Reading, Watching 06.17
The Ol' Razzle Dazzle
This is a regular feature for paid subscribers wherein I write a little bit about what I’ve been reading and/or watching recently. Hope you enjoy!
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It’s still difficult to get a clear picture of what’s going on with the Ukrainian counter-offensive, but here are some things that I’ve found illuminating. First off, this is a map that appears fairly credible
This image covers the section of the front in Zaporizhzhia and southern Donetsk oblasts, where the main drive of the offensive appears to be happening. The yellow area indicate Ukrainian advances. As military analyst Michael Kofman explains on a recent War On The Rocks podcast, the Ukrainians have managed to advance on a broad but still fairly shallow front. Ukraine does not appear to have committed to concentrating their forces on a single axis of attack yet. Some of the challenges Ukraine is facing include extensive mining by the Russian defenders, discussed in this thread by a Ukrainian reserve officer.
Another difficulty for advancing Ukrainian armored and mechanized columns is Russian attack helicopters, as detailed on this article from The Warzone:
Multiple accounts — including from the media arm of the Russian Ministry of Defense itself — now document how Russian aviation is operating very close to the front lines, with attack helicopters presenting an especially serious threat to the Ukrainian counteroffensive in areas where armored advances are orchestrated. In particular, the Ka-52 Hokum has been repeatedly mentioned.
Seemingly, the lack of forward-deployed Ukrainian mobile SHORAD has left a ‘dead zone’ in which the Ka-52 can operate with a greater degree of safety than in the past. This appears to be at the outer reaches of their weapons engagement and sensor capability and possibly mainly at night. Generally, this is around nine miles or less. This is giving them enough standoff distance to be effective against armor in the open, but not fall into the SHORAD envelope, or exploit the lack of SHORAD presence. Operating at a very low level and masking themselves using the terrain where possible, as well as working at night, limits their vulnerability to SHORAD and especially shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, also known as man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).
In my last Reading, Watching post, I included a video from the U.S. army demonstrating the techniques and equipment needed for breaching fortified positions. One of those included a type of specialized munition that can be launched in order to clear a path in a minefield. Here is a video from a Ukrainian telegram channel of the apparent use of that system in combat—its effects can be seen around 0:43: