A Blog by Jonathan Low


Oct 22, 2023

The Reason Russian Forces Increasingly Have Nowhere To Hide

Ukraine has vastly expanded the range, accuracy and power of the weapons it can bring to bear on Russian troops, vehicles, armor and positions. 

Where a year ago Russia could safely store ammunition, command centers and troop concentrations 80 km behind the front, they must now move them more than 120km. And even there, as more Storm Shadow and ATACMs , no place in Ukraine is safe for the occupiers. JL 

RO 37 reports in Daily Kos:

Ukraine has a vastly expanded toolbox it can use to strike deep into Russian defensive positions. As Ukraine’s offensive rolls on, expect them to inflict maximum damage to the Russian military. Russia took a long time to finally move its supply depots further back to 120 kilometers from the front lines by April 2023, nine months after HIMARS first arrived in Ukraine, (but) still maintains significant supply depots closes to the front lines, as storage explosions in Tokmak, less than 30 kilometers from the front lines, have been reported in August, September, and October 2023. Ukraine has vastly expanded its arsenal of weapons capable of striking much deeper behind enemy lines.

At its root, war is very simple. To destroy the enemy, you need two things: knowing where to shoot, and being able to shoot at it.

When Russia began its all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, one of the few advantages that Ukraine enjoyed from the outset was in military intelligence—aka knowing where to shoot. There are two factors that stood out.

The first was the role of Western intelligence. Western intelligence proved its value through extremely accurate predictions of Russian invasion plans and intentions in the early days of the conflict. Western spy satellites provide Ukraine with high-resolution images of Russian positions multiple times per day, while Russian satellites reportedly only pass over Ukraine once every two weeks.

The second factor is very active partisan movement in occupied Ukrainian territories. Ukrainian partisans have conducted spectacular raids, successfully attacking airfields, bridges, and armored trains. But the quiet work of obtaining intel on what time Russian officers congregate at the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, or marking where ammunition is carried once offloaded from trains and relaying those coordinates to Ukrainian intelligence officers may be some of their safest yet most valuable activities.

However, knowing where to strike is only half the equation.

For much of 2022, Ukraine was sharply limited in its ability to strike behind Russian lines. Its longest-ranged weapons were the much-celebrated HIMARS and M270 MLRS rocket artillery systems, but Ukraine was limited to firing the GMRLS missile, which has a range of only 70 kilometers.

Even this capability vastly strengthened Ukrainian military ability, as it outranges most conventional artillery firing ordinary ammunition, which is limited to reaching 20 kilometers at most behind enemy lines.

Russia responded to this threat with characteristic inflexibility and slowness. 

Russian logistics were built around an assumption that Russia would establish a railhead close to its lines of advance and establish fixed, large-scale supply depots from which transpiration to individual units could commence. The number of trucks, lorries, and other logistical equipment assigned to Russian military units was calculated upon this basis.

When Ukraine gained the ability to strike at these depots located close to the front lines, the results were spectacular.

July 4, 2022 A RUSSIAN ammunition warehouse EXPLODED in a huge fireball after being
July 4, 2022 A RUSSIAN ammunition warehouse EXPLODED in a huge fireball after being 'hit by Ukrainian forces' defending Donetsk.  This footage shows how Ukrainian forces reportedly hit a Russian ammunition warehouse in the Donetsk region at night, causing a massive explosion.

But by and large, Russian military assets that were held 80 kilometers or more behind the front lines were safe in 2022. So Russia had, in theory, two obvious options: move their supply depots further back, or split the supply depots up into smaller, less obvious targets.

Russia took an extremely long time to make either adjustment, finally moving its central supply depots further back to 120 kilometers from the front lines by April 2023, almost nine months after HIMARS first arrived in Ukraine. Breaking the supply depots into smaller depots presumably proved too logistically complicated for Russian logistics officers, but obtaining sufficient numbers of trucks and transportation equipment to maintain supply depots 120 kilometers from the front lines presumably proved time-consuming and difficult.

Furthermore, Russia clearly still maintains some significant supply depots fairly close to the front lines, as ammunition storage explosions in Tokmak, less than 30 kilometers from the front lines, have been reported in August, September, and October 2023.

But Russia has clearly moved some of its vulnerabilities out of the range of HIMARS systems. 

Ukraine has the means to identify targets, but without the longer-ranged weapons obtained after 2022, it would lack the means to hit them.

Unfortunately for Russia, Ukraine has vastly expanded its arsenal of weapons capable of striking much deeper behind enemy lines.


The long requested ATACMS missile arrived in Ukraine with quite a flair. Ukraine used the missiles to strike airbases in Luhansk and Berdyansk, resulting in the destruction of as few as 15 or as many as 21 helicopters on Oct. 17, 2023.

Think tank Institute for the Study of War assessed that Russia would likely be forced to transfer its helicopters to air fields further to the rear. A Ukrainian intelligence officer that goes by Tatarigami_UA on X (formerly known as Twitter) assessed that Russia had already transferred all helicopters not immediately undergoing maintenance within a few days of Oct. 17.

These strikes illustrate precisely what ATACMS missiles bring to Ukraine’s long-range strike capabilities.

For example, to strike Berdyansk, the ATACMS missile had to traverse nearly 100 kilometers of Russian-controlled and heavily defended territory crawling with anti-air batteries.


This is possible due to the ballistic trajectory of the ATACMS. Unlike cruise missiles, which attempt to avoid radar detection by hugging the ground, a ballistic missile like ATACMS relies on speed and altitude to evade interception.

Upon being fired, the ATACMS ascends to a maximum altitude of around 50 kilometers (over 160,000 feet) before hurling down towards its target at a speed over Mach 3. The extremely high altitude en route precludes any chance of interception, so any enemy system would have to attempt to intercept the missile as it descends towards it target. But the sheer speed of the missile makes interception quite challenging.

Thus far, Ukraine is only known to have received the oldest version of the ATACMS, the M39. The M39 missile is extraordinarily effective against unarmored targets, but largely worthless against anything armored or housed in concrete. The M39 would also do minimal damage to infrastructure targets. If the U.S. were to also supply Ukraine with the M48 Unitary Warhead missile with a single, high-explosive 500-pound warhead, it would be ideal to strike infrastructure targets or fortified structures, but there has been no indication as of yet that the U.S. would do so.

These attributes make the M39 ATACMS an ideal weapon to take on Russian aircraft, helicopters, and anti-air missile batteries. The ballistic trajectory of the the missile allows the ATACMS to penetrate Russian air defenses and strike deep behind enemy lines, where air fields are located. These are high-value targets that are minimally armored, making them highly vulnerable to cluster munition attacks.

By forcing Russian helicopters in particular to use air fields that are further back, they will have less fuel to spend loitering near the front waiting for ideal targets, rendering them less effective as attack helicopters.


Ukraine has a supply of Storm Shadow and SCALP EG cruise missiles to use against fortified structures and to strike infrastructure. The two missiles are virtual copies of each other, due to a joint development program between the U.K. (Storm Shadow) and France (SCALP EG).

There are two key differences between the Storm Shadow and the ATACMS. First, the Storm Shadow’s BROACH warhead is designed to destroy armored or heavily fortified structures, also making it ideal for destroying infrastructure targets. It is not well suited to destroy numerous widely dispersed, lightly-armored targets.  

The Storm Shadow’s CEP, or strike radius, is under 5 meters, making it well suited to pinpoint small targets successfully.

For example, Storm Shadow missiles were used to strike the Chonhar Bridge that connects Zaporizhzhia to the Crimean Peninsula.

One drawback to the Storm Shadow compared to the ATACMS is its low-altitude trajectory. Once fired, the Storm Shadow quickly establishes a low cruising altitude at near-treetop heights. This helps it to avoid radar detection as it approaches its target, ideally leaving virtually no time for enemy air defenses to react by the time it detects the incoming missile.


However, unlike the ATACMS, the Storm Shadow can be both detected and intercepted en route. If Ukraine were to fire the Storm Shadow directly at Berdyansk, the Storm Shadow would undoubtedly be detected by the radars of numerous SAM batteries stationed between the front lines and its target.

Russian air defense batteries would have ample time to coordinate their defenses and intercept the missile before it reaches its final destination.

Although the Storm Shadow has a 300-kilometer range, it is not well suited to be fired over enemy-held territory with anti-air units. This limits the targets that can be selected, and “clearing a path” for the cruise missile strike by eliminating enemy radar units can be a necessary precondition for a successful strike.


In contrast to the ATACMS and Storm Shadow missiles that are provided by Ukraine’s allies, the R-360 Neptune cruise missile is domestically designed and produced by Ukraine.

Purported to have a 280-kilometer range and a powerful 150-kilogram warhead, the Neptune was designed as an anti-ship missile. The Neptune became famous early in the war when it sunk the Moskva, the flagship of the Russian navy’s Black Sea Fleet, in April 2022.

However, there had long been rumors that Ukraine was adapting the missile to strike land-based ground targets.

Based on reporting from Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov, Ukraine successfully struck a highly advanced Russian S-400 anti-air battery with an R-360 Neptune missile during its first operational use as a land-attack weapon.

Purported destruction of an S-400 missile battery in western Crimea by a Neptune missile.

The Neptune’s capabilities and limitations (low-altitude cruising, precision strike ability, large unitary warhead) are broadly similar to the Storm Shadow missile. 

However, one key difference is the fact that the Neptune missile is domestically manufactured.  Many Western weapons and munitions come with conditions that Ukraine not use them to strike targets in what is legally Russian territory. Targeting Russian equipment in Crimea or Donbas is acceptable, but striking Rostov-on-Don or Belgorod is not.

As a domestically produced missile, the Neptune comes with no such restrictions.


In early July, Ukraine deployed a new long-range weapon: the S-200 anti-air missile adapted for a land attack role.

The S-200s were 1960s-era archaic anti-air missiles that Ukraine stopped deploying with its units by 2013. However, the missiles themselves sport a powerful 500-pound warhead, and carry a massive amount of fuel in an 8-ton missile.

Simply by adding a basic GPS guidance system, the missiles could be adapted into a land-attack role.

Though S-200s could theoretically strike as far as 400 kilometers away, it has been noted that their destructive potential would be much greater when targeting locations 150 to 200 kilometers away, as the remaining fuel would add to their destructive effect. Indeed, Ukraine initially used the missile to target Bryansk, just 180 kilometers away.

As large, loud, hot, and high-flying missiles, S-200s are much easier to intercept than Storm Shadow or ATACMS missiles. While Russia has yet to credibly intercept any Storm Shadow or ATACMS, there have unsurprisingly been some credible reports of successful Russian interceptions of the S-200 missiles.

Nonetheless, the S-200’s availability is a major plus. Ukraine is believed to have hundreds of S-200 missiles in storage, and the country’s former Soviet Bloc allies are believed to have hundreds more.  S-200s can be used on their own as high-volume attempts to overwhelm Russian air defenses, or as part of coordinated attacks with other higher-value assets, aimed to confuse and overwhelm Russian air defenses.


Ukraine has increasingly displayed the ability to launch long-range drone strikes on targets hundreds of kilometers from the front lines, successfully striking targets in Moscow, Soltsy Air Base, and Crimea.

It is difficult to describe Ukraine’s equipment in detail, as Ukraine has employed a variety of drones and their full capabilities remain shrouded in mystery, to an extent. For example, Ukraine claims the UJ-22 drone has an operational range of 800 kilometers, launching attacks that destroyed several Russian transport planes 700 kilometers from the front lines.

The Ukrainian Bober or “Beaver” drone has a claimed range of 1,000 kilometers and has likewise been used to strike targets deep in Russian territory.

However, Ukraine also supplies partisan saboteur teams with suicide drones to be deployed deep behind enemy lines. So it is not always clear if a drone penetrated Russian air defenses to travel hundreds of kilometers behind enemy lines, or if they simply were deployed much closer to their target by a saboteur team.

Due to their small size, drones tends to less visible to Russian radar systems, making it difficult to engage with traditional Surface-to Air Missile batteries, known as SAM batteries. During an attack on Moscow, it was observed that a Beaver drone twice struck a building that was located 300 meters from a Pantsir SAM battery. The strikes on consecutive days on the same building demonstrated that Russian claims that the drones were jammed and out of control when they exploded were false. So it was particularly curious that the Pantsir battery failed to engage the target, suggesting a SAM battery could not detect a drone of that size.

Furthermore, most drones’ small heat signatures makes them difficult to engage with man-portable air-defense systems, known as MANPADS, leaving electronic jamming as the Russian forces’ primary countermeasure.

However, Russia may have a hard time dealing with Ukraine’s coming new weapon: the GLSDB, which will reportedly share many attributes with these suicide drone strikes.


Like the GMLRS rocket, GLSDBs can be fired from the HIMARS or M270 MLRS rocket artillery systems, but also have their own dedicated mobile launchers. It combines two existing and available systems: a warhead in the form of the ordinarily air-launched 250-pound GBU-39 glide bomb attached to a 227mm-caliber M26 rocket. 

The M26 acts as a rocket motor, launching the glide bomb to altitude and speed, then the GBU-39 glide bomb, as the name would imply, deploys winglets that allow the bomb to glide to its target.  The GBU-39 is highly maneuverable, accurate to within 3 meters, and can be set with a variable timed fuse, allowing it to punch through concrete to destroy armored or fortified targets, or to explode on contact for unarmored targets.

The glide bomb can strike 150 kilometers away or more.

The main disadvantage of the GLSDB is its slow speed. As a glide bomb, particularly when fired to reach maximum distances, it is likely to be much slower than a cruise missile, thus much easier to intercept.

However, the GLSDB has several major advantages. 

First, it is likely to be available in quantity. Both components of the GLSDB are available in large quantities and the production cost of the GLSDB is estimated to be only $40,000 per unit (compared to over $3 million for a Storm Shadow missile). GLSDBs could be fired in waves with a goal of overwhelming enemy air defenses. Even if fewer than one-half or one-third of the bombs make it through, fire enough bombs at a target and you are likely to achieve a strike on target.

Second, the GLSDB has qualities that make it difficult for anti-air systems to intercept. As a glide bomb, it essentially has no heat signature, so heat-seeking missiles (most common on MANPADS) are worthless at intercepting a GLSDB.

Furthermore, the bomb is quite small. It has a wingspan of less than 2 meters, making it even smaller than the Beaver drone. If Russian SAM batteries struggle to detect incoming Beaver drones, it’s even less likely they can detect a GLSDB.

Lastly, compared to Ukrainian drones, GLSDBs have far more sophisticated anti-jamming equipment. They are much more likely than most drones to be able to strike their targets without interference from Russian electronic warfare.

GLSDBs are capable of striking a wide variety of targets, but how Russian air defense fares against them remains an open question. The effectiveness of those air defenses (or lack thereof) would likely dictate how far behind the lines the Ukrainian batteries dare to attack.

Ukraine has a vastly expanded toolbox it can use to strike deep into Russian defensive positions. As Ukraine’s offensive rolls on into the fall and then winter, expect them to reach for the right tools to inflict maximum damage to the Russian military.


Parker said...

Abogado de Accidentes de Motocicleta Virginia
The article "The Reason Russian Forces Increasingly Have Nowhere To Hide" addresses a significant global issue, focusing on the challenges and vulnerabilities faced by Russian forces. The introduction is compelling and informative, drawing readers into the article. The article highlights the importance of historical background and examples of past military strategies in understanding warfare tactics. The effectiveness of modern surveillance and tracking technologies could be bolstered by providing statistics or data. The article could benefit from a section discussing the potential consequences of these challenges for Russian military operations. The writing style is clear and informative, making it accessible to a broad audience interested in global affairs. The article highlights advancements in surveillance and tracking technologies and their role in contemporary warfare. Including expert quotes or insights from military analysts can provide additional context and credibility. Addressing countermeasures adopted by Russian forces to mitigate these challenges would add depth to the discussion. The article maintains a neutral and analytical tone, ensuring an objective exploration of the subject. The article effectively informs readers about the evolving challenges for Russian forces and the impact of changing military technologies. Offering a section for readers to explore additional resources or reports would enrich the content. The article encourages readers to consider the broader implications of these challenges on international relations and security.

Anonymous said...

Thank you

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