Espreso. Global

Ukrainian attack drones reveal gaps in Russian air defense. Serhiy Zgurets’ column

3 April, 2024 Wednesday

On April 2, Ukrainian strike drones began a new phase of targeting the Russian defense-industrial complex and critical infrastructure. This marked the first time enemy targets over 1,200 km away were hit

New capabilities of Ukrainian strike drones

April 2 marks the initiation of a fresh stage in the deployment of Ukrainian strike drones against Russian military-industrial sites and vital infrastructure. Notably, these strikes targeted locations over 1,200 km away for the first time. Multiple unmanned aerial vehicles successfully targeted a factory in the Russian special economic zone known as "Alabuga" in Tatarstan. This factory produces Iranian long-range kamikaze drones of the Shahed type.

Additionally, an oil refinery in Nizhnekamsk, one of Russia's largest facilities, was attacked. Located just a few tens of kilometers from "Alabuga," Nizhnekamsk houses a crucial oil processing plant, a cornerstone of refinery operations, which was successfully struck by one of the drones.

The video shows the drone that targeted "Alabuga." Russians claim it was a Ukrainian-made Aeroprakt A-22 aircraft. While visually similar, I won't confirm it's exactly the same. Let viewers draw their own conclusions.

Yet, the successful attacks on the Shahed production facility and the Taneko oil refinery in Russian Tatarstan suggest three key points about Ukraine's long-range strike capabilities. Firstly, it represents a new level of range. It's not just about 1,200 km, as drones follow a complex trajectory to avoid Russian air defense systems, so the actual range will exceed 1200 km.

Secondly, this aircraft can carry a combat unit weighing up to 400 kg. This surpasses the capabilities of the "Lyutyy" UAV, which has a range of over 1000 km and a warhead weighing between 50 and 70 kg. Having a payload capacity of 400 kg is significant for launching effective strikes on Russian defense enterprises, yielding positive outcomes for us.

The third observation is that these drones traveled 1,200 km into a zone supposedly protected by air defense systems. Within this zone lies a factory producing Shahed drones, with another enterprise 20 km away manufacturing KamAZ trucks, including those for the Russian army. Another 20 km away is the Nizhnekamsk power station. These facilities should have been covered by air defense systems, yet they were left unprotected. The scale of Russian air defense oversight is remarkable, presenting new opportunities for the deployment of our long-range strike drones. The focus now shifts to scaling up such models to ensure they can operate beyond their current limitations, targeting additional Russian Federation assets.

Frontline update

On April 2, there were 70 combat clashes, marking a one-third increase from the previous day. The enemy has intensified its pressure across the entire front line. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reports that the most challenging areas remain near Bakhmut, specifically Chasiv Yar, and the Novopavlivka direction, where the majority of combat clashes occurred. Fighting persists around Novomykhailivka in nearly all settlements.

According to Serhiy Voronov, an officer of the Legion of Freedom, the enemy's primary strategic objective is to push back the Defense Forces from Donetsk as far as possible and disrupt our ability to target their logistics routes and hubs. This objective was accomplished after the complete destruction of Avdiivka, with similar damage inflicted on Marinka. Presently, the enemy is attempting to advance, particularly towards the city of Kurakhove. Heorhiivka, situated on the road to Kurakhove, has suffered extensive destruction. The Russians are also focusing their efforts on Krasnohorivka, launching active attacks from the south, albeit primarily frontal assaults. Fighting persists near Nevelske, with the most intense situation unfolding in Pervomaiske, where the enemy has created a real hell. This settlement lies on the frontline between the Avdiivka and Novopavlivka directions. Other parts of the front are also experiencing significant activity, with shelling and artillery duels ongoing.

He stated that in the vicinity of Pervomaiske, Krasnohorivka, and Nevelske, the enemy employs a tactic of splitting into pairs to disperse attention and assault Ukrainian positions. Thanks to unmanned vehicles, our defense forces monitor all enemy activities, enabling them to respond even before they reach our positions. The aggressor employs anti-aircraft missiles, frequently targeting Krasnohorivka and even peaceful towns like Selydove. This tactic has proven effective for the occupiers, who continue to utilize it confidently. There's optimism that the introduction of F-16s will alter the situation, particularly in the air, allowing our defense forces to push Russian aircraft as far from the contact line as possible.

The soldier highlighted the ongoing construction of the second line of defense, focusing on fortifications. Building the second line poses challenges for maintaining the first line, as significant resources are redirected. More timber is needed along the contact line for fortification construction, which requires continuous enhancement. In areas where the "Legion of Freedom" operates, efforts are underway to construct the second and third lines of defense, including tank trenches and other positions. However, it's a shame that these efforts weren't initiated a decade ago when the war began.

Voronov emphasized the urgent need to replenish combat battalions in the Donetsk region promptly. Even units with sufficient manpower have been stationed on the front lines for extended periods and require rotation. He urged for an acceleration of mobilization processes in Ukraine, stressing the importance of having capable men to defend the country.

Summarizing the discussion on mobilization, it's important to note that the President of Ukraine has signed a law allowing conscription from the age of 25. This move aims to bolster the mobilization resources, but it must also be coupled with expanded training measures to ensure that these individuals are adequately prepared for combat operations and the challenges they will face on the battlefield.

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