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Video Above: Helicopter-Fired Navy Laser Weapon Helps Attack & Destroy Sea Mines

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

The danger in Ukraine introduces the prospect of some kind of large-scale land war, should NATO and the US intervene to defend Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion.

Bordering Eastern European NATO countries, Ukraine could easily be accessed by heavy land forces moving into position along the Russian border, and the US and NATO already operate impactful numbers of F-35s on the European continent. There is already a credible and substantial US and NATO force within striking distance of Ukraine.

Black Sea

However, what about the Black Sea? There could easily be an extremely significant, yet easily overlooked or unrecognized Naval dimension to any engagement with Russian in Ukraine. 

Ukraine borders the Black Sea, an area where the US Navy is known to operate frequently. At very least, heavy and precise firepower such as submarine and ship-launched Tomahawks could bring enormous destruction to Russian forces along the Ukrainian border. This is particularly true now, because the new Tactical Tomahawk is able to track and destroy moving targets, a scenario which could make advancing Russian forces vulnerable to an attack from the Sea. 

This seems extremely significant, given that Tomahawks can travel as far as 900 miles to a target. Areas deep within Ukraine and Russia would therefore be vulnerable to cruise missile attack from the ocean.

Tomahawk Block IV Cruise Missile

A Raytheon Missiles & Defense-built Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile is launched from the USS Stethem (DDG-63).

What about aircraft carrier support? This could be critical, particularly if there were not yet a large enough number of F-35s in Europe able to respond. Clearly European F-35s could have a huge impact, and the US Air Force has its own F-35s forward stationed in Europe to support a growing number of F-35-armed NATO and allied countries. 

What if these forces were supported by carrier-launched US F-35Cs or even amphib-launched F-35Bs? Such a scenario, projecting airpower over Ukraine from the ocean to fortify a land war against Russia, could be a decisive or even deciding factor in warfare.

A large mass of Russian ground troops might easily be vulnerable to a substantial carrier-launched air campaign, provided air superiority could be achieved. Russia is known to operate 5th-generation Su-57 stealth jets, yet do they exist in sufficient numbers to have a real impact? Could they truly rival or match the range, precision and lethality of an F-35?

Finally, while seemingly quite unlikely to an extent, why wouldn’t an amphibious assault on Russian forces in Ukraine from the Black Sea be a significant option? The US Navy likely operates with maritime superiority over the Russians, and a Marine Corps amphibious landing could bring a two-front conflict for occupying Russian forces to contend with. 

Should a beachhead of some kind be established, it could also offer a corridor of access for additional armed assets such as amphibious assault vehicles and other platforms. Should Russia have to defend NATO forces approaching from Eastern Europe and also fight off US Navy attacks from the sea, they might have trouble holding any gains they might win in an initial invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s Intentions

Just what exactly are Russia’s intentions with its recent build up of forces and increase in training and war preparations along its border with Ukraine?

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is not quite sure. Of course Austin expressed great concern about the threat posed to Ukraine, and told reporters he speaks regularly European Commander Gen. Wolters.

Tod Wolters

GENERAL TOD D. WOLTERS

“We are not sure exactly what Mr. Putin is up to. But these movements certainly have our attention. And I would urge Russia to be more transparent about what they are up to and take steps to live up to the Minsk agreements,” Austin said.

Austin did, however, make it clear that the US stands by Ukraine.

“Our support for Ukraine sovereignty territorial integrity remains unwavering,” Austin said.

NATO

Should Russia actually invade or seek to take over Ukraine, what would “unwavering” support for Ukraine look like? There are several interesting things to consider with this. Unlike the Pacific, where vast ocean areas might make it seemingly impossible to deploy troops and heavy armor into any kind of major land engagement, the US and NATO could in fact transit through Eastern Europe to Russia’s border with Ukraine. 

There is an established railway infrastructure in Eastern Europe from the old Soviet days, and the US and NATO could certainly position a sizable number of heavily armored vehicles, artillery and troops in Ukraine should that be necessary. A key question is, would the US do that in advance of any kind of attack as a deterrent? 

That might make sense, because Russia would likely have little trouble invading or occupying Ukraine and if their forces were established on the ground there prior to any US or NATO arrival, removing them might prove quite difficult given the sheer size and footprint of the Russian Army.

It does not seem as if it would be too difficult for NATO forces to mass along the Ukrainian-Russian border, as member nations Poland and Romania both border Ukraine. Perhaps if a sizable and lethal contingent of US and NATO forces began training in Ukraine along the Russian border, Russia might pause to prevent a larger-scale great power war.

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At very least, training and preparations for a potential engagement are likely to be increasing. Concerns about Russia likely informed a recent joint US-Ukrainian combat-training exercise in Germany wherein the two forces practiced maneuverability and coordination in land war operations. 

An Army report on the training exercises said “Combined Resolve included approximately 4,600 soldiers from Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States.”

The danger in Ukraine introduces the prospect of some kind of large-scale land war, should NATO and the US intervene to defend Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion.

Bordering Eastern European NATO countries, Ukraine could easily be accessed by heavy land forces moving into position along the Russian border, and the US and NATO already operate impactful numbers of F-35s on the European continent. There is already a credible and substantial US and NATO force within striking distance of Ukraine.

However, what about the Black Sea? There could easily be an extremely significant, yet easily overlooked or unrecognized Naval dimension to any engagement with Russian in Ukraine. Ukraine borders the Black Sea, an area where the US Navy is known to operate frequently. 

At very least, heavy and precise firepower such as submarine and ship-launched Tomahawks could bring enormous destruction to Russian forces along the Ukrainian border. 

This is particularly true now, because the new Tactical Tomahawk is able to track and destroy moving targets, a scenario which could make advancing Russian forces vulnerable to an attack from the Sea. This seems extremely significant, given that Tomahawks can travel as far as 900 miles to a target. Areas deep within Ukraine and Russia would therefore be vulnerable to cruise missile attack from the ocean.

What about aircraft carrier support? This could be critical, particularly if there were not yet a large enough number of F-35s in Europe able to respond. Clearly European F-35s could have a huge impact, and the US Air Force has its own F-35s forward stationed in Europe to support a growing number of F-35-armed NATO and allied countries. What if these forces were supported by carrier-launched US F-35Cs or even amphib-launched F-35Bs? Such a scenario, projecting airpower over Ukraine from the ocean to fortify a land war against Russia, could be a decisive or even deciding factor in warfare.

A large mass of Russian ground troops might easily be vulnerable to a substantial carrier-launched air campaign, provided air superiority could be achieved. Russia is known to operate 5th-generation Su-57 stealth jets, yet do they exist in sufficient numbers to have a real impact? Could they truly rival or match the range, precision and lethality of an F-35?

Finally, while seemingly quite unlikely to an extent, why wouldn’t an amphibious assault on Russian forces in Ukraine from the Black Sea be a significant option? The US Navy likely operates with maritime superiority over the Russians, and a Marine Corps amphibious landing could bring a two-front conflict for occupying Russian forces to contend with. 

Should a beachhead of some kind be established, it could also offer a corridor of access for additional armed assets such as amphibious assault vehicles and other platforms. Should Russia have to defend NATO forces approaching from Eastern Europe and also fight off US Navy attacks from the sea, they might have trouble holding any gains they might win in an initial invasion of Ukraine.

Just what exactly are Russia’s intentions with its recent build up of forces and increase in training and war preparations along its border with Ukraine?

Lloyd Austin Ukraine

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Ukrainian Defence Minister Andriy Taran walk past honor guards during a welcoming ceremony before their meeting in Kiev on October 19, 2021.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is not quite sure. Of course Austin expressed great concern about the threat posed to Ukraine, and told reporters he speaks regularly European Commander Gen. Walters.

“We are not sure exactly what Mr. Putin is up to. But these movements certainly have our attention. And I would urge Russia to be more transparent about what they are up to and take steps to live up to the Minsk agreements,” Austin said.

Austin did, however, make it clear that the US stands by Ukraine.

“Our support for Ukraine sovereignty territorial integrity remains unwavering,” Austin said.

Should Russia actually invade or seek to take over Ukraine, what would “unwavering” support for Ukraine look like? There are several interesting things to consider with this. Unlike the Pacific, where vast ocean areas might make it seemingly impossible to deploy troops and heavy armor into any kind of major land engagement, the US and NATO could in fact transit through Eastern Europe to Russia’s border with Ukraine. 

There is an established railway infrastructure in Eastern Europe from the old Soviet days, and the US and NATO could certainly position a sizable number of heavily armored vehicles, artillery and troops in Ukraine should that be necessary. 

A key question is, would the US do that in advance of any kind of attack as a deterrent? That might make sense, because Russia would likely have little trouble invading or occupying Ukraine and if their forces were established on the ground there prior to any US or NATO arrival, removing them might prove quite difficult given the sheer size and footprint of the Russian Army.

It does not seem as if it would be too difficult for NATO forces to mass along the Ukrainian-Russian border, as member nations Poland and Romania both border Ukraine. Perhaps if a sizable and lethal contingent of US and NATO forces began training in Ukraine along the Russian border, Russia might pause to prevent a larger-scale great power war.

At very least, training and preparations for a potential engagement are likely to be increasing. Concerns about Russia likely informed a recent joint US-Ukrainian combat-training exercise in Germany wherein the two forces practiced maneuverability and coordination in land war operations. An Army report on the training exercises said “Combined Resolve included approximately 4,600 soldiers from Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States.”

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