develop in the near future, we can build on and make assumptions about how the next campaigns for the Ukrainian Defense Forces will develop next year.

Colonel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces noted that his first education was as a military railroader, so he is very closely monitoring how Russia is trying to secure its grouping using the railroad network in this area. There is surprise at the pace at which it is trying to build new railroad crossings. From what we can see from open sources, it looks like a temporary phenomenon, as the Russians are making the railroad network more accessible and efficient in this direction. However, we must understand that Vuhledar and Velykyi Tokmak are major communication hubs, which is why Russian troops are so desperate to hold back the Ukrainian offensive in the Tokmak area. When passing between Verbove and the exit to the Ocheretuvate-Tokmak direction, we cut off this main enemy communication, which currently connects Crimea with Russia. Therefore, this area is critically important for the invaders and extremely important for Ukraine.

The participant of peacekeeping missions added that the attempts of Russian troops to create new additional railroad crossings will have limited capacity and throughput. Russia is doing this in a hurry, so it is impossible to say that this will change the situation. In addition, the railroad from Donetsk to the Volnovakha area is under constant Ukrainian fire, which seriously weakens Russia. Accordingly, we can assume that another direction will be to use the port facilities in Mariupol to provide passage through Volnovakha. Here, the importance of Vuhledar increases again for further struggle, and Russia may lose this supply point as well. Who knows how the situation will develop. For us, Tokmak and Verkhniy Tokmak remain the key, because, without exaggeration, this is the most important section of the front and the railroad where Russia supplies its forces and equipment.

To summarize Mr. Hrabskyi's remarks, if we reach Tokmak or block it and do not have time to advance further, then holding this area allows us to exhaust Russian forces. Because Russia has no other effective ways to supply its troops today.

The colonel drew attention to another aspect. If we look at the statistics of Ukrainian strikes and the losses suffered by Russian troops, the number of vehicles and tanks has recently increased significantly. This means that we are already seriously weakening the occupiers' logistical maneuvers. Ukraine’s actions fit into a single concept of a Ukrainian breakthrough - inflicting maximum damage on the enemy. And without logistics, and constant support for the troops in the context of the disengagement of the southern front, it is unlikely that we will be able to talk about effective actions of the Russian army.

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