A Blog by Jonathan Low


Feb 4, 2023

New US Long Range Ammo Puts All Russia's Ukraine Positions In Artillery Range

Himars forced the Russians to move their supplies and troops concentrations further away from the front line. 

So the US is now supplying more powerful munitions that put virtually every Russian position in occupied Ukraine within targeting range, offsetting Russia's manpower advantage. JL 

Ian Lovett and Daniel Michaels report in the Wall Street Journal:

U.S. officials will give Ukraine new Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs, precision-guided, 250-pound explosives strapped to rockets, even more potent than Himars and can be fired from a Himars. The armament, which has never been deployed, has a range of  94 miles, or twice the range of Himars shells. GLSDBs would put much of Russia’s operations within Ukraine's range. The longer-range bombs could help counteract Russia’s manpower advantage. If Ukraine can hit Russian forces far behind the front lines, it undermines Moscow’s ability to arm, support and house those troops.

Ukraine last summer stunned Russian troops with precision strikes from U.S.-supplied Himars mobile rocket launchers. Now an even more potent rocket system holds the potential to re-energize Kyiv’s troops.

U.S. officials are expected Friday to say they will give Ukraine new Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs, precision-guided, 250-pound explosives that are strapped to rockets and can be fired from a Himars or another launcher. The armament, which has never been deployed and is only at the start of production, has a range of roughly 94 miles, or around twice the range of current Himars shells.

It isn’t clear when Ukraine will receive the GLSDBs, or how many it will get, but when they arrive they could have a significant impact on fighting, analysts say.

“It doubles how far you can keep your own people safe and put the other side in danger,” said Dan Wasserbly, a military expert at defense-analysis group Janes in Washington.


Himars in late summer caused enormous damage to Russian forces because their satellite-guided precision let Kyiv pick off Moscow’s ammunition depots, command centers and barracks near front lines. Russia’s military eventually reacted by moving those operations out of their range. GLSDBs would put much of Russia’s operations within Ukraine back in Kyiv’s targeting range.

One place Ukraine is likely to use the new bombs is the south, where Russian forces have recently been staging attacks. While brutal fighting is raging around the city of Bakhmut in the eastern Donbas area, the south may be more strategic for both sides because there Russia controls a strip of land from its own border on Ukraine’s eastern tip stretching to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukraine wants to sever that land bridge and cut off Russian forces in Crimea. One widely discussed option for a Ukrainian offensive would be a push south through the Russian-controlled band, from Zaporizhzhia, located about midway along the land bridge, to the Sea of Azov.

“Zaporizhzhia is one of the most important fronts,” said Col. Yevhen Yerin, head of the joint press center for Ukraine’s forces in the region. “It’s the key to the land bridge to Crimea and to the entire south.”

He declined to comment directly on whether Ukraine was planning an offensive in the region: “We’ll see what the possibilities are. We’re analyzing the current situation.”

Russia has been striking Ukrainian cities slightly to the north, particularly Orikhiv and Vuhledar. Pushing back Kyiv’s forces in those areas would complicate any future offensive.

“I don’t think the Russians are planning an offensive” from around Zaporizhzhia, said Jeffrey Edmonds, a specialist in national security and Russia and a senior analyst at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank. “I think they’re worried about a Ukrainian offensive.”

Dmitry Gorenburg, an expert on security issues in the former Soviet Union at defense-research organization CNA in Arlington, Va., described Russia’s tactics around Vuhledar as “reconnaissance by force—probing and testing.”

GLSDBs could be a powerful tool in hindering Moscow’s assaults because Ukrainian forces could target almost any Russian facility in the land bridge from a safe distance.

One special-operations soldier from Ukrainian military intelligence who recently fought in Bakhmut said the longer-range bombs could help counteract Russia’s manpower advantage.


“It will mean they can’t accumulate so many people close to the front line,” he said. “We can put them in danger over a much larger area.”

He said that Ukrainian troops can handle Russian attacks in numbers comparable to their own, but Moscow’s forces are greater in number and their assaults have come from numerous small squads.

“When there are so many of them in these small groups, it’s impossible,” he said.

If Ukraine can once again hit Russian forces far behind the front lines, it could undermine Moscow’s ability to arm, support and house those troops.

“If you’re within enemy artillery range, you’re in a bad spot,” said Mr. Wasserbly at Janes.

Two weeks ago, Russians hammered Orikhiv and other cities along the front line with artillery for four days, harder than they had in 10 months, according to residents and military officials in the area.

“We call it fire intelligence. They looked for weak places in our defense,” said the commander of Ukraine’s 1st company of the 113th battalion, Italianets, whose call sign means Italian. “They found a few blind spots.”

The shelling prompts Ukrainian soldiers to take shelter in their trenches before Russian forces begin a ground assault.

On Jan. 20, Russian troops moved in on foot and in armed personnel carriers, coming in waves of smaller groups than they had used for assaults in the past and attacking from multiple sides. They took several Ukrainian positions.

“We spent six hours kicking them out from there,” Italianets said. “We had to use all our resources—to bring long-distance, 120 mm mortars, drones, lots of stuff. We could have lost those positions. Thank God we got them back, with a minimum of losses.”

“In the end, neither side moved, but it was a big attempt.”

Italianets said that along the front near Orikhiv, Ukrainians are outnumbered.

“The Russians have enough resources to make the same kind of offensive they’ve made in Donbas,” referring to the area around Bakhmut where Moscow has expended vast quantities of artillery and countless troops for little strategic gain.

“It’s impossible to count them,” he said of the Russians. “Lots of them. More of them than of us.”

Until Ukraine can hit back, Russian forces are fortifying defenses and working to grind down Kyiv’s resources, analysts say.

“Russia is making it very clear they’re not going away. They are hoping to outlast the West,” said Seth Jones, director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Russia is saying Ukraine’s not going to win this one.”


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