A Ukrainian A1-SM Furia drone with the designation 610 and serial number ACM13072 was shot down near Kreminnaya, Luhansk area, on January 31.
Old ways pass to the New Year
Text: Miro Barič
During the reported period, from January 1 to February 1, 2023, the offensive operations were expected by either side. The large-scale maneuvers however did not take place. The Russians stubbornly launched mass assaults against the well-fortified positions, with the poor results that could be expected.
The new year started with so far, the largest one-time loss on the Russian side The Russian command demonstrated the great negligence when hundreds of drafted soldiers were concentrated in the unprotected and unreinforced building of the former high school in Makiivka in Donetsk region. All this regardless the fact that for several months the building exactly like this have been targets of the highly efficient missiles fired from the HIMARS rocket launchers. On the top of it, there was an ammunition dump in the building basement and uncamouflaged vehicles parked around the building. There was no secret that the building housed hundreds of soldiers. The result was a disaster at an unheard-of scale, even by Russian standards. On the New Year the building was hit by rockets and the carnage was topped by the explosion of the stored ammunition. The former school completely collapsed which is confirmed by videos published on the Russian channels. According to the Ukrainian and Western estimates between 300 and 400 soldiers were killed. Even the Russian Department of Defense had to admit to the Makiivka attack. Otherwise, it covers up the Russian own losses. It was announced that 89 soldiers perished, the highest loss the Russians have admitted to so far. Such a Russian confirmation is unusual and indicates that the real losses were high in fact.
This Russian Ch-101 missile crashed after launch while still on its own territory near Ulan-Khola, 140 km from Astrakhan.
A drive for an offensive
Since the fall rains started practically everybody has waited for the weather change, for the ground to freeze, so as the larger scale operations could be resumed. The Ukrainians were on alert for the anticipated large Russian offensive. Unlike a year ago the massive attack did not materialize. The Russians have lost too many combat vehicles. Even though they are being replenished from the reserves the level of training of the drafted soldiers to operate this equipment is low and the whole logistics is in the shambles. Instead of the massive concentrations of its forces the Russian Army attempted the attacks executed by the smaller groups at the various sectors of the front, from the borders of the Kharkov region in the north to the Zaporozhe region in the south. After a half year long effort the Russians achieved a breakthrough at Bakhmut. In the beginning of January, they took advantage of the failed rotation of the Ukrainian troops and captured the little town of Soledar north of Bakhmut. After that the Ukrainians deployed the reinforcements and blocked the Russian advance. The pressure on the town continued from three different directions however and at this time Bakhmut was still holding on. The Russian attempts at capturing the city of Vuhledar further south of Bakhmut, failed spectacularly. The Russian troop were chaotically attacking across the huge, opened area, covered with land mines and under the covering fire of the Ukrainian defenders. The result were tens of combat vehicles destroyed and the whole units decimated.
The crash of a Ukrainian Ministry of the interior H225 helicopter caused a major fire in the town of Brovary on January 18.
Ukraine bought 21 H225 helicopters before the war. Photo: Airbus
The armored fighting vehicles and tanks
To stop these attacks and to prepare their own counter-offensive, the Ukrainians requested the modern armored equipment from their allies. The call was answered in January. First, in the beginning of the month. France committed to deliver AMX-10 RC wheeled combat vehicles armed with 105 mm cannon and after that Germany and the USA made their move. Germany will deliver 40 infantry combat vehicles Marder. The USA have delivered so far 109 proven M2 Bradley vehicles and others should follow. Besides these vehicles however the Ukrainians requested the third-generation main battle tanks. The call was answered in the end of the months when the Great Britain committed to deliver 14 Challenger 2 tanks and shortly afterwards the USA agreed to supply thirty Abrams tanks and several countries will deliver in total several tens of Leopard 3 German tanks. They will be delivered after the Ukrainian tank crews training is completed, currently under way in Britain, Germany and Poland.
Economics professor Oleh Fedirets Ph.D. became an anti-aircraft gunner near Bakhmut.
For quite some time the Ukrainians demanded from the USA the supplies of ATACMS missiles with 300 km range for their HIMARS rocket launchers. It seems that the compromise was reached in the form of GLSDB ammunition with 150 km range. There is a problem though, these brand-new missiles are not yet in the USA inventory and their deliveries will not be possible sooner than in couple of months. GLSDB stands for Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb. It was developed from GBU-39 SDB bomb which weighs 113 kilos. These small diameter bombs were designed in a way that an aircraft can carry several of them instead of one large bomb – and hit more targets during one mission. The bomb features the precise guiding system and extended range thanks to its gliding ability.
Boeing and Saab Group cooperated in the development of the ground version of this weapon. They attached the rocket engine to the bomb which will launch it to the altitude on the ballistic trajectory. At that point the rocket engine will be dropped, the bomb will extend its wings and continue its gliding path. Its range is as long as 150 km. The weapon features several advantages. Thanks to its semi-active laser sight it can hit the moving targets- within 100 km on the ground and as far as 130 km at sea. And thanks to its ability to maneuver and turn around in the air it can hit the targets behind the horizon, impossible for the traditional gunnery.
In case the Ukrainians receive these weapons, they will be able to fire them from the M142 HIMARS and M270 MLRS rocket launchers already in their arsenal. Currently, they only have rockets with 70 km range. Using the GLSDB ammunition, based on the current front lines, they will be able to hit the whole occupied region of Luhanks, Donetsk, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions and the upper third of Crimea. The Russians will be forced to relocate their bases, fuel, and ammunition dumps practically outside of the Ukrainian territory. Not even the moving trains and ships will be safe from these gliding bombs. At last, GLSDB is priced more favorably - it costs 40,000 USD as opposed to 1 million USD for an ATACMS rocket.
The machine gun in the nose appeared on several Ukrainian Mi-8s.
A moody night shot of a Mi-8 under preparations at a forward-field base.
A spectacular shot of an unguided missiles firing from a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter.
Sea Sparrow fired from the ground
Soon enough another AA defense system will reach Ukraine – and let’s admit, it is urgently needed due to the continued Russian missile attacks on the Ukrainian infrastructure. Following the systems such as Patriot, IRIS-T or NASAMS, part of those has been already delivered to Ukraine, in January the USA announced that one of their military aid packages will include Sea Sparrow rockets. This weapon, used for the ship’s AA defense, were modified for the ground deployment in Ukraine. RIM-7 missiles were developed in 1960s based on the air-to-air AIM-7 Sparrow rockets. While those were later replaced by AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, Sea Sparrow rockets development continued simultaneously. They are still used today resembling the original Sparrow only by the name.
Sea Sparrow rockets were modified to be used in the modern vertical launch systems. They weigh 230 kilos out of which the warhead represents 41 kilos. Its airspeed is 4250 kph and range 19 kilometers. Besides the aircraft, it can destroy the cruising missiles and certain types of rockets. They are radar guided. The Ukrainians will launch them from Buk systems modified for this purpose. The transfer of three reconnaissance NATO aircraft, known as AWACS, from Germany to Romania can be considered as an indirect form of support. It took place on January 1, and they are to remain near Ukrainian border for at least several weeks.
AWACS is the designation of one of the systems these aircraft carry on board. They are known to public under this name however the official designation is AEW&C which means Airborne Early Warning and Control. For this purpose, NATO uses Boeing E-3 Sentry aircraft operating from Geilenkirchen base in the Western Germany. USA and NATO reconnaissance aircraft were gathering the information even before the Russian attack on Ukraine. Since then, they have been flying outside of the Ukrainian airspace over Romania and the Black Sea. They are capable to find out when and how many rockets and cruising missiles the Russians fired. The operational space however is approximately 2,000 kilometers from the German base, distance the aircraft have to cover each way. After the transfer to the Romanian airbase in Otopeni near Burcharest, the flight to the Ukrainian-Romanian border is approximately 200 kilometers long. The time they can spend on their mission expanded significantly as well.
A Polish-made Krab self-propelled howitzer was saved from a Russian Lancet kamikaze drone by a metal mesh.
The wreckage of a Su-25SM with the fuselage number "Blue 15" and registration RF-95152, images of which were released on January 5.
Secretary of State perished
Most of the aircraft losses is linked to the intense fighting in Bakhmut area. The Ukrainians reported several helicopters (especially Ka-52) and aircraft (Su-25) shot down however their wrecks have not been visually confirmed. Only several losses of the drones could be verified. Su-25SM wreck carrying the bort number “blue 15” and registration RF-95152 was found in the Kherson area. The aircraft had been lost earlier but the images of its wreck were published only on January 5. Obviously, a Su-34, which wreck was shown in the video on January 25 had been lost quite some time before. The Ukrainian forces lost several drones as well. On January 6, the mercenaries from the so-called Wagner group published a video which shows how they, firing the portable rocket launchers, hit an airplane, probably a Ukrainian Su-25. The following day, on January 7, the satellite images were published showing the crashed Ukrainian Mig-29. When and under which circumstances the airplane was lost remains unknown. On January 18, in the morning, a tragedy took place in the town of Brovary east of Kiev where an Airbus H225 helicopter crashed. 14 people were killed including the Ukrainian Secretary of State, his deputy and the state commissioner.
Even before the conflict the Ukrainian Department of State bought 21 H225 helicopters (originally Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma). Deliveries started in 2018. They were used by the Governmental Rescue Service and the National Guard. The aircraft that crashed belonged to the rescue service and there were nine passengers on board – besides the crew members it was Secretary of State Denys Monastyrskyi, his first deputy Yevhenii Yenin, state commissioner Yuri Lubkovich and other department officials. The aircraft was enroute to Kharkiv. According to the eye witnesses the helicopter flew close to the ground but straight and there were no indications that it was having any problems. It flew three circles above the town of Brovary east of Kiev and then it suddenly started to descend, hit a kindergarten, and crashed next to the multi-family residential building. It was dark and foggy at the time of a crash which could have played a significant role in the tragedy. The kindergarten building was set on fire and had to be evacuated. Besides nine people in the helicopter five more people died on the ground, including a child. 30 people were injured out of which 12 were children.
Till the end of January four more Ukrainian airplane losses were confirmed. On January 22, the mercenaries from the so-called Wagner group shot down a Mi-8 helicopter near Bakhmut. Its three-member crew was killed. On January 27, Captain Danylo Murashko was killed near Kramatorsk during the combat flight. He flew Su-25 from 299 Brigade of Tactical Aviation. Another Mi-8 was shot down on January 30 near Novodarovka in Zaporozhiye region on a mission to supply the ammunition. Its three-member crew did not survive. On the last day of January, a Mi-2 helicopter crashed near Poltava it is far from the front line. Therefore, it can be considered a non-combat loss. Two-member crew – 47 years old pilot Vladyslav Stankevych and 46 years old commander Gennadii Butenko, perished in the crash.
Captain Danylo Murasko was killed on January 27 during a combat flight near Kramatorsk.
The crew of Captain Gennady Butenko and Lieutenant Vladyslav Stankevych did not survive the Mi-2 crash during a training flight on 31 January.