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Russian Attacks on Civilians are a Deliberate Tactical Shift

Russia has the ability to fire targeted precision weapons while reducing collateral damage, yet there appears to be a Russian choice to disregard the advantages of precision targeting

Deliberate Russian attacks on civilians including the bombing of villages and cruise missile strikes against apartment buildings represent a specific tactical shift put in place by the attacking Russian forces, perhaps due to their apparent inability to conduct successful coordinated, high-speed ground attacks.

Russian Attacks on Civilians

This shift, which is driving a fast-civilian death toll, including large numbers of children, appears to be arriving to what former Army Generals describe as ineffective Combined Arms Maneuver, given the extent to which their land assault appears to have been stalled, injured and compromised by logistical challenges and successful Ukrainian ambush tactics.

Clearly Russia has the technological ability to fire carefully targeted precision weapons, intended to achieve a specific tactical and military impact while reducing collateral damage, yet there appears to be a specific Russian choice to disregard the advantages of precision targeting and instead directly attempt to kill the Ukrainian population. 

As of several days ago, the United Nations reported that at least 13 children had been killed, a number that is likely to have increased exponentially in recent days.

Russian forces unleashed a vicious artillery attack on the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on Monday, hitting residential neighborhoods with rockets and sending streams of people fleeing a day after Ukrainian forces pushed them back beyond the city limits.

Russian forces unleashed a vicious artillery attack on the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on Monday, hitting residential neighborhoods with rockets and sending streams of people fleeing a day after Ukrainian forces pushed them back beyond the city limits.

“If your approach now is attrition and terror to get civilians on the road, you don't need precision munitions if you are just lobbing rockets and artillery into cities,” Gen. Ben Hodges (Ret,), former Commander, US Army Europe, told Warrior in an interview.

Explaining the visible targeting of civilian populations in terms of deliberate tactical shift, Hodges explained their may be limits to how long the Russians can sustain these kinds of attacks.

What I wonder is how many more of these missiles do they have. Those are expensive. We know on our own side we do not have enough ammo for extended sustained land operations. I am talking about big precision rockets. I think they are going to be running low pretty soon,” Hodges said.

Is there a possibility that motivated Ukrainian forces, who are succeeding with ambushes and apparently well executed anti-armor attacks, could keep the invading Russian force at bay long enough to ultimately prevail in keeping them from the city? That certainly appears to be the hope of the large international community now condemning the Russian attacks.

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Precision-guided land weapons, such at the GPS guided Excalibur artillery rounds, have been operational in war since 2007 when first used by US Army forces in Iraq. Excalibur, for example, can destroy an enemy target within one-meter of precision accuracy from distances as far as 30 kilometers, a development which enabled ground commanders to destroy enemies while greatly reducing civilian casualties and collateral damage. 

Of course precision land fire, preceded for many years by GPS-guided air dropped bombs such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions, offers Commanders key tactical targeting advantages such as an ability to pinpoint specific high-value targets at stand-off ranges. 

View YouTube Video Above: Russian Attacks on Civilians in Russia-Ukraine War

Alongside this strategic advantage, Army weapons developers also chose precision weaponry for attacks as part of a specific effort to limit or totally avoid killing civilians. Precision saves lives. 

Alongside artillery ,there is now a large US Army arsenal of precision-guided land weapons, to include Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, a GPS and inertial measurement unit guided rocket able to precisely eliminate targets at distances out to 70 kilometers.

Russia is certain to possess its own arsenal of precision-guided land attack munitions and appears to be specifically abandoning the advantages of this technology to kill civilians as part of their invasion effort. There may, as Hodges pointed out, be a limit to Russia’s rocket arsenal, and precision munitions are much more expensive than unguided rounds.

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.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization