April 13, 2024

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A Russian attack on two Ukrainian patriots changes the course of the war

A Russian attack on two Ukrainian patriots changes the course of the war

A Russian operative's skill and luck in handling UAVs successfully peaked on Saturday or moments earlier when a Ukrainian convoy was detected near Pokrovsk in eastern Ukraine.

The convoy reportedly contained at least two quadruple missiles on trucks from a Patriot surface-to-air missile unit. At higher speeds than usual, the crew of a Russian Iskander missile with hypersonic capability and a surface-to-surface design locked on and eliminated a Ukrainian convoy from hundreds of kilometers away.

The explosion of the two Patriot launchers was immediate, probably killing their operators. This event marked a significant turning point for Russian forces for the first time in the two-year conflict between Russia and Ukraine that the Russians were able to locate and neutralize part of the Ukrainian Patriotic Front.

The first effective attack was against the Patriot battery

The unstoppable trajectory of the Patriot missile in Ukraine
Patriot Missile

In the latter period, Ukraine's patriotic units shot down nearly a dozen Russian fighters, undermining Russian air superiority as the conflict enters its third year.

It is plausible that the missiles and crews recently hit by Iskander, located 32 kilometers from the front, shot down several Russian aircraft. This would mean a reduction in air threats to Russia in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's anti-aircraft defense capability is undoubtedly at a critical point. Its air defenses, under the command of the Air Force, may be equipped with just three Patriot batteries, radars and four to eight missiles and four spare launchers.

Germany provided two batteries and two spare launchers, the United States with one battery and the Netherlands with two launchers. The loss in this single incident is up to 13% of Ukraine's Patriot launcher arsenal, or 7% considering each battery has eight missiles.

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A drastic reduction in Ukrainian air defenses

Traffic accident reveals Russian Iskander missile in actionTraffic accident reveals Russian Iskander missile in action

Paradoxically, Patriot missiles often intercept hypersonic Iskanders, although this only occurs when batteries are deployed and alert, not when they are moving. The reason why the Ukrainian Patriot crew did not have their own self-defense during the exchange is still unknown.

As Ukraine's air force focuses on defending cities and ground forces, its mobile units may be more vulnerable. It is noteworthy that cracks were also evident in the air defense of the Ukrainian ground forces.

This week, Russia announced another unprecedented achievement: the location and destruction of a Ukrainian military high-mobility artillery rocket system launcher, using a drone for detection and an Iskander missile for attack.

The loss of the patriarch complicates Ukrainian defense strategy

Is Ukraine taking the initiative in a war with Russia?Is Ukraine taking the initiative in a war with Russia?
File photo: Patriot-3 missile defense system.

While Ukraine's air defense systems are already facing significant challenges, the recent loss of two of its indigenous missiles to Russian forces and the removal of its experienced operators have significantly increased the operational burden on these systems.

Filling these important assets presents a considerable dilemma. As US company Raytheon is the sole producer of the Patriot system, in cooperation with a German partner in the production of Patriot missiles, it puts Ukraine and its allies in a delicate position to acquire replacements.

The request for replacement launchers to replace those recently destroyed by Russia enters a long wait that could stretch months or years and cost Kyiv millions of dollars it had not anticipated.

Ukraine relies on the benevolence of its allies to provide patriotic systems and missiles, usually through donations. Although Germany, the Netherlands, or any other European ally could provide additional support, the most direct and effective source would be the United States.

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However, U.S. aid to Ukraine has been hampered by factions of Congress since October with positions favorable to Russia, further complicating Ukraine's ability to replace lost patriot institutions.

This situation poses a major strategic challenge for Ukrainian air defense, facing difficulties not only on the battlefield, but also in the international logistical and political arena.