How Was Russia Able to Launch Its Biggest Aerial Attack on Ukraine?

On Tuesday, Russia fired 96 missiles into Ukraine, its largest airstrike of war so far. But that follows months of assertions by Western and Ukrainian officials that Moscow’s stockpiles of missiles and other weapons are rapidly dwindling.

Whether the attack on infrastructure targets was planned, as Ukrainian commanders said, or as a deadly response to last week’s recapture of the city of Kherson by Kyiv, the widespread attack has sparked fears over Russia. How much the arsenal might be depleted and whether Moscow will survive by finding alternative sources of weapons.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said last month Russia has burned through nearly 70 percent of its pre-war stockpile of missiles, mostly used in Tuesday’s attack: the Iskander, Kalibr and air-launched cruise missiles. At the time, Mr Reznikov said Russia had only 609 missiles left, though no number could be independently verified.

One intelligence report A statement from the UK Ministry of Defense on 16 October said that the massive attack on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure six days earlier had likely crippled Russia’s stockpile of long-range missiles, “which could limit their ability to strike the required number of targets in the future. .”

Since the spring, Pentagon officials have said that Moscow is running short of precision-guided missiles, depleting Moscow’s arsenal “at a fairly rapid pace,” as national security spokesman John F. Kirby said in May. supply.

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So how did Russia manage to launch what US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield described as possibly “the largest missile attack since the war began”?

Here are four possible scenarios.

At the Pentagon on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said Russia was trying to replenish its missile stockpile to meet battlefield needs, “so they’re reaching out to Iran, they’re reaching out to North Korea.”

“I do think there might be some capacity available to them from these countries,” Mr Austin said.

Swarms of Iranian-made drones attacked Ukraine—most notably the long-range Shahed series of drones, which can carry 88-pound warheads and crash into targets in kamikaze attacks — has become Russia’s newest weapon in the conflict.

Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 10 Shahed drones in Tuesday’s attack.

This month, a spokesman for Ukraine’s air force command said Iran was also expected to fire ballistic missiles at Russia. Spokesman Yurii Ihnat said it was unclear how many missiles Tehran might offer Moscow, but added that the weapons that could be sent would be “recently” made and have a range of about 300 to 700 kilometers .

The United States has accused North Korea of ​​secretly sending rockets and shells to Russia, although Mr Kirby said this month it was not clear whether the munitions had been delivered.

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Both North Korea and Iran have denied supplying Russia with arms since the war began.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin announced domestic efforts to increase production of equipment and systems “related to supporting special military operations in Ukraine.”

Defense intelligence firm Janes said Russia likely stockpiled microchips and other technology needed to make precision missiles before it invaded Ukraine in February — possibly by several months — given Moscow’s sour relations with the West after Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. started years ago.

The Janes analysis, provided to The New York Times on Thursday, noted that such microelectronic components are also used for civilian purposes and that Russia may obtain them through third parties, such as countries or private entities willing to risk U.S. penalties if caught.

According to the analysis, Russia may have started mass production of Iskander missiles, Caliber missiles and cruise missiles before the invasion.

“They are likely being produced as we speak, as the economy is in a state of near-war and many factories associated with the Russian military-industrial complex are working three shifts, even on weekends,” the Jane’s analysis said.

In a smaller follow-up attack on Thursday, Russia fired at least 10 S-300 anti-aircraft missiles at cities near the front line, according to the Ukrainian air force.

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The S-300 surface-to-air rocket, built in Russia and exported to Asia and Eastern Europe — including Iran and Syria, as well as Crimea — was originally designed in 1978 to defend against incoming air strikes. Newer generations of missiles can hit aircraft, drones and ballistic missiles.

But Russia’s growing reliance on the S-300 as a weapon against ground targets in Ukraine has sent a signal to military officials and experts that it is running out of cruise missiles or other more conventional offensive weapons.

Few Western officials have a clear picture of the state of Russia’s arsenal, or know exactly how many missiles are left in its stockpile, Mark said. F. Cancian, former Marine and White House arms strategist, is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

But, he said, Western militaries believe Russia has long kept stockpiles of missiles and other weapons in case it goes to war with NATO.

“They obviously have reservations about a nominal NATO attack,” Kansian said Thursday. “We think it’s absurd, but they think it’s a real possibility.”

“So they’ve kept some stock for that,” he said.

It was unclear whether Russia might rely on those reserves for Tuesday’s airstrike.


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