Ukrainian Counter attacks on Russian Positions Mostly Failed

Singapore has an experienced security service and probably monitors foreign phone conversations.  There also are hints that China extensively monitors activities in Singapore.

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A Ghoul drone with an RPG payload

A number of counterattacks by the Ukrainians, in some cases using reserve forces, have taken place along the line of contract.  While reports are not yet complete, it appears that all the Ukrainian attempts to rollback Russian gains have failed, with the possible exception of Robotyne.

Meanwhile the Russians have either taken or will soon take a number of villages including Ivaniska, Bilohorivka, Berdichev, Pobjeda and Novomikhailovka.

Since February 28, the Russians have destroyed three Abrams tanks, the most recent knocked out on March 4th by an anti tank missile, probably the Russian Kornet.  The other two Abrams were hit by low cost Russian drones carrying RPG-7 warheads.

The low cost drones go under the name Ghoul.  They are quadcopters that are battery powered.  The Ghoul is a FPV (first person view) drone. The drone can communicate with a sister relay drone, extending its operational range and making it effective in hilly and built-up areas where its near line of sight radio transmissions are relayed by the sister drone.  The Russians say that the Ghoul drone uses a special transmission frequency and is difficult, if not impossible, to jam.  The drone costs around $500 according to its Russian-maker in the Sverdlovsk region. It is made from plastic and some of its parts are 3-D printed.  The cost of an Abrams tank is north of $10 million.

The drones have also been used to knock out Bradley fighting vehicles and mine clearing systems using the Abrams chassis. More than 50 Bradleys have been damaged or destroyed.

A Russian commander, only identified as Rassvet, says that the Abrams has two vulnerabilities.  One of them is behind the turret above the engine compartment.  The other is between the turret and the tank hull.  

The Ukrainians held back using Abrams tanks until February 25th when the first one was spotted on the battlefield.  Three days later either that one, or another was knocked out by two drone strikes, after the tank’s track had been hit by an RPG, immobilizing the Abrams.

The Abrams sent to Ukraine were degraded by the Pentagon to protect certain secrets, particularly the armor protection. The tanks were fitted with explosive reactive armor (ERA), but the EBAD armor is a dated design which the Pentagon started fitting to Abrams tanks deployed in Europe starting in 1999. This reactive armor, called M19 ARAT-1 (and a curved version called M-32 ARAT) is similar conceptually to Russia’s Kontakt-1 ERA.  The ERA kits, in Pentagon jargonese, are known as Urban Survival Kits.  In Iraq around 23 Abrams tanks were either damaged or destroyed.  Prior to that conflict the Pentagon believed that its composite armor system was enough to protect the Abrams.  But in Iraq Abrams tanks were knocked out by anti tank Kornets and by RPGs.

DOD is not relying on M-32 ARAT armor for the future.  It has contracted with General Dynamics, partnered with Rafael in Israel, for a more advanced ERA based on Rafael’s “Armor Shield R.”  It is not in use in Ukraine.

Israel was the first country to actually mount ERA on its Merkava tanks.  The designer was a German named Manfred Held.  The Russians followed, starting with Kontakt 1, then Kontakt 5, and more recently with a system called Relikt. Relikt can be installed on T-72B and T-90 tanks and was adopted in 2006. The Russian Army T-72B3M main battle tank incorporates Relikt.  Most of the ERA seen in the Ukraine war appears to be the older type.

The problem of ERA is that it cannot cover the entire tank and does not guarantee that a weapon can’t penetrate the ERA tiles.  Tanks face high kinetic threats, rockets, artillery and older, slower grenades like the RPG-7.

German Leopard tanks do not have reactive armor.  However, the Ukrainians scavenged Kontakt-1 blocks from wrecked Russian tanks and bolted them onto some of the Leopards.  The Ukrainians also installed “bird cages” above the tank turret to try and trigger the explosive charge of enemy weapons.  Some of the Merkava tanks in use in the Gaza strip also have Bird Cages installed.

Ukraine counterattacked the Russians rather than fallback to new defense lines for the simple reason that there were no pre-prepared fortifications for their army even though they were supposed to have been built.  This has created a significant controversy and there are hints that the money for the materials needed for the fortifications was siphoned off (e.g., stolen).  Corruption in Ukraine is rampant and despite some efforts to curtail it, it is growing.  As Ukraine’s situation deteriorates, get rich quick and exit schemes are growing.

Zelensky today fired another field general as part of the purge that started with Zaluzhny.  The Mayor of Kiev, who has been challenging Zelensky, said today that firing Zaluzhny was a mistake.  He is calling for a national government to replace Zelensky.

A Russian patrol ship, the Sergey Kotov, apparently was sunk in the Kerch Strait by Ukrainian Magara-V USVs (unmanned surface vehicles).  Ukraine has published a video of the attack and claims the vessel was destroyed.  At least two other Russian patrol craft have been either damaged or destroyed by Ukrainian USV attacks.  So far, Russia has not confirmed the attack.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius confirmed that the leaked conversation of four German officers suggesting using Taurus missiles to attack the Kerch Strait bridge and targets inside Russia was because of a Webex conversation in Singapore, where one of the (unnamed) officers was attending the Singapore Air Show. Pistorius hinted there may be punishments for using an insecure line.  Either the German officer in Singapore used a non-secure Hotel Wifi connection, or his mobile phone, to participate in the discussion.  

Singapore has an experienced security service and probably monitors foreign phone conversations.  There also are hints that China extensively monitors activities in Singapore.

Also from Singapore is a statement from Singapore’s Defense Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen. In a story reported on Google News on 3 March, the Minister claimed that US F-35 jets were flying in Ukrainian air space targeting Russian air defense assets.  According to the Minister, the targeting information was passed to US NATO allies and, presumably, to Ukraine.  The F-35 has one of the world’s most advanced radars onboard which includes synthetic aperture capability, allowing targets to be seen even in bad weather.  The Pentagon rejected the Minister’s claim saying that no F-35s were operating in Ukrainian airspace.

In political news, Victoria Nuland has resigned from the State Department.  She was serving as Acting Deputy Secretary of State but was replaced recently when Kurt Campbell was confirmed by the Senate.  Nuland had hoped to be approved for the same job but was judged unconfirmable.  Nuland was the architect of the Ukraine conflict, in her role in the Obama administration and under Biden.  Called a “neoconservative” and a “hawk” on Russia, Nuland’s future plans have not yet been announced.

Stephen Bryen

Stephen Bryen is a former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and is a leading expert in security strategy and technology. Bryen writes for Asia Times, American Thinker, Epoch Times, Newsweek, Washington Times, the Jewish Policy Center and others.

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