Ukraine War Day #87: Ukraine As Training Polygon?

Dear Readers:

War is hell. But there is a silver lining for the Russian military brass and Military Industrial Complex: Think of all the money you can save on unrealistic War Games! Actual War is the bestest War Game of all. It’s also the place where you can test your shiny new weapons on real live targets. Ukrainian soldiers for target practice? I realize that sounds awfully callous, and it is. But they can’t say they weren’t warned. Anyhow, today I have this piece by reporter Viktor Sokirko. The headline reads:

Ukraine Is Helping To Hone Russia’s Military Might

Lede paragraph: The Special Military Operation has turned into a giant training polygon for the latest models of Russian weapons. One outstanding example: It was recently announced that the Russians have started to deploy SU-57 stealth fighter aircraft in the Ukrainian conflict. Previously these fighters were tested in the Syrian war, in 2018.

A Sukhoi-57

Other shiny toys which Russia has been able to test in real combat conditions, include the Kinzhal (“Dagger”) hypersonic rocket complex, which experienced its baptism by destroying a cache of Ukrainian rockets near the city of Ivano-Frankovsk, in Western Ukraine. In this case, the target was an underground fortified bunker which would have required hundreds of regular bombs to destroy. The Kinzhal destroyed this bunker with a single rocket. Nobody even saw it coming: It was like an instantaneous lightning strike. Another rocket which saw its baptism on the Ukrainian front was the Air-to-Surface AS-17 Krypton (Russian Х-31ПМ) tactical hypersonic guided rocket. It can strike from 60 kilometers away, in other words, from outside the perimeter of the enemy air-defense system. These Krypton rockets were used to destroy a Ukrainian air base in the Vinnitskaya Oblast, along with its planes and helicopters parked there. Every one of these rockets hit its designated target.

Major-General Vladimir Popov told the reporter: “It’s best to test the capabilities of aviation and weapons in actual combat conditions, especially when something is relatively new. […] This way you can see its strong and weak sides, and you can perfect your airborne tactics. The result is obvious: We have complete mastery over the skies, and we see very accurate demolition of the military infrastructure on the ground.”

Terminator: “I’ll Be Back”

Hermes rocket complex

Other weapons systems being tested in the Ukrainian polygon include the Hermes complex which launches surface guided rockets; and also the aviation variant, the Hermes-A, which launches rockets from the Ka-52 “Alligator” helicopters. What all of these rockets have in common is that they have enough distance, as to be launched from a window outside the perimeter of the enemy’s air defenses. The Hermes-A was brought in to replace the older Vikhr and Ataka rockets.

In this rush of innovative military technology, let us not forget about tanks. A new series of T-90 Proryv tanks was dispatched to the Ukrainian polygon to test their chops. But all the publicity has gone to the more glamorous Terminator tank which the Russians rolled out just last week onto the Ukrainian testing ground. It is said that the Terminator specializes in urban combat scenarios. Correction: It’s not a tank it’s a “Tank Supporting Fighter Vehicle” (Russian Боевая машина поддержки танков)!

This machine has a bit of a checkered history. It was developed in the early 2000’s, but the Russian army brass didn’t like it and wouldn’t adopt it. But nonetheless it got to participate in the Caucasus-2020 war games. Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov had a little chat with President Putin who arrived at the Kapustin Yar polygon to observe the war games. The two men decided to give the Terminator another chance. There are some hardware experts out there on the intertubes who continue to insist, that this machine is just a rolling death trap. But we shall see, that’s why testing and experimentation in real-life conditions are necessary. Sucks to be the guinea pig though, if it doesn’t pan out.

Say hello to my little friend, the Terminator-2!

Today’s variant of the Terminator-2 (after some tinkering) is said to be just a T-90 with extra bells and whistles. It is equipped with 4 sets of laser-guided anti-tank missiles, two 30-mm cannons, one 7.62 mm machine-gun and two АГС-17 grenade-launchers. I heard that it also has a built-in toaster oven. [That last bit a lame joke.] If Gerasimov’s plans come to fruition, then one can expect to see this baby rolling through the streets of Kharkov any day now.

And the list of cool new toys goes on and on, for example: Laser-complex called “Zadira“, designed to knock down drones. And lots of other new anti-drone systems.

And speaking of drones, this is an area in which Russia has been, I won’t say technologically backwards, but the brass showed signs of encrusted thinking. Like, they didn’t realize the full potential or how these things can be utilized, even at the strategic level. In some ways the Ukrainian side was more advanced in their intelligent use of this technology. Now the Russian side is rushing to catch up, as we see in this related piece by reporter Dmitry Zubarev. Which hopefully we will get to tomorrow, barring breaking news from the front.

Just another example where the Ukrainian war, sorry “Special Operation” is serving to clarify a lot of issues for the Russian military. One has to remember that the entire Russian Military Doctrine in recent years was based on the premise of a defensive war against NATO invasion. All the planning was done around this notion of a war against NATO invasion. With the exception of the Syrian operation, there was apparently not much planning around strategic offensive operations. There were also some “crusty” notions about “fighting the previous war” and not fully accepting of the new technologies such as drones. But all of that is changing very quickly. There is nothing quite like a little war to jolt everybody awake from their older way of thinking.

[to be continued]

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17 Responses to Ukraine War Day #87: Ukraine As Training Polygon?

  1. colliemum says:

    Yes, that’s very true, that testing modern weapons and indeed strategy works best when doing it under combat conditions.
    Since people have been talking about Stalingrad and WWII in relation to Azovstal, now thankfully free of that nee-naughty infestation, it’s worth remembering that some of the successes of the German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe was due to their fighting support in the Spanish Civil War (1936 -1939). I’ll just drop the name ‘Guernica’ … using the browser of your choice you might also find the painting by Picasso which depicts the horror of civilians under aerial bombardment.
    This village was where the Luftwaffe tried out the strategy of such bombardment, terrorising civilians was a welcome aspect.
    And when you look at the Picasso painting you might recognise that this also depicts the lives of the Donbas people who suffered like the people of Guernica, for eight years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yalensis says:

      Very true, I have heard it said that the Spanish Civil War was the dress rehearsal for the big show that was to come. All the players got to strut their stuff and try out their weapons and tactics, while also checking out the competition.
      The Soviets made many serious mistakes, primarily political (I have blogged about this a lot in the past, so I don’t want to repeat myself). I don’t know whether that factor was weighty enough to tip the balance in any way, or whether it was just destiny for Franco to win. But in any case, the bad guys won that conflict, unfortunately.


  2. Earl says:

    A good read.


  3. Thirdeye says:

    Does this Terminator say “fahk you ahsshoell?”


  4. Stephen T Johnson says:

    Hmm…live fire wargames, so to speak.

    Do you have a reference on the X-31 / AS-17 being a card carrying member of club hypersonic? I was seeing it listed as Mach 4.7, so high super, but just short of hyper. In any case, seems like a pretty whizzo weapon, along with the P800 Onyx, and, of course the nasty-wasty Kinzhal.
    To be honest, however, ISTM the venerable Kalibr and Iskander seem to be doing a lot of the work of destruction.

    It generally seems like the Muscovite hordes are fairly deliberately using a lot of their older kit, like T-72s, older BMPs and SP / towed artillery, if only on the reasoning that if you’ve got to smash up some kit in Banderastan, it might as well be the older stuff & keep the newest wunderwaffe for a surprise when/if we see NATO intervention.

    Curiously absent:
    Uran unmanned IFV, T-14 Armata – honestly, I think they’re still mostly experimental – but, then, all the more reason to do some live action development, and I think they did use Urans in Syria. Also, haven’t seen an attributed Zirkon launch yet – one would expect a few of those as the first operational hypersonic airbreather.

    Like with the Georgian war, I expect we’ll see some fixes (at least, judging by what I’m seeing in the russosphere) , especially:
    1) It seems like drones are already showing as a bit of a bust (not enough variety, not enough integration with everything else) – and, yeah, Shoigu hisself mentioned them specifically in a “stay-tuned for shiny new stuff” way
    2) Infantry coms – so many (yeah, I know, more on the DPR/LPR side, but still) are still using unsecured commercial radios, yeah? Seems iffy
    3) More nightvision gear


    • yalensis says:

      Hey, Stephen. Regarding the Krypton X-31, here is the Russian wiki entry, maybe this will give you what you need in regard to speed? I don’t really know how to interpret these technical specs.
      I hope I didn’t make a mistake in my translation. Here was the sentence in the VZGLIAD piece:

      Высокую оценку получила и сверхзвуковая тактическая управляемая ракета класса «воздух – поверхность» Х-31ПМ (по кодификации НАТО – AS-17 Krypton).

      It was that one word сверхзвуковая which I translated as “hypersonic”. But maybe, like you say, I should have translated as “supersonic”. Not that I would know the difference. You, on the other hand, sound like a real hardware geek – LOL!

      Stay tuned (probably tomorrow’s post) for more drone stuff. Yeah, Shoigu has become a true-believer, he now insists that every unit of the Russian infantry should have its own tactical drone. Currently Russian drones are helping correct unguided artillery, but otherwise not being used to their full potential, so this will be one of those “aha!” moments for the Russian army.

      Regarding the Terminator, I have my personal doubts. Maybe this just stems from my conservative leanings. I have a “Soviet engineering mentality” which means I like my gadgets to be simple and sturdy. With few frills and no unnecessary bells and whistles. This is the same reason why I don’t like iPhones, they are too complicated. I like simple phones with buttons and switches, not something where you have to flourish your finger in a certain way. Also, the more moving parts a device has, the more opportunities for failure. Soviet tanks and vehicles were the best ever, in my humble opinion. They were ugly, but they never broke down!


      • Stephen T Johnson says:

        I have a “Soviet engineering mentality” which means I like my gadgets to be simple and sturdy. With few frills and no unnecessary bells and whistles.

        This is a profound truth. More complexity = more failure modes. Also simple systems are cheaper, so easier to make in numbers, and as my close friend Karl Marx said, “Quantity has a quality all its own”

        I’m really not a super tech geek – at least not compared to my youth – I try to keep an eye on the military tech front, and hypersonics in particular, but we shouldn’t fetishize the Mach 5 barrier – a Mach 5.1 missile, like an Iskander M,will have only about 20% more kinetic energy than one traveling at Mach 4.7, and at those kinds of speeds, I think it’s more about being hard to intercept than the kinetic energy anyway – around Mach 10 (Kinzhal, Zirkon) it’s different – I think for those beasties the kinetic energy is around 3x the explosive energy, so ouch!


        • yalensis says:

          I took one undergrad anthropology course back in college (needed a Humanities credit to fill out my requirements!), learned one important thing: All human societies have an [annoying] tendency to add unnecessary complexity to every single thing they create. The technical term for this is ornamentation. For example, your skilled potters have developed a completely functional and sturdy cooking pot with a lip and handle. Then an artisan with too much time on his/her hands, decide they need to add little legs with wiggly frills. Which look cool, but make the pot unstable and add just one more feature than can break under stress.


  5. Gareth says:

    If I were a Ukrop hiding in a kindergarten, armed with one of those limp Javelin ATGs and saw that Terminator come around the corner, I would soil myself and then run like hell. But seriously, when this war is done, what NATO country will want to take on this battle hardened Russian military. I think they will be plum out of proxies. Multiple countries will have a change of leadership, with elections being won under the slogan “My opponent is a stupid asshole”.


    • yalensis says:

      I certainly hope you are right, Gareth. But my own pessimistic thinking kicks in. All the NATO countries are watching this war and yawning, “Oh, we are so-o-o-o unimpressed with the Russian military…” Maybe they are just saying that to be mean, whilst inside they are thinking, “Yipes!” But I’m not so sure. Some of these Europeans/Americans are truly idiots, they might believe their own propaganda, and they might be thinking, “Ah, the Russians are paper tigers! Now let the real war begin. We attack at dawn…”

      Among a whole list of things to worry about: I don’t know if you were aware, but Scott Ritter is one of those who changed his tune recently. Just a month ago he was, like, “Russia will have this thing wrapped up in a week.” And now he’s like, “Once those NATO howitzers arrive, the Russians are kaput.” I am simplifying, but basically Scott feels like Russia can’t stand up against the full might of NATO hardware once it is unleashed against Russia, which might be in July or August.


  6. Pingback: May 22, 2022 - Situation Report: The World

  7. Stevelancs says:

    It seems to me that what the USA is aiming at is the eventual dissolution of Russia – there is even a Wiki page –
    So I think that Russia should keep going until it defeats NATO in Europe. Then when winter sets in it could out a few power stations in the USA and let the Yanks fight it out amongst themselves. The citizens are armed to the teeth and have been preparing for civil war for years. Maybe some states will then take the initiative and break away, and the rest of the world can breathe a sigh of relief.


    • yalensis says:

      Thanks for your comment, Steve. I think it’s been an open secret for decades now, that the USA wants to break up Russia into fiefdoms. Each fiefdom ruled by some local oligarch who strips everything down to the bare bone, and reports to Washington for instructions. Khodorkovsky actually came within a whisker of nationalizing Russia’s oil/gas and selling to an American company (can’t remember off the top of my head which one it was, not Shell, but one of the other major ones). Putin foiled Washington’s evil plan at the 11th hour and threw Khodorkovsky into jail, which is why so much Westie visceral hatred directed at Putin.

      After Russia, then China was supposed to be next on the list, using the same model, just Uighurs this time instead of Chechens, or whatever ethnic group du jour as the revolutionary muscle.

      All of these evil plans have been foiled to date, but American baddies never stop trying, so it must be exhausting for these besieged foreign leaders, to keep fending off these incessant slings and arrows 24/7.

      As for prospect of civil war in the U.S., I am always dubious whether that is a realistic prospect, and frankly, I personally don’t want to see that happen, because I am horrified by the potential for mass violence and ethnic cleansing. What I would like to see happen instead, is a class struggle and working people of all regions and all ethnicities to take back their government. Is that realistic? I think so, we already saw some movements among people like truckers and warehouse workers, who are the new proletariat.


      • Stevelancs says:

        Thank you for your reply. Regarding the prospect for civil war in the USA, I follow Edward Dowd on Twitter. He used to work on Wall Street and seems to know what he is talking about. Basically the price of everything in the US is going through the roof (refers to this index …
        while interest rates are rising so people can’t afford to borrow to keep up. He reckons there are going to be massive shortages of everything, and that the monkey pox has been invented to allow the US and western govt’s to lock down again, while everyone starves. The conflict in Ukraine serves the same purpose – it provides a culprit for the government to blame.
        The full show is here. Steve Bannon of course blames the Chinese for stealing American jobs, but that’s to be expected and ignored.
        It’s 17 mins.


        • yalensis says:

          Thanks for these interesting links, Steve. The U.S. is headed in a direction that will be worse than the Great Depression, there is sure to be some kind of explosion from below. Ordinary people are being crushed by debt and hopelessness.


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