The Missile War in Ukraine
In the last week or so, the Russian military has launched more than three major missile and drone attacks against Ukraine. After continuous humiliating ground losses on the battlefield all across Ukraine, Moscow is increasingly turning on long-range attacks in an attempt to inflict costs on Ukraine.
Despite claims to the contrary by the Kremlin, Russian missile and drone strikes aren’t characterized by their precision. As a result, Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure are paying a very high cost for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.
However, the Russian military is running out of missiles and drones to attack Ukraine.
In the summer, the U.S. Intelligence Community revealed that the Kremlin was bargaining with the Iranians for the sale of thousands of tactical unmanned aerial vehicles, including suicide drones, which are designed for a one-way attack.
The sale went forward, and the Russian military started deploying hundreds of Iranian drones over Ukraine after receiving training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Shahed-136 loitering munition quickly became one of the better-known Iranian drones used by the Russian forces after Moscow launched several of them against the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
Russian forces are also using “regular” Iranian drones that can be rearmed. As far as targets go, the Russian military has used Iranian drones against both Ukrainian urban centers and the energy grid.
The Russian military, however, has been using long-range fires for psychological effects, too, targeting medical facilities, playgrounds, and shopping centers.
“Recently Russian commanders likely also wanted Iranian-sourced UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] to prioritise medical facilities as targets of opportunity, and strike them with guided munitions if identified. Russia likely conceived of the UAV campaign to make up for its severe shortage of cruise missiles, but the approach has had limited success. Most UAVs launched have been neutralised,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.
“Russia has likely very nearly exhausted its current stock, but will probably seek resupply. Russia can probably procure UAVs from overseas more rapidly than it can manufacture new cruise missiles domestically,” the British Military Intelligence added.
Russian Missile Stocks
Almost ten months into the war, the Russian military “has significantly depleted its arsenal of high-precision missiles,” according to the Institute for the Study of War. Still, it has the short-term capability to target and disrupt the Ukrainian critical infrastructure, especially the energy grid.
According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, the Russian military has approximately 119 Iskander ballistic missiles, 229 Kalibr cruise missiles, 150 Kh-155 cruise missiles, and 120 Kh-22/32 cruise missiles left, with percentages of the existing weapons ranging from 13 to 50 percent of their pre-war stocks.
The U.S. and Western sanctions have seriously restricted the ability of the Russian defense and aerospace industries to replenish the dwindling missile stocks of the Russian military. Reports indicate that Russian missiles, especially the hypersonic Kinzhal munition, pack a surprisingly large number of Western technology.
Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.