Espreso. Global

Russia's massive missile attack, joint defense projects of Ukraine and Poland. Column by Serhiy Zgurets

24 January, 2024 Wednesday

We discussed with experts the recent attack of the Russian occupying forces on Ukraine and the acceleration of bilateral defense projects after the visit of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk

Morning attack by the Russian army

On January 23, Russia launched another missile attack on Ukraine. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, they used a total of 41 missiles, of which 15 were cruise missiles of the Kh-101 type, two more were guided Kh-29, and all the rest were ballistic missiles for the Iskander tactical missile system, anti-aircraft missiles for the S-300 and S-400, and high-speed Kh-22, which require powerful Patriot air defense systems to destroy. In total, all cruise missiles, one Kh-59 guided missile, and 5 ballistic missiles for the Iskander air defense system were shot down, which is half of all enemy attack weapons.

The missile attack was indeed a complex one, with two waves of Kh-101 launches from Tu-95 bombers, cruise missiles targeting the capital, and between these two waves the enemy also used ballistic missiles from ground launchers along with supersonic Kh-22 launches from Tu-22M3 bombers. The Russian attacks damaged residential and non-residential buildings in Kyiv and its suburbs, in Pavlohrad and Kharkiv. There are dead and injured. The missile attack on Ukraine killed 9 people and injured at least 40.

However, our Defense Express agency learned new details of this missile attack from its own sources. A missile or missiles of the 48N6DM type to the S-400 complex were used to strike the capital along with cruise missiles. Their use was first recorded back in January 2023, and if I'm not mistaken, this is the fourth time these missiles have been used to attack the capital.

The 48N6DM is a relatively new missile with an estimated range of 250 km along the ballistic trajectory, the warhead weighs 180 kg, it is fragmentary, not accurate, but its fragments were found in the Solomyanskyi district of Kyiv. It can be assumed that the most bloodthirsty target of the enemy in this area could have been the capital's railway station. Importantly, this missile was shot down by our air defense systems.

As for the Kh-101 cruise missiles, they were used for strikes already modified, that is, with systems that provide heat traps to make them more difficult to shoot down. But Ukraine’s Air Force command reported that all the Kh-101 missiles were shot down. The fragments were analyzed and we can once again say that these missiles were manufactured in the fourth quarter of 2023. In other words, Russia is actually using missiles that have just been manufactured at its military-industrial complex. What conclusion can be drawn? If Russia is deploying S-400 ballistic missiles, it raises the question of not only enhancing Ukraine’s air defense capabilities but also seeking assistance from its partners to ensure that foreign long-range systems can effectively target Russia’s assets within its territory, including the means of attack that it has stationed there.

Poland’s support

Recently, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk visited Ukraine. It was announced that Poland is joining the G7 declaration on security guarantees for Ukraine, as well as a number of defense initiatives. Now in the Polish press, I've been watching, everyone is talking about a certain reset of relations with Ukraine, Poland has provided a significant amount of weapons, and during the press conference, new things were said, in addition to a new military aid package, there were joint purchases of weapons and financial loans for arms projects that Ukraine will implement.

Dariusz Materniak, a Polish expert on international affairs and head of the Poland-Ukraine Center, clarified that the discussion pertains to 155 mm artillery ammunition. MESKO is currently involved in the production of such ammunition, and there are plans to significantly increase production. Materniak mentioned that if the previous annual production was a maximum of 40,000 rounds, it is expected to be increased at least fivefold.

It may also be possible to accelerate the supply of Krab self-propelled artillery systems, Rak mortars and Rosomak combat vehicles to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

"There is some discussion about the possible joint production and financing of the purchase of K2 tanks, which are produced by South Korea and are already in service with the Polish Armed Forces, and in the future may also be in service with the Ukrainian Armed Forces. I think this is a very interesting prospect and very useful for both Poland and Ukraine," explains the head of the Poland-Ukraine Center.

Russian EW operation in Poland

Last week, there were reports that Russian systems had blocked or hampered GPS operations throughout Poland.

"In fact, such a situation did occur and persisted for at least a few days. It primarily affected the navigation systems of civilian passenger aircraft flying over the northern and northeastern regions of Poland during that time. It appears that there is some electronic warfare system in the Kaliningrad region, according to our assumptions. This system can disrupt GPS signals in specific sectors, causing complications. To what extent should we consider this as a threat? - Certainly, especially for civil aviation. It was probably 30-50% operational," the expert explains.

According to him, the Polish army and the armed forces of other NATO countries in the region must be able to counter the Russian electronic warfare system.

Mobilization in the Polish army

Poland is currently implementing a number of ambitious projects to rearm its army. Dariusz Materniak said that the Ministry of Defense is also taking mobilization measures to have a larger combat-ready reserve.

"There have been changes in the laws governing the reporting time for individuals liable for military service to their military units. Now, in a crisis or wartime scenario, such individuals are required to report to their military unit within a maximum of 6 hours. However, this is more of a theoretical provision, as in reality, it would be challenging to locate and mobilize all these individuals within such a short timeframe. Furthermore, despite the existence of this law in Poland, it is not effectively enforced," he explains. "That is, each person must be present in the place where they have their address recorded in their documents, but no one actually controls this. People just move to other cities, sometimes to other countries, and it would be very difficult to actually do it in such a way that you could find all or even most of these people to be present in 6 hours. I think it's very good that the Ministry of Defense has taken a slightly different path and relied on a slightly different factor, not on people who need to be called somewhere by force and threatened with prison or punishment. Now there are more opportunities for people who want to join the armed forces or territorial military service, or as volunteers, or stay in the reserves."

According to him, there are financial incentives in the army, as well as the opportunity to improve their skills, in particular, drivers can get a new category of license.

Poland deploys aircraft during the missile attack on Ukraine

Yesterday, possibly for the first time, military aircraft of the Polish Air Force were deployed for the potential interception of Russian missiles that targeted Ukraine. This decision was likely influenced by the negative experience when Russian missiles landed on Polish territory, prompting certain military leaders to address the situation.

When asked whether this means that the new leadership of the Polish Ministry of Defense is determined to take tougher action against such unexpected or calculated actions by Russia, whether we will see more decisive measures to counter Russian attempts to influence NATO countries and Poland in particular, Materniak replied: "I must say that the new leadership of the Ministry of Defense has decided to change the information policy. If there are such incidents, and we had them in the second half of last year, it was clearly stated at that time that such an incident had occurred. That is, there is a very big change, and every time there is a missile attack on Ukraine, we have aircraft raised."

Simultaneously, the presence of Polish and American aircraft suggests that there is a capability to shoot down Russian missiles in the event of such a situation.

NATO exercises in Poland

A major NATO exercise has begun this week, with 90,000 troops participating and will last until March.

The Dragon-24 exercise will take place in Poland in the second half of February. They will include a scenario in the event of Russian aggression against Poland, with units of the armed forces moving from the western part of Poland to the east. The training grounds near the border with Ukraine, Belarus and the Leningrad region will be used for firing exercises by units of the Polish and US armed forces.

"This exercise is at least a month away, and Russian and Belarusian propaganda is already presenting it as preparation for armed aggression against Belarus. This is not the first time, because we have been seeing such rhetoric for a long time. There is nothing unusual about it. There will only be training in defensive actions and procedures that take place every year or every two years as part of the training of the Polish Armed Forces with NATO countries and, above all, the United States," added Materniak.

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