Video Above: How New Ukrainian Air Defenses Might Stop Russian Missile Bombardment
On nearly a daily basis, news reports air video showing massive devastation in Ukraine from Russian ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, rockets and artillery. Apart from the addition of some air strikes, these land weapons are terrorizing and destroying Ukrainian lives, murdering innocent children and decimating entire civilian neighborhoods.
The images of burned, bombed and destroy Ukrainian communities, apartment buildings and other civilian areas is wide spread, continuous and clearly deliberate.
Can Russia’s terror campaign with these ground fired-weapons be stopped? How?
The Pentagon is now finally sending 155mm M777 mobile Howitzers which may help this effort, however there are a variety of available proven interceptors, technologies and detection systems capable of tracking and in some cases even destroying these incoming missiles.
C-RAM Counter Rocket Artillery and Mortar Systems
Would the Ukrainians benefit from advanced ground-radar systems and integrated defense systems such as Counter Rocket Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM) systems?
C-RAM, in existence now for many years, uses a Phalanx “area” weapon able to fire hundreds of projectiles to blanket an area, effectively interceptor or taking out incoming mortar, artillery or even some rockets.
It is a close-in defense, however when networked with radar and fire control, C-RAM can offer a substantial defense against a range of enemy ground attacks. Why not give the Ukrainians C-RAM weapons to protect some of their crucial high-value target areas from incoming Russian ground attacks?
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Along similar lines, why not give the Ukrainians long-range, precision ground rockets such as the GPS-guided Multiple Launch Rocket System able to pinpoint enemy targets from ranges out to 80km? This, in tandem with some kinds of precision artillery could help perform the essential task of taking out Russian missile launch sites which could be located by aerial drones performing surveillance missions.
Interestingly enough, Ukrainian President Zelensky may be thinking in a similar fashion, as he specifically requested “MLRS” as part of what he needed in an interview with CNN.
MLRS, for Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, are the precursor to the precision-guided GMLRS which can mount on and fire from a truck. These weapons, if supported by effective fire control and surveillance, could it seems be extremely effective when it comes to tracking and destroying Russian launch locations.
However, many of Russia’s missile launchers are likely road-mobile and might need to be targeted with munitions able to change course in flight, or targeted from the air. The US is fast developing this technology, and already has it in certain areas, however it is not clear if Ukraine has or could acquire these kinds of maneuvering munitions.
Nevertheless, an ability to find and take out non-maneuvering or even temporarily “fixed” launchers could change the equation in terms of safeguarding Ukrainians from indiscriminate Russian rocket and missile attacks against civilian areas as part of a terror and murder campaign.
There is yet another weapons system which could be equally or more impactful, which has not as of yet been requested by Zelensky, and that is High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). HIMARS are truck fired rockets able to destroy fixed targets as far away as 300 miles, a range which would offer Ukrainians an as of yet unprecedented ability to reach and destroy Russian force concentrations, convoys and of course launch sites as well.
Finally, there is the question of the Patriot missile, a combat tested ballistic and cruise missile interceptors able to find and destroy incoming short and intermediate range ballistic missiles.
When asked about the potential deployment of the Patriot in Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US would not send it, given that it would require US personnel on the ground in Ukraine to operate, something the Pentagon has as of yet been unwilling to do. However, would the US train Ukrainians to use the Patriot? Are there European equivalents with a Patriot-like intercept capability which could be sent? What about Israel’s Iron Dome?
These are things worth considering. Russian forces are already struggling to advance on the ground against Ukrainian defenses, why not take out, stop or massively minimize their long-range rocket and missile fire as well? There might be ways to make this possible to more fully cripple Russia’s relentless shelling and campaign of terror.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.