Home Civilian based defense There is a country that keeps Putin’s desperate bombing campaign alive

There is a country that keeps Putin’s desperate bombing campaign alive

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Photo illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

Vladimir Putin has run out of missiles and is looking to Iran for solutions. As Monday’s attack on Kyiv with drones supplied by Iran shows, Russia’s stockpiles of advanced systems are running out. Tehran provided hundreds of drones over the summer, but reports of The Washington Post says the new shipments will include ballistic missiles with a range of between 200 and 450 miles.

It’s no mystery why Russia is short of missiles: Last week, Russia launched a massive salvo of missiles and drones against civilians across Ukraine. Some estimates say Putin spent as much as $700 million on the strikes, which hit everything from city parks to energy infrastructure, even as Russia’s production of missiles and other weapons is struggling under sanctions Western.

Like drones, Iran has invested in its missile program for decades in the face of heavy sanctions. According to the US Defense Intelligence Agency‘s 2019 report on the Iranian military, Iran “possesses the largest missile force in the Middle East, with a substantial inventory of short-range ballistic missiles (CRBMs), ballistic missiles short-range (SRBM) and medium – range ballistic missiles (MRBM) that can strike targets… up to 2,000 kilometers from Iran’s borders.

Iranian missiles will bolster Russia’s options, but help is also on the way to Ukraine. Last Tuesday, the Biden administration announced it would be rushing deliveries of advanced air defense systems to Ukraine. France, Germany and the United Kingdom have also promised anti-aircraft systems.

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The United States and others have sent Ukraine many types of air defenses, but for now President Biden is prioritizing the delivery of the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, known primarily as the NASAMS name. Unlike shoulder-mounted missiles like the stinger or older Soviet-era missiles, the NASAMS system is advanced enough for important missions like defending the White House and the Pentagon. The NASAMS will certainly help defend Ukrainian airspace against Russian planes and missiles, but simply sending a few more NASAMS will not be enough to prevent attacks on civilian centers across the country from happening again.

There are two challenges in defending Ukraine against missile and drone attacks. On the one hand, Ukraine will have to cover the extent of its front line as well as its civilian population if it wants to intercept every Russian missile or drone. Russia’s potential avenues of attack, including the border with Belarus and the southern coast, span hundreds of kilometres. Defending the entire area would require a large number of systems like the NASAMS to reasonably catch whatever Russia puts in the sky.

The other problem is that Russian attacks tend to use more than one missile or drone at a time, which means that Ukraine not only needs enough air defenses to cover a large area, but also enough of defenses in one place to shoot down a preponderance of missiles or drones before they reach their targets. To make matters worse, Ukraine currently suffers from a shortage of air defense systems and will continue to do so even after the arrival of NASAMS.

Ukrainian forces are faced with a difficult choice: scatter air defenses to partially protect everyone or concentrate air defenses to fully defend the front line and urban areas such as Kyiv. Given Putin’s willingness to attack civilian targets outside major cities, it would be difficult for Ukraine to anticipate where Russia will target next with enough time to move its defenses.

Russian drones supplied by Iran are an added complication. News that Russia was buying Iranian drones leaked over the summer, and since then Russia has launched attacks on military and civilian targets. The specific model of drone used in the attacks, the Shahed-136, poses a challenge because it is extraordinarily long range and much cheaper than a missile, with estimates as low as $20,000 to $30,000 per unit. The drones are one-way attacks and can therefore only be used once, but the Ukrainian government has since claimed that Iran has sent more than 2,000 of them to the Russian military. Although 2,000 is an exaggeration, a few hundred such drones and the prospect of future deliveries make them a serious threat to Ukraine in the short term.

Iranian drones are not as dangerous as a missile on an individual basis, but they can be launched in large numbers and degrade Ukraine’s air defenses over time. A system like NASAMS is perfectly capable of shooting down a missile or two, but shooting down groups of cheap drones several times a month could start to deplete their limited missile stocks and make it harder to focus on fighting Russian missiles. and larger and more efficient Iranians. . Although Iranian drones have not been used before against countries that specifically use NASAMS, countries like Saudi Arabia often face shortages of anti-aircraft missiles defending their airspace against Iranian-made drones.

Other air defenses better suited to destroying drones are unevenly on the way. France announced that it would send Crotale air defense systems, but did not specify when or how many. The United States announced several months ago that they would send systems like the VAMPIRE. However, these are not expected to arrive for several months and as the VAMPIRE is a new system, it is not clear that they can be transported to Ukraine as quickly as systems like NASAMS.

Iran’s support for Putin will certainly help hit Ukraine, but there is a limit to what Iran can provide. Like Western aid to Ukraine, Iran may be unwilling to empty its warehouses at a time of acute global tension. Tehran has large stockpiles of missiles and drones, but these are essential to Iran’s deterrent posture and its efforts to provide proxies and partners in the region. Once aid to Russia begins to threaten Iran’s most immediate priorities, we may well see deliveries to Russia slow down or consist of older platforms.

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