The Ukrainian military might be on the offensive on the ground, but Kyiv is attacking on the air as well.
Over the past few days, the Ukrainian forces have launched repeated drone attacks against targets within Russia.
As the months progress, Kyiv is increasingly willing to take the war into Russia.
Kamikaze Drone Attacks!
Starting on Tuesday night and ending in the early morning hours of Wednesday, the Ukrainian forces launched several one-way attack unmanned aerial systems – AKA what many call Kamikaze dones – against targets within Russia.
The Ukrainian drones attacked targets in Moscow, Bryansk, Ryazan, and the Pskov airbase near the border of NATO member Estonia.
“The attack on Pskov likely damaged several Russian military transport aircraft. During August 2023, Russia experienced 25 separate drone attacks, almost certainly carried out by OWA-UAVs,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in a recent estimate on the war.
This is the largest drone attack in Russia since the war started on February 24, 2022.
The Ukrainians have steadily increased their drone attacks in Russia as their counteroffensive is unfolding on the ground. A few days ago, a Ukrainian suicide drone attacked a Russian air base and destroyed a Tu-22M medium-range bomber.
The Ukrainians have been launching drones from their country as well as from within Russia, further complicating any defensive strategies on the part of Moscow.
Taking the War to Russia from Ukraine
“Many of these UAVs have reached their targets, which likely means that Russian air defense is having difficulty detecting and destroying them. Russia is likely rethinking its air defense posture in the area between Ukraine and Moscow to better deal with these attacks,” the British Military Intelligence added.
This isn’t the first time the Ukrainian forces have used unmanned aerial systems to attack targets deep within Russia. But although in previous circumstances, the Russian military just relocated or dispersed aircraft from the affected airbases, the recent attacks against several airfields make further dispersal of forces that much more challenging or even ineffectual.
“It is likely that Russia will have to consider the addition of further air defense systems to airfields that it considers to be at risk from UAV attacks,” the British Military Intelligence stated.
However, in the context of limited resources, that would mean degrading the defenses around other sites or even positions on the battlefield. More than 19 months of war are taking a toll on the Russian military and the Russian defense and aerospace industries. Western sanctions and battlefield attrition have made it hard for Moscow to replace modern weapon systems lost in the fighting. So, the Russian military has been forced to make more with less.
Through its limited drone attacks, Kyiv is starting to have some important effects on the battlefield. As the war progresses, the Ukrainian forces are most likely going to increase their drone and missile attacks within Russia. However, there is some risk in Kyiv’s drone attacks. If any munitions miss their target and inflict civilian casualties, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his advisers could use that as an excuse to escalate the conflict even more.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.
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