The Ukrainian soldiers in trenches near Bachmut, 2022. Source: ZSU

The British soldiers in the battle of Passchendaele, 1917. Source: National Library of Scotland

Bogged in the mud

Text: Miro Barič 

During the period of November 1 through December 1 the most important event was finding out how long the eternity takes. It is 42 days. This was exactly the time which elapsed since the Russian president Putin proclaimed that Kherson will be Russian forever until the moment the city was liberated by the Ukrainian troops. Otherwise, there were no ground movements in Ukraine due to the poor weather. The massive shelling of the cities by the Russian missiles continues as well as strengthening of the Ukrainian air defenses.


Kherson was captured by Russian right at the beginning of the invasion. Besides Donbas it was the only regional center and large city the Russians managed to capture. It is located on the Dnieper right bank and its importance was as a launching point for the further advance on Mykolaiv and Odessa. Since the further advance was stopped and due to the Ukrainian counterattack in the end of August, Kherson became a logistics nightmare.

With the unstoppable regularity, the Ukrainians shelled and destroyed the bridges across the river Dnieper, weapons dumps and command centers. Simultaneously they exercise the permanent pressure on the Russian front lines. And despite the Russian occupation administration organized the mock referendum after which the Kherson area, together with other three ones, was “forever” annexed to the Russian Federation, it was clear to the Army command that holding the positions on the Dnieper right bank will only lead to further losses. So, on November 11, an anniversary of the armistice that ended WWI, they retreated from Kherson to the left bank and destroyed all the bridges behind them.

The legendary Chornobayivka was liberated on the way to Kherson. The Ukrainians had launched the large number of the rocket and artillery attacks on its airbase destroying a large quantity of the Russian helicopters and ground equipment. Gradually the airport was turned to a one huge graveyard. The Ukrainians recaptured two of their own helicopters (Mi-8 and Mi-24P) which had been captured by Russians at the beginning of the invasion in non-airworthy condition and painted their Z markings on them. Now the aircraft returned to the hands of their original owners.


Much like during WWI

In November the larger operations at different front sections were limited by rainy weather and mud. The worst conditions were around Bachmut in Donetsk area where the Russians have been pushing for several months. The images from there started to resemble the battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) during WWI-trenches filled with water, shot up trees and ever-present mud. While the activity at the front (except Kherson) practically stopped it continued to be “hot” in the air. The Russians continued with their attacks against the Ukrainian energy infrastructure. They used rockets, cruise missile launched from the ships and airplanes as well as the kamikaze drones. For example, on November 23 ten strategic bombers tu-95 took part in the attack and from the safety of the Russian airspace far from the front launched more than 70 cruise missiles. More than 50 were shot down by the Ukrainian AA defense. Those who penetrated however caused a massive damage. In the course of October and November the Russians have launched altogether seven attack waves and hit around 40% of the Ukrainian energy infrastructure. After each of these attack wave millions of people remained without electricity, heating and running water.

During the last three November weeks, no Iranian unmanned vehicle Shahed-136 appeared which prompted great speculations about these kamikaze drones. In the end it turned out that the Russians had only exhausted the first batch and awaited further delivery. For more than two months Iran vehemently denied any drones deliveries to Russia. It was an obvious lie though. Ultimately on Saturday November 11 Iranian Secretary of State admitted the drones deliveries with the caveat they had been done a longer time before the outbreak of the war and the quantity was small. According to the Ukrainians it is another lie since the large-scale deployment of the Iranian drones in Ukraine was confirmed by many photographs, wrecks of the shot down aircraft even captured, almost intact crashed UALs.

Shot up trees near Bachmut, 2022. Source: ZSU

The Australian soldiers in shop up forest near Passchendaele, 1917. Source: Australian War Memorial collection

Blood-stained selfie

Since we mentioned the Iranian drones let’s recall an incident briefly mentioned in the previous part. Details about the case which occurred on Saturday October 12 near the city of Vinnytsya when the Ukrainian AF lost a Mig-29 surfaced only recently. The fighter was hit by a debris from Shahed-136 drone just shot down and the pilot had to eject. A month later the photograph of the pilot with blood on his face was published and a little later his whole story. At that time there was another wave of the Russian rockets and drones headed towards the Ukrainian cities. The defenders dispatched Mig-29 fighters against them. One of them was flown by Major Vadym Vorochylov from 204th Brigade of the Tactical Aviation. His call sign was Karaya. Those of you who are familiar with the name Erich Hartmann do not need further explanation on the call sign. Voroshylov had chosen it in 2014. The Ukrainian citizens however gave him the nickname Ghost of Vinnytsya. Contrary to Ghost of Kiev this is a real person.

He treated his airplane as a living thing. Talked to it and touched it so as it worked as best as possible. His favorite was the aircraft with bort number 10 which he flew on about 20 combat missions and always could rely on it. On that fateful day Voroshylov woke up at 4 am due to the air scramble. The pilot from his unit destroyed two Shahed in the south of Ukraine of the first mission. Voroshylov flew the next mission. He shot down three Iranian drones and returned to the base without any problems.

At dusk however another wave of raids came in. Major Voroshylov took off from the frontline airfield in the south of Ukraine and headed towards Vinnytsya area. He started to scan for targets and first he destroyed a drone. Then he launched a missile against another one. The drones generate rather weak thermal trace therefore they had been attacked at relatively short distance. So, when Voroshylov hit his fifth drone on that day its debris hit his Mig-29 fighter as well. “It broke my windshield and destroyed the aircraft nose” said the pilot later. “I was not seriously wounded but the blood from my facial cuts got into my eyes and impaired my situational awareness. My first though was that I did not want to eject. I saw the lights of some village in front of me. I checked my controls, and the rudder did not work. I could only control the pitch. Making turns was very limited. I turned left and saw a dark spot. I said to myself that it was probably a field and there is nothing on it. At that moment the flames erupted on the right side of the cockpit and when the fire reached me I promptly ejected, exactly according to the manual”, as the pilot recalled the dramatic moments. While he was still on the parachute, he pulled out a mobile phone to check his wounds. Thus, the selfie with his blood-stained face was taken. At the same time, he wanted to let the ground control know that he was okay. It took him approximately two minutes to land. For his conduct president Volodymyr Zelenskyi awarded him with the highest award, Hero of Ukraine.

This pilot shot down 5 drones in a day. He should also be credited with two cruise missiles. Source: ZSU

Vadym Voroshylov in the Mig-29 cockpit. Source: ZSU

Major Vadym Voroshylov took selfie of his bloodied face while he was still on the parachute. Source: ZSU

Blue-yellow markings

Also, the fighter flown by Voroshylow had the long history. It had been manufactured in the summer of 1990 and delivered to the 161st Fighter Squadron of the Soviet AF at Limanske airbase near Odessa. The aircraft sported the standard camouflage of light gray and green-gray colors and carried the bort number “blue 31”. After the breakup of the Soviet Union it remained in Ukraine and sometime in 2001-2002 it was assigned to the 204th Brigade of the Tactical Aviation in Belbek, Crimea. The bort number was changed to “blue 10”. During 2007-2008 this Mig-29 was grounded since his airframe has reached the prescribed maximum flight hours. In 2014, after the Crimea was occupied by the Russians together with the other non-airworthy aircraft it was dismantled and transported by trucks to a new airbase of the 204th Brigade of the Tactical Aviation at Kulbakine near Mykolayiv. During 2015-2017 it flew again but when its unit was transferred to Luck airbase “blue 10” ended up in the group of other grounded airplanes at Ivano-Frankivsk airbase. This group of the non-airworthy airplanes became the target of the rocket attack in the very beginning of the Russian aggression launched on February 24. “Blue 10” was parked a little further and escaped without damage. The plane remained there until April at least and then, with the help of the allies who supplied the spare parts, was repaired and in June returned to service. At that time it was painted in the blue-yellow livery reminding of the former Ukrainian aerobatic group Falcons. It was returned to its original unit where it flew sporting this new marking until its last flight.

Wreck of the Voroshylov’s Mig-29 fighter carrying blue 10 bort number. Source: ZSU

Mig-29 in blue-yellow livery was returned to service in June 2022. Source: ZSU

Ukrainian Su-24 with a distinct blue-yellow markings on the fuselage bottom including the drop tanks. Source: ZSU

Strengthening of the Air Defense

The continued attacks against Ukraine carried another side effect-they sped up the supplies of the Western AA systems to Ukraine. In October Germany delivered the first of four promised IRIS-T systems which was immediately deployed in the defense of the Ukrainian cities. In November the batch of various AA systems arrived from several countries. USA for example delivered the first two out of eight promised NASAMS batteries. In the end of 1990s this system was developed by the Norwegian company Kongsberg in the cooperation with the American company Raytheon. AIM-129 AMRAAM missile is used in this system. Initially it was air-air rocket, and it is its first application in NASAMS system as ground-air missile. Its range is 50 kilometers. NASAMS can also use AIM-9X sidewinder or IRIS-T rockets. In that case the range is 25 kilometers. According to the reports from the Ukrainian battlefield the weapon is very efficient. During the one of the Russian attacks in the middle of November NASAMS fired 10 rockets and destroyed 10 targets. Britain and Netherlands promised to supply additional AMRAAM missiles for these systems. Britain promised in total 1000 AA rockets of various types.

On November 7 the Ukrainian Secretary of Defense, Oleksyi Reznikov, announced also acceptance of the Aspide system alongside the first NASAMS battery. These are originally Italian rockets developed in 1970s. Their range is 25 kilometers. In fact they were supplied by Spain who also, in the middle of October, finished the training of the Ukrainian soldiers to operate these rockets. Crotale is another older but still efficient system. It was developed in France in the 1960s but was continuously modernized. Its latest version is dated in 2008. It is the short-range system – 16 km range and 9 km altitude. It is capable of hitting the UALs, cruise missiles and certain types of rockets. In November France delivered two Crotale batteries.

In November the picture was published confirming the delivery of the Polish systems Neva SC. Two Ukrainian soldiers were photographed in front of one of them. The Polish modernized the originally Soviet rockets S-125 Neva (SA-3 Goa NATO code name). Many analog components were replaced by digital ones resulting in the rockets‘ higher accuracy and reliability. The mobility was increased by mounting them on the WZT-1 tank chassis, a T-55 towing version. The picture was apparently taken in the summer and the details about Neva SC supplies remain unknown. In the past the Ukrainians retired their S-125 Neva rockets but then they modernized them to S-125-2D Pechora standard featuring 40 kilomenters range and in 2020 they re-introduced them to the service.

Polish system Neva SC mounted on the WZT-1 tank chassis. Source: ZSU


More was awaited

In December the delivery of another older western system was anticipated. MIM-23 Hawk battery was supposed to arrive from Spain. These rockets were introduced to the service in the USA in 1960s however they were gradually modernized. Spain delivered Phase III version which appeared in 1980s and 1990s. Around 20 countries still use these rockets including Greece, Romania, Egypt, Israel and Japan. In the USA this system was retired in 2002 but Americans will send additional rockets to Ukraine to arm six launchers delivered by Spain.

In December additional four AN/TWQ-1 Avenger systems were supposed to arrive from the USA developed on the chassis of the widely used Humvee utility vehicle carrying eight launching devices for Stinger rockets. Their range is 5 kilometers and ceiling 3.8 kilometers. The are primarily designated for defense against cruise missiles, drones, helicopters and low altitude flying aircraft. These four systems allocated to Ukraine will serve against Iranian drones and cruise missiles.

Not only rocket systems but also artillery ones proved efficient against the drones. The German AA tanks take advantage of their highly accurate, radar controlled 35 mm cannons. A video was published showing a Gepard destroying a cruise missile with a short burst of fire. Besides already delivered 30 tanks Germany committed to supply another seven. Britain committed to deliver 125 AA cannons. Originally from Yugoslavia the 20 mm caliber M55 Zastava cannons showed up in Ukraine. The Ukrainians upgraded them by installing the night vision devices. The origin of these weapons is unknown, they could have been delivered from Croatia, Slovenia or Northern Macedonia.

20 mm caliber cannon Zastava of Yugoslav origin which the Ukrainians upgraded by night vision gunsight. Source: ZSU

Brimstone 2 in ground-to-ground version

Ukraine not only received weapons for the AA defense. In the end of November, the Great Britain supplied the improved Brimstone 2 rockets. These were initially developed for the air-to-ground role to be launched from Tornadoes and Eurofighter Typhoon. Its first version has been in the production since 1999. After it is fired by the aircraft Brimstone 1 range is more than 20 kilometers. Brimstone 2 version was introduced into service in 2015. Its range is more than 60 kilometers and features the larger 6.2 kilos warhead efficient against the modern tanks. The missile flies to the target area on an autopilot and once there it chooses its target by its own radar and laser guided system and attacks. It can destroy the moving targets as well. In April Ukraine received Brimstone 1 rockets which however are not fired from the aircraft. Simple launching device was modified and mounted on the trucks or pickups. On May 17, first two Russian tanks were reported destroyed by these rockets. The ground launching device however means the shorter range due to the lack of the initial altitude and speed which it would have had when fired from the aircraft. According to the published video the Brimstone 2 missiles were transported by a C-17 from 99th Transport Squadron RAF from Brize Norton airbase. They were offloaded at a non-specified location and a C-17 returned immediately. The Ukrainian will launch Brimstome 2 rockets from the ground as well i.e., sacrificing the range with higher accuracy though in comparison to the earlier version.

The Ukrainians use simple ground launchers for their Brimstone rockets.

The photograph was probably taken during the training. Source: ZSU

Ukrainian Sea Kings

On November 23 the British Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace announced that he was sending three Sea King helicopters to the Ukraine. At the time of the announcement the first one already reached its destination. From the beginning the British informed that these aircraft are in SAR version (Search and Rescue). It did not stop various speculations about possible anti-submarine or early warning versions. Even though it is a non-combat, older version the impact is large. Sea King is the very first western-made type Ukraine aquired since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022. The most important information is that already six weeks before the announcement ten Ukrainian crews and ground personnel had been undergoing the training on this type in Britain. It shows that the western countries keep the information secret until the deal is completed. If the West decides to donate to Ukraine other (for example combat ready) helicopter or airplanes, or the modern aviation ammunition we will learn about it only after the Ukrainian aviators training will be finished and the aircraft deployed at the frontline.

This Mi-8 originally belonged to 11th Brigade of the Army AF and in February, during the retreat, it was abandonded at Cornobayivka airport. In November the Ukrainians recovered it. Initially it should have been “red 89” in the command version. Source: Twitter / mil­_in_ua – W M Blood

Mi-17 helicopter originally procured by the USA for Afghanistan. Now it is located in the snow-covered Ukraine sporting the desert camouflage. Source: ZSU

This Mi-17 was donated to Ukraine by Slovakia in June. Its first image appeared only now. Source: ZSU

This Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopted was captured by Russians in Chornobayivka as well in non-airworthy condition and now it was returned back to its original owners. Source: Twitter / mil­_in_ua – W M Blood

Czech drones from Luxembourg

Our Czech readers will be interested to learn about the Luxembourg military aid to Ukraine. This tiny country (population of 650,000) donated 28 Humvee utility vehicles, 20 12.7 mm caliber machine guns, 50 satellite communication terminals and 470 night vision goggles. Luxembourg also acquired for Ukraine 400 122 mm caliber rockets for the Grad launchers. The most important delivery however was six Primoco One 150 reconnaissance drones manufactured by a Czech company. These aircraft are 3.65 m long, have 4.85 m wingspan, their range is 200 km and endurance up to 15 hours. Their airspeed is 150 kph, maximum weight 150 kilos and their standard equipment is the movable camera but according to the customer’s specifications they can be equipped with other sensors.


Small losses

Despite several reports by both sides about the shot down aircraft during this reporting period only one loss of a piloted vehicle was confirmed. It could be also related to the combat operations slowed down by muddy terrain. That confirmed loss was an Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter from 456th Transportation Brigade which was on November 11 hit by a portable missile during its mission in Donetsk area. The entire crew, Col. Serhyi Khomik, Maj. Viktor Penkovyi and MSgt. Vitalyi Golda. He acted as a hero when he retrieved Col. Khomik from the burning wreck. Sadly he could not be helped and Golda suffered the injuries to which is succumbed on November 16. In addition to this confirmed loss during November 1 through December 1, another wrecks of two Ukrainian helicopters were found (Mi-24P and Mi-8MTS) which had crashed during the earlier, non-specified period. On the Russian side a Ka-52 wreck, until now not registered as destroyed, was found near Kherson. Su-34 “red 22” registered as RF-95005 was found near Kupyansk. Most likely it is an aircraft shot down in this area on September 24.

Wreck of the Su-34 marked “red 22” and carrying the registration RF-095005 found near Kupyansk. Source: ZSU


Tragedy in Poland

On Tuesday November 15 in the afternoon a tragic event took place. A rocket landed on the Polish territory and killed two people in Przewodow, Lublin County, barely 10 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. The rocket explosion created a large crater and knocked over a tractor with trailer. The investigation confirmed it was a rocket from the S-300 system belonging to the Ukrainian AA defense. It had been launched during a Russian attack against the missile headed towards the Ukrainian power station. The rocket however missed the target and the self-destructing system for such situation failed as well. It only exploded after hitting the ground and two Polish civilians lost their lives.

The tragic results of the Ukrainian S-300 missile impact in Polish Przewodow. Two people lost their lives. Source: Twitter