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kinzhal hypersonic missileCHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE – There are confirmed reports in the media that the Russians have begun to fire hypersonic missiles at selected targets in Ukraine.

Last night one of these weapons struck an underground ammunition depot in the western sector of the country.

These missiles can travel at speeds exceeding 10,000 kilometres per hour and there currently is no known defence against them.

They are too fast for existing anti-missile systems although it is likely a new generation of directed energy ordnance will eventually be able to intercept them.

At about US$100 million (K350 million) each, these immensely expensive weapons are usually reserved for very high value targets such as aircraft carriers or important military establishments.

A hypersonic schematicAt the moment, Russia is one of a handful of major powers with an inventory of hypersonic weapons, so their use represents a significant escalation of the Ukraine conflict.

This development is a logical, if desperate, response to Russia's inability to significantly diminish the fighting capacity of the Ukraine military.

And it is symptomatic of increasing anxiety in the Russian leadership that events are slipping further out of their control.

In an already grossly unequal 'David versus Goliath' struggle, the use of such a weapon has to be viewed more as a terror tactic than a major strategic development. It emulates the Nazi's use of V1 and V2 rockets towards the end of World War II.

I have no doubt that this new weapon will terrorise many Ukrainians but equally it is likely to harden the resolve of the military to strike back hard and often.

This was the response to the Nazi 'super weapons' after the V1 rockets (colloquially known as ‘doodlebugs’) began dropping on targets in and around London in mid-1944.

sledgehammerAnd so this hideous war goes on, with Putin willing to use the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in his arsenal in an effort to snuff out Ukrainian resistance.

While harm will no doubt be done, I am sceptical about whether the performance of the Ukraine military will be significantly degraded.

Using the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut is rarely a useful strategy, in warfare as in life generally.


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Chris Overland

Since I last wrote about the Russo-Ukraine War much has changed.

The supposedly undefeatable hypersonic missiles turn out to be very defeatable, much to the chagrin and consternation of Russia.

The Ukrainians have once again demonstrated the ability to harness Western technologies to achieve quite startling outcomes.

As well, the Ukrainians now have access to Storm Shadow cruise missiles and are using these to devastating effect to destroy Russia's ammunition dumps, radar installations, electronic warfare vehicles and command and control systems.

Russia achieved a Pyric victory at Bakhmut for the loss of 20,000 killed and perhaps three times that number wounded or captured. It has been a victory that Russia could ill afford, and which has achieved no strategic or operational advantage.

Ukraine now has at least nine new armoured brigades which have been fully mechanised using Western tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery systems.

Informed military opinion is that these brigades, if used wisely, can inflict severe damage upon the Russians although they probably are not capable of delivering a knock-out blow.

When the promised F-16 fighters become operational in a few months time, perhaps accompanied by 41 retired RAAF F-18 Hornets, the air war may turn decisively in Ukraine's favour.

Russia's already limited capacity to prosecute the war in the air will be further diminished.

On top of all this, and largely unnoticed by the public in the West, the economic sanctions inflicted upon Russia are now beginning to bite very hard indeed.

In particular, oil and gas revenues have collapsed by about 50% and industry is being starved of critical materials and components required to manufacture the weapons and equipment needed to fight the war.

Russia's central bank will essentially run out of cash by the end of the year as its reserves are being consumed at a very high rate, both to pay for the war and stave off the complete collapse of the Russian economy.

As the Ukrainian counter offensive looms, the Russians have resorted to desperate measures, notably blowing up a major dam to flood the Dnipro River delta, presumably to delay Ukrainian offensive moves in the area.

A side effect has been to seriously damage the water supply to Russian-occupied Crimea. This may turn out to be yet another 'own goal' by the Russians.

Meanwhile, a comparatively small force of Russians who have been fighting for Ukraine have been running amok in Russia itself, mainly around the city of Belgorod.

The Russians seem to be incapable to defeating this highly mobile but lightly armed force, which has been using hit and run tactics to confound and befuddle the Russian military units sent to destroy them.

While these activities are militarily insignificant, they are deeply embarrassing for the Russian regime and underline its vulnerabilities if and when a large Ukrainian force can smash through their defensive lines.

Of course, despite the Ukrainians remaining better led, better armed and better motivated, the Russian army is still a large force and defeating it in detail will be a costly and probably drawn-out business.

However, the writing is now on the wall for Russia: it cannot achieve its strategic objectives and seems increasingly likely to be incapable of resisting the pressure from a Ukrainian military machine that grows ever stronger by the day.

Quite how this can end I do not know. Putin cannot simply give up and the vengeful and angry Ukrainians will not compromise either.

Perhaps Putin will fall out of a fourth story window like so many other Russians have done in recent times?

Lindsay F Bond

More than a year on, sullen battles rage
entrenched warfare a sad century displays,
Europe's blight uncomprehended stage
offering mortality in the face of flooding waves.

Lindsay F Bond

It ain’t over till that crass fella shrinks from (whatever his motivation) of appalling politics and inhumane ethics.

Chris Overland

Thanks for your comment Stephen.

As I understand it from a variety of sources, the Ukrainians are literally bristling in sophisticated anti-tank and short range anti-aircraft missiles. This is one very important reason why they have succeeded in stalling the Russian offensive in most areas.

In addition, the USA is shipping them a number (thought to be around 100) 'suicide' drones, which are effective at killing tanks and artillery at ranges of up to 8 kilometres or so.

It is rumoured that some of the eastern European states that were part of the former Soviet Union, are covertly shipping them former Soviet era high altitude anti-aircraft missiles systems. These systems are familiar to Ukrainian soldiers whereas some of the west's modern systems would require fairly extensive training before they could be used, including Israel's Iron Dome system.

It has been made very clear to Russia that western weapons will continue to flow to Ukraine regardless of their wishes.

This has possibly been accompanied by not very veiled threats that Russian attempts to interdict NATO supply convoys will trigger retaliation from NATO, perhaps in the form of imposing some sort of no-fly zone over the southern borders of Ukraine.

Thus far at least the Russians have not attacked NATO convoys or aircraft presumably because they could not cope with any escalation in the war, at least using conventional weaponry.

Putin is in a very bad situation now: he cannot win this war and cannot afford to lose it either. Hence the resort to what the Germans called 'Wunderwaffe' (Super Weapons) like the hypersonic missiles.

This will not save him any more than it did Hitler because, as you have rightly observed, there is no strategic advantage in them. The only thing super about them is there cost really.

Stephen Charteris

And like the V1 and V2 it is hard to imagine that this weapon armed with a conventional warhead provides a strategic advantage in this conflict. A destroyed building is just that, whether the payload is launched via an artillery battery or hypersonic missile.

It certainly does begin to look like Hitler in his final hours in a bunker pondering turning a lost cause around through the arrival of some wonder weapon. Which or course the Americans were on the verge of testing.

I hope the Ukrainian defenders have the support they need to make street fighting and vehicle movement in a rapidly thawing countryside unsustainably costly in equipment and men for the Russians. If enough bodybags are returned to Russian mothers with the flower of this generations youth, it may just precipitate another Ceaucescu moment for the monster in the Kremlin. He deserves nothing less.

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