Russia’s supply and command and control hubs no longer safe from Ukrainian attack
Early days of the war, the most videos showed anti-tank missiles like NLAWS, Stugna-P, and Javelins taking out Russian armor and vehicles. Then there was the “vehicles stuck in mud” phase. Eventually, that gave way to supply convoy ambushes. Then artillery strikes, and more artillery strikes. A handful of “commercial drone drops grenade” videos sneak through, but mostly artillery. Lots of artillery strikes. Until … now.
We still have plenty of artillery videos. This is an artillery attrition war, with the skies over Ukraine swarming with drones documenting it all. New Western artillery systems, like the M777, French Caesar, and Dutch/German Panzerhaubitze 2000 are treated like celebrities on the red carpet at the Oscars. But over the past few weeks, we’re seeing more and more dramatic destruction of Russian ammunition depots.
June 25, Izyum, Kharkiv Oblast
This was reportedly the headquarters of Russia’s 20th Army, and Russian Telegram channels reported multiple officer casualties. In the video, we see three pontoon bridging vehicles, at least two infantry fighting vehicles, a Tigr armored jeep-style infantry vehicle, and multiple requisitioned civilian vehicles. Not a bad haul for a single strike.
The lack of burn marks and shrapnel damage to the vehicles definitely points to HIMARS rockets. In my day, the rockets carried cluster munitions, now banned by international treaty (though the U.S. and Russia are not signatories). Instead, these rockets carry 180,000 small non-explosive tungsten balls, which detonate above the target and scatter the shots like a massive 360-degree shotgun.
It works best against lightly armored vehicles and personnel. You can even see one of them here:
In this case, a soft target, a single rocket with 180,000 of those tungsten balls likely did as much damage as an entire pod of six high explosive rockets would’ve managed. There’s a different role for those. (Hard targets, like hardened defenses, economic infrastructure like refineries, etc.)
June 25, Svatove, Luhansk Oblast, 68 kms from front lines
We don’t know what hit this depot. GMLRS can fire accurately to 84 kilometers (beyond its official rated range), and can even reach further but not as accurately. This could also be Tochka-U ballistic missiles, Ukraine has been aggressively launching these past couple of weeks. The target above might’ve even been these guys:
It’s almost as if Ukrainian high command decided they didn’t need to husband these long-range resources anymore with HIMARS in theater, and could blast off their remaining supply. These have a range of 120 kilometers.
June 23, Kadiivka, Luhansk Oblast, 40 kilometers from front lines
More Tochka-U missile handiwork. That is a serious cook-off. Kadiivka is east of Popasna, and this was likely supplying that entire advance. Reports claim that Russia has had to reposition its command and logistical hubs further away from the front.
June 22, Kyselivka, Kherson Oblast, on the front lines
No need for long range munitions here. Kyselivka is right on the front lines, with conflicting reports over who controls it. The depot was likely struck as Ukrainian forces contested the settlement.
June 19, Voskresenka, Zaporizhia Oblast, 15 kilometers from the front
I confirmed distance, so yes, this would definitely be in range of M777 howitzers, which is 25 kilometers. For comparison, Russia’s D20 towed howitzer, also used by Ukraine, has a range of just 17 kilometers. (Other systems have further range, but this is the apple-to-apple comparison.)
June 17, Nova Kakhovka, Kherson Oblast, 52 kilometers from front
This is undoubtedly a Tochka-U missile. HIMARS hadn’t been activated when this attack took place. What’s exciting is that HIMARS will be able to hit targets like this regularly, instead of forcing Ukraine general staff to debate whether a target is worth the investment of a precious limited-supply Toschka-U. (Ukraine reportedly had 500 at the start of the war.)
June 16, Krasny Luch, Luhansk Oblast, 60 kilometers from the front
The on-the-ground footage of that attack is apocalyptic, here and here. Again, HIMARS will make targets like this one far more commonplace. Russia will have to move supply depots further behind front lines, exacerbating their logistical challenges. Remember, all of their recent Donbas gains have come in territory hugging their long-held proxy territory. Their push toward Bakhmut, away from their pre-war borders, has stalled.
June 16, Khrustalnyi, Luhansk, Oblast, 50 kilometers from the front
More Tochka-U handiwork.
It’s certainly curious—did Ukraine’s intelligence get that much better the last few weeks, suddenly adept at finding these supply depots, or is it truly a function of “HIMARS/MLRS are coming, we can now hit these targets with missiles we were saving for a rainy day.”
Whatever the reason, I love this new genre of war video. Russia already struggles to advance more than a few hundred meters per day. Their challenges will only multiply as Ukraine systematically wipes out their logistical and command and control centers.
One last note, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense put out a video of HIMARS’ first mission:
Kinda cool! The launch mechanism is the same as in the M270 from back in my day. The computer is far more advanced than whatever piece of crap 80’s era “computer” we had back then.
This is the second video we’ve seen of HIMARS launches and both of them were at night. Ukraine clearly values these too highly to risk having one spotted by Russian drones. So for now, it looks like they’ll do all their work at night. This will be fine when hitting supply depots, command and control centers, and static defenses. It’ll be less helpful when trying to hit Russian convoys on the move, which would be a fantastic use of these beasts. We’ll see if that changes down the road.