Espreso. Global

Neptune attacks, US approval for strikes on Russia, technology at front. Weekly military results by Serhiy Zgurets

2 June, 2024 Sunday

This week's military recap includes the debut use of Neptune missiles on Russian territory, the US authorization to use HIMARS in the Kharkiv region, and technology at the front


Neptune strikes

The Ukrainian anti-ship missile R-360 from the Neptune coastal mobile complex has been modernized and is now being used to strike ground targets in the Russian Federation. Such conclusions can be drawn from the latest events. According to Ukraine's General Staff, around 2 a.m., a ferry crossing and a transshipment oil depot in the seaport of Kavkaz on the Chushka Peninsula in the Russian Federation's Krasnodar Krai were struck. Through this base, fuel was transported to Crimea and used by the Russian occupiers on the peninsula, as well as in the temporarily occupied territories of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Several Neptune missiles struck the oil depot near the port of Kavkaz. There are reports that eight missiles were used at once, and Russian air defense systems could not cope with this, although the Russian Ministry of Defense stated that five Neptune missiles and 29 drones attacked the Krasnodar region, of course, all of these missiles and drones were 'shot down'.

In my opinion, this is the first use of Neptune missiles against targets in the Russian Federation. As we all remember, this missile system was successfully tested on April 13, 2022, when a Ukrainian missile sank the Russian Black Sea Fleet's flagship, the Moskva cruiser, and has been used many times since then, including to strike the large amphibious assault ship Konstantin Olshansky. 

It was clear then that this missile had been modernized and had a longer range of over 300 km, a larger warhead, and an updated control and homing system. The developer of this complex is the State Kyiv Design Bureau Luch. That's why the Russians tried so hard to destroy the facilities of this enterprise. It is good that the main facilities were relocated to another location. As we can see, this ammunition is now being produced in large quantities to be used on the battlefield. The munition is produced in cooperation by 20 Ukrainian companies, and the most difficult part is the active homing head.

The Kavkaz port, which was attacked, is the second largest port in the Russian Federation in terms of cargo turnover. Let me remind you that the day before, the Kerch ferry crossing, which is located opposite the port of Kavkaz, was also attacked. This is a sign of systematic work when this artery is cut, which provides the occupiers with ferry transportation and deprives the enemy of the opportunity to use its oil depot.

Permission to use Western weapons in Russia

Our partners have already begun to change their approach to Western weapons. We know how heated the discussion was about lifting the ban on the use of Western weapons, and there have been a number of publications and statements on this issue. First of all, I would like to mention The Wall Street Journal, which wrote that the United States has authorized Ukraine to use HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems, GLSDB guided munitions and artillery to strike the territory of the Russian Federation from which the Russians are attacking the Kharkiv region, but these authorizations do not apply to the use of ATACMS missiles. It is also said that this strategy allows the use of HIMARS against command posts, weapons depots, and other facilities on Russian territory that are used by the enemy to attack the Kharkiv region. There was also confirmation from the Ukrainian side.

In any case, this situation has a certain flavor: if the Russians attack, for example, not the Kharkiv region, but other areas in the Sumy or Chernihiv regions, will we have to apply for permits again? And why not use ATACMS? The enemy uses aviation at its airfields, which are up to 200 kilometers away, and it is difficult to understand how the aircraft will use its airborne weapons - will it target the Kharkiv region or other Ukrainian cities? I hope that this is only the first step before the ban on the use of ATACMS is actually lifted.

There is also a detail about air defense systems. One of the foreign publications quoted a Pentagon spokesperson as saying that the United States has never imposed restrictions on air defense systems not being used against Russian aircraft over Russian territory. This is an interesting detail for me, because we remember the Bild articles that said that after the Ukrainian armed forces used Patriot last year to destroy two Russian planes and three helicopters, there were calls to Kyiv saying that we would not supply you with Patriot missiles if you use our weapons in this way despite our restrictions. In any case, the situation seems to be progressing, but I think these nuances should be abolished and we should switch to full-scale use of American arsenals, which in principle would be absolutely consistent with the position of the fighting.

Valentyn Badrak, director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies, believes that even after this authorization, US President Joe Biden is showing indecision under the influence of Putin's blackmail.

“Biden has been somewhat palliative in his support for Ukraine throughout the years of his presidency, doing things halfway. That's why I tend to think that this authorization came under pressure from the fact that his political opponent Trump began to overplay his hand by being unpredictable and making seemingly wild statements: he would bomb Moscow and Beijing. We all understand that the issue here is a little different: today, politicians like the predictable, professional, perfect Biden are losing to adventurers like Putin and Trump. That's why Biden seems to be stretching himself in this twine. It seems to me that he has realized the strategic mistakes he made in 2023, because they were terrible mistakes of the Biden administration,” he explained.

The military expert reminded that the RAND Corporation, the largest U.S. think tank, has estimated that Ukraine needs 7,500 anti-aircraft missiles a year for defense and 26,000 for offense. At the same time, Ukrainian Defense Forces have significantly less ammunition, even if we count Storm Shadow, SCALP-EG and other missiles: “If Ukraine had been given a chance at the end of 2022 or in mid-2023, the situation would have been completely different, we would have been in a better situation than we are now.”

Badrak emphasized that Ukraine now needs to speed up the production of its own missiles. Perhaps they could have American or European components, but they would be Ukrainian missiles. Then the question of banning or allowing their use will not arise.

“Now the question is whether Biden will be able to regain the leadership in NATO that he lost to some extent because of Trump. Another nuance, it seems to me that Biden fears that the appetite of Ukrainians will grow and if he allowed the use of ATACMS missiles to strike Russia, there would immediately be another request - to transfer Tomahawk, which has long been discussed in expert circles. After all, certain missile factories are located at a distance of 1500-1800 km from the border, and in order to destroy them, Tomahawk systems are needed, which can hit from the ground up to 2500 km, and this would suit the Ukrainian side,” the expert said.

War goals and peace negotiations with Russia

The director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies believes that Ukraine's goals in the war do not coincide with those of our strategic partners. After all, the West is interested in preserving Ukraine and slowly depleting Russia, not in the total destruction of the Putin regime.

“We can see that for Biden, for the Biden administration, the destruction of the Putin regime is not part of his plans, and the West still has no political solution to Russia and the criminal Putin regime. One positive step has been taken, literally we learned about it yesterday, I mean, China's refusal to participate in the Peace Summit in Switzerland. Russia was not seated at the negotiating table on equal terms, as Beijing insisted, and here is a very global contradiction. Beijing and Moscow want equal relations, but if the Western world allows these equal relations, the value system of the democratic world will be immediately destroyed. That's why Biden is now hesitating - what to do, it seems that some kind of negotiations and consultations are needed, but on the other hand, if you do it as Macron once did, it will lead to further escalation and encourage Moscow to destroy Ukraine completely,” the expert explained.

Badrak recalled the statement by British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps that Russia's economy is designed to last about 5-6 years: “And that in 5-6 years we (the Western world - ed.) will be able to destroy them - he made a Freudian slip, as they say. The West is actually set up for a long, exhausting war, and they leave no prospects for Ukraine to destroy the Putin regime. Under these conditions, there is only one possibility: to maximize the implementation of security agreements in terms of military-technical cooperation, because this is the only powerful source of technology and technological advantages now.”

According to the military, about 50% of the tasks at the front are solved by drones, while more than 80% are lost due to electronic warfare, including Ukrainian ones.

“This suggests that the drone strategy and the build-up of capabilities - ground robotic systems, maritime robotic systems - are yielding very important results. We saw the destruction of the Black Sea Fleet landing boats, we saw a very interesting situation when the Russian side opened chaotic fire with all its capabilities, but could not do anything. So, the situation is that the massive use of cheap technologies can allow us to seriously deter the enemy, but we now lack the strategic component - to shoot down enemy missiles on its territory,” the military expert summarized.

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