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Video Above: Pentagon Sends Critical MLRS Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to Ukraine

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

The Pentagon says Russia is floundering due to ongoing Ukrainian advances, the impact of economic sanctions and an apparent Ukrainian military ability to target and destroy Russian command and control nodes.

“The Ukrainians have become very effective in finding and killing Russian command and control nodes and destroying swaths of Russian materiel,” a senior official told reporters, according to a Pentagon transcript.

Ukraine Russia War

This is by no means surprising, given that Urkainians now have the long sought after longer-range ground-fired rockets and missiles such as High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems which have arrived in recent months. Weeks ago after these weapons arrived,, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said they were having an immediate impact.

The reasons for this are clear. If there still is, as of yet, no air superiority, and traditional M777 artillery has a standard range of 30km, Ukrainian forces have simply had no way to counter the indiscriminate long-range Russian rocket and missile fire. Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilians, which have continued to kill children and others, can finally be countered to some extent. 

Ukrainians have for months had aerial surveillance from both their own drones and NATO, yet without air superiority they have had no way to target or attack missile launchers, fire bases, troop concentrations and command and control nodes on the Russian side of the border. Now, as has been requested by Ukraine since the earliest days of the conflict, Ukrainian forces have some ability to do this, a critical tactical development which clearly seems to be having an impact.

Range of ground fire attack introduces an extremely impactful tactical circumstance in what Pentagon officials have called a war of “fires.” For months, difficult to defend rockets with ranges of 200 to even 300 miles have been killing Ukrainian civilians, and many of them are unguided meaning the attacks represent a deliberate attempt to destroy non-military targets such as apartment complexes, neighborhoods and other civilian areas. Recently, Russian forces have targeted the port city of Odesa and even fired into Kyiv and other inland areas of Ukraine they were unable to annex.

Apparently, Ukrainian forces appear able to leverage the available surveillance data and destroy critical Russian targets from stand-off ranges, a development potentially able to blunt, slow down or even stop these Russian rocket attacks. An ability to “see” approaching Russian forces from longer distances certainly has not been enough for Ukrainian defenders, as now they can actually target them from longer stand-off ranges less vulnerable to incoming Russian artillery.

Specific ranges of the weapons Ukraine now operates may not be available for obvious security reasons, yet there are some clear minimum capabilities which are known. HIMARS rockets can fire several hundred miles, however it is not clear or known if they are being used in this capacity. They can definitely hit 70km or more, which is roughly equivalent to a similar precision guided rocket Ukrainians also have called Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS). These precision weapons, first introduced by the US Army as far back as 2007 or 2008, give ground commanders an entirely new target envelope by enabling precision-guided strikes against key targets. This opens up attack possibilities as the precision can be used to prevent additional damages or casualties by directing the weapon to pinpoint the exact military target.

Ukrainian army reservists took part in exercises in December as tensions with Russia mounted

Ukrainian army reservists took part in exercises in December as tensions with Russia mounted

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"Even as Russia is talking the big talk, even as Russia is menacing the Ukrainian population, the Ukrainians continue to bravely advance. They're making tremendous use of the $8.2 billion in equipment we've provided, thus far," the official said.

Alongside these often and well-reported military circumstances in Ukraine wherein defenders continue to have success slowing down or in some cases stopping Russian advances, there is another critical yet lesser reported element of this campaign .. economics.

Russian Economic Sanctions

Pentagon officials are now reporting that the widespread economic sanctions are now taking a sizable toll on Russia in a number of critical respects. Talking recently to reporters, a Senior Pentagon official detailed a number of specific and quite significant consequences of the sanctions.

“In terms of Russian domestic failures, export controls that have been imposed on Moscow by the United States, partners and allies around the world are just now starting to have an effect,” the senior official said.

For example, 1,000 multinational companies have now suspended operations in Russia, inflation in Russia is rising up to 20-percent, the Russian stock market has lost ⅓ of its value and large Russian state-owned companies have lost 70-to-90 percent of their market capitalization, the official said.

“This is just the beginning of the impact of these sanctions," the Senior Pentagon official said.

There are several substantial clear military implications for this, as lower available funding will unquestionably reduce Russia’s ability to replenish its ammunition stockpiles, provide supplies and weapons to its forces or quickly reconstruct damaged areas. In the event that the conflict continues longer term, something which is now considered quite likely, less funding will impair Russia’s ability to produce new larger platforms, fund research for weapons innovation and an actual ability to build or “produce” new weapons and platforms. Longer term, there is little question this may further imperil Russian military efforts.

US Secretary for Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks during a press statement prior to a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 16, 2022.

US Secretary for Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks during a press statement prior to a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 16, 2022.

By contrast, longer-term prospects for Ukrainian forces are quite different, as their continues to be a steady flow of incoming NATO and US funding, new weapons and ongoing training. Not long ago at a virtual Ukraine Defense Group involving as many as 50 countries, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and a large number of like-minded allied nations pledged long-term support for the Ukrainian effort. This means there will be a clear juxtaposition further emerging in coming weeks and months. Russia’s ability to mass, operate and supply forces is likely to diminish rapidly, whereas Ukraine’s ability to do the same will likely continue to increase substantially in a rapid fashion.

The Senior Pentagon official said even more supplies, funding and weapons are “on the way,” to ensure Kyiv and other endangered areas within Ukraine receive the requisite amount of ammunition and “materiel.” Would not be surprising if much of this took the form of radar systems to detect Russian missile launches and more HIMARS to attack launch points and Russian command and control.

“ Regarding military support to Kyiv, DOD is consulting closely with Ukraine’s ministry of defense to ensure materiel, including ammunition, that they need is forthcoming. DOD is putting together another security assistance package that will address those needs, the official said.

Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and 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 Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization