Ukraine is outsmarting Russia with HIMARS decoys made of wood

Source: Hot Air

You’ve no doubt heard about the impact that US HIMARS have been having on Russian ammunition depots and other military sites of significance. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System has been a game changer, allowing Ukraine to strike sites deep behind Russian lines with precision, forcing Russia to move its supplies and reinforcements further from the front lines.

And Russia has clearly noticed what is happening. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered his troops to focus on eliminating the US rocket systems last month. How this usually works is that Russian drones spot the systems and relay their coordinates to Russia’s fleet in the Black Sea which launches expensive cruise missiles to destroy them. According to Russia, these efforts have been an unqualified success. In fact, they claim to have destroyed more US HIMARS than the US has sent to Ukraine. How is that possible? Because a lot of the HIMARS Russia is targeting are decoys.

The Ukrainian decoys are made out of wood but can be indistinguishable from an artillery battery through the lens of Russian drones, which transmit their locations to naval cruise missile carriers in the Black Sea.

“When the UAVs see the battery, it’s like a VIP target,” said a senior Ukrainian official, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles encountering long-range artillery replicas…

The destruction of Ukrainian replicas may partially account for Russia’s unusually boastful battle damage assessments on Western artillery, particularly the U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS.

“They’ve claimed to have hit more HIMARS than we have even sent,” one U.S. diplomat observed.

Only 16 HIMARS systems have been sent to Ukraine so far and Russia has been announcing it has destroyed them on a weekly basis. US officials have said all of the systems were accounted for, making it sound like none of them have been destroyed. The Post says it can’t confirm that but clearly Russia has been hitting a lot of decoys. And that’s a problem for Russia because the decoys are cheap and Russian cruise missiles are not.

U.S. defense officials say Russia’s stockpile of precision-guided missiles has been running low, and U.S. export controls on microchips are making it “a lot harder” for Russia to replenish those munitions, Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, said earlier this month.

“A Kalibr missile launched at a fake HIMARS target in a field is a missile that can’t be used against a Ukrainian city,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Congratulations to Ukraine for outsmarting their invaders. Politico published a story yesterday about the status of the Russian Black Sea fleet. The bottom line is that since the sinking of the Moskva, it has been reduced to playing a supporting role in the conflict.

Not only is the cruiser Moskva sitting at the bottom of the Black Sea, but days of Ukrainian drone and missile strikes on the Russian-occupied Snake Island in May and June damaged or destroyed several smaller landing and transport ships the Russians had docked on the strategic island 22 miles off Ukraine’s southwest coast. The strikes also took out several modern air defense and radar systems, essentially ending Russia’s dominance of the sea and air and returning a key piece of land to Kyiv’s control.

The battle for Snake Island showed that the Russian fleet had no answer to the Ukrainian attacks, and the Russian abandonment of the island left its ships at sea even more vulnerable to Ukrainian attacks.

“The losses to Russian amphibious ships are arguably more important than the Moskva,” said Rob Lee, senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who tracks the militaries of Russia and Ukraine. The losses impede Russia’s ability to move troops and equipment around Crimea by sea, and have made the Russians more hesitant to use the modern landing ships it transferred from the Northern and Baltic fleets just before the war.

The reluctance to actually use its ships as a fighting force means the fleet has been rendered virtually impotent and “hasn’t been a thing for several months” a second DoD official told POLITICO.

The Russian military has been repeatedly humiliated by a much smaller and weaker (but smarter) force. Putin seems to believe he can eventually turn the tide by waiting this out but at least for the moment that plan doesn’t seem to be working for him.