A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Aug 29, 2022

Russia May Have Only 20 Percent Of Its Ballistic Missiles Left

Profligate Russian usage against Ukrainian civilian targets, effective Ukrainian targeting of Russian supply depots and Russia's inability to build replacements due to sanctions on electronic components and steel are the primary reasons for the growing shortage. JL 

Stetson Payne and Tyler Rogoway report in The Drive:

Russia faces a “difficult situation” with its 3M14 Kalibr land-attack cruise missiles (LACM), and at most 20% of its 9K720 Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) remain. Russia has made the Kalibr a fixture of its war against Ukraine, with its range allowing strikes deep in Ukrainian-controlled territory. Some of the war’s first images were Kalibrs skimming over the Ukrainian countryside before slamming into targets on February 24. A sign of Russia's ground attack missile inventory predicament has been the increasing use of missiles that are not primarily designed for ground attack.

More confirmation that Russia is running low on missiles after six months of strikes has emerged, with two of its preferred weapons systems said to be facing major shortages.

Ukrainian intelligence reports Russia has at most 45% of its missiles remaining. Vadym Skibitskyi with the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Intelligence Directory claimed Russia faces a “difficult situation” with its 3M14 Kalibr land-attack cruise missiles (LACM), and at most 20% of its 9K720 Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) remain.

 

Russia has made the Kalibr a fixture of its war against Ukraine, with its range allowing strikes deep in Ukrainian-controlled territory. Some of the war’s first images were Kalibrs skimming over the Ukrainian countryside before slamming into targets as the sun rose on February 24. Similarly, nighttime Iskander-M launches targeting Kharkiv from Belgorod became equally notorious.

The shortage may be growing dire, if the latest news from Syria is any indication. Russia withdrew the battery of S-300 surface-to-air missiles (SAM) that it famously 'gifted' to Syria (although Russia has maintained control over it), with observers tracking their eventual delivery to Novorossiysk in the Black Sea. You can read more about the transfer and its implications in both regions in our story about it here.

Another sign of Russia's ground attack missile inventory predicament has been the increasing use of missiles that are not primarily designed for ground attack. While designed and optimized for use against aircraft, Russia has put the S-300 to work in a land-attack role during the summer’s fighting. This, as well as the use of both new and Cold War-era anti-ship missiles against ground targets, indicates an effort to conserve the more accurate and modern land-attack missiles. 

Quickly building more land attack missiles will be problematic for Russia as sanctions have limited the country's ability to produce higher-tech weapons and it turns out that many of them are packed with western electronics. Russia going to Iran for large amounts of drones is also indicative of its predicament.The big issue is that Russian airpower has been largely ineffective beyond the front lines and has not come close to achieving air superiority over Ukraine. The standoff land attack missiles were the only way Russia could reach into western Ukraine to strike key targets. Without them, Russia will not have the capability to hit those targets without putting its airpower at major risk. Even suicide drones from Iran do not pack the punch of an Iskander or Kalbr, they are also not as survivable, in some instances.

Russia has many other national security interests outside of Ukraine to keep in mind, as well. Running down missile stocks to depletion invites major risk potentially for years to come.

Time will tell just how short Moscow really is on missiles, and maybe the only real indicator will be the now-routine air raid sirens in Ukraine going quiet for longer periods of time.

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