Video Above: Pentagon Sends Critical MLRS Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to Ukraine
By Kris Osborn, President - Center for Military Modernization
(Washington, D.C.) The Russian military is increasingly unable to acquire the technology needed to replenish its stockpile of precision weaponry of crucial importance to their continued advances in Eastern Ukraine.
Russia Ukraine War
For months now, there has been reporting that Russia has been running low if not substantially depleted when it comes to its arsenal of precision weaponry. At the same time, the Russian military has also for months been willing to fire extremely dangerous unguided bombs somewhat indiscriminately into civilian areas, killing families, children and non-combatants.
Nevertheless, any kind of sustained offensive against Ukrainian defenses will certainly need precision weaponry to attack defensive positions, command and control locations and troop locations, among other things. Previously, they were reported to be running low due to the sheer amount of munitions, rockets and missiles they have been firing, yet now Pentagon leaders say the sanctions are increasingly impairing their ability to rebuild or replenish its stockpile of precision weapons. Many of these rely upon advanced technology such as GPS signals, Inertial Measurement Units and other kinds of guidance systems.
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“An important fact to consider is that in addition to the crippling sanctions that have been put on Russia, there are these export controls that limit certain critical technologies, especially components like microchips that are essential for Russia to recapitalize its PGMs and standoff munitions. So it's not just that their stockpiles have gone down appreciably because of how much that they've expended during the conflict,” Colin Kahl, Undersecretary of Defense Policy, told reporters in an Aug 8 briefing, according to a Pentagon transcript. “It's just going to be a lot harder for them to rebuild the high-end pieces of their military because of the international export controls that the United States has championed, so I think that's important.”
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This is likely welcome news for Ukrainian defenders, particularly because Russian shortages or problems related to its weapons
arsenal are likely to be a massive impediment to offensive combat operations. Without air superiority, which Pentagon experts say is still very much in question, the Russian military will lack the ability to attack Ukrainian defensive positions and fortifications from stand-off distances. With precision-guided rockets and missiles, the Russian military can pinpoint Ukrainian command and control, force positions and even armored vehicles, should they have the needed aerial surveillance and targeting data. An inability to attack these targets from 100-to-200 miles away means attacking Russian forces will need to strike from closer-in, much more vulnerable positions. Also, the Ukrainians have by design dispersed their formations and decentralized command and control, perhaps for the specific purpose of making it difficult for Russian satellites and surveillance assets to identify high-value targets.
These kinds of targets, whether they be small groups of armored vehicles or force formations, would be extremely difficult to hit without precision, and the Ukrainians are likely quite deliberate with efforts to disaggregate and minimize the amount of available, “findable,” or recognizable high-value targets. When it comes to less precise or so-called “dumb” munitions, Kahl was clear that the Pentagon and its allies may not fully know just how much they have in their arsenal.
“As it relates to other types of ammunition, my sense is they have a lot of kind of dumb artillery rounds and other munitions like that. I don't think we have any assessment to suggest they're reaching some inflection point where they're about to run out of that,” Kahl said.
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This kind of development lends further evidence to the idea that the US and its Western allies are increasingly becoming more hopeful or optimistic regarding Ukraine’s long-term prospects. As time goes by, the Russian ability to attack with success may decrease in increasingly significant ways. This may be one of many factors contributing to why the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine and of course the US continue to supply large amounts of weaponry, supplies and aid to Ukraine.
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 Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.