Ukraine War Day #116: Can Ukes Take Out Kerch Bridge? [continued]

Dear Readers:

Continuing my post based on a review of this piece. We saw that the Ukrainian side makes no bones about its intention to destroy the Kerch Bridge, at the very first opportunity, as soon as even one person lets down their guard. And here we have to make a distinction between earlier (pre-war) threats, which was just a lot of svidomite frothing and sour grapes; versus the situation today. Where you have a respected Ukrainian General like Dmitry Marchenko explain cold-bloodedly how he intends to bring down the Bridge. He sees it as a legitimate target in war, and technically he might even be right about that. Marchenko has a team of engineers behind him, and he also claims to have the blueprints to the entire bridge project. So, just how serious is his threat?

One thing we know is that the Russian side takes this threat very seriously, which is why nobody is just strolling around (we hope) in their bathrobe and underpants, just waiting for something to happen.

There was some interesting discussion in the comment section yesterday about the long-range rockets the Ukrainians intend to use, so just to clarify, they would be using M142 HIMARS, brought to you by Lockheed Martin!

Top-secret FK-1 cable mount.

Now, as to those blueprints: This past Thursday the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense published online an electronic document entitled “The Construction of the Transportation Crossing Across the Kerchensk Strait”. I googled the Russian title (Строительство транспортного перехода через Керченский пролив) and found a few hits, all under Russian web sites. Not sure it’s exactly the same as the Ukrainian version, but here is one link, for example. I am obviously not giving away any military secrets, since it’s all online, and I suspect the Ukrainians simply found this material online as well. It’s not like they had some clever Stierlitz embedded in the Russian Military Engineering Corp.

Anyhow, the Ukrainian side claimed that they found all the information they needed in this documentation, including detailed relief maps of the area, technical information about the materials, the spans, the entryways and egresses, etc. Ukrainian military engineers are avidly studying this. Getting to know The Bridge, all the better to destroy it.

Next we meet a Russian pundit named Alexander Khramchikhin, who is the Deputy Director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis. Born in 1967 near Moscow, Khram graduated from Moscow State University in 1990, with a degree in Physics. From 1995-1996 he worked for the campaign headquarters of Boris Yeltsin – boo! Starting in 1999 he joined a different political organization called the “Union of Right Forces”, his specialty is election campaigns; and he also appears frequently on Russian TV as a political pundit and one of those “experts”. He never served in the armed forces, neither Soviet nor Russian, so I’m not sure if we should listen to him, but he did write a couple of books about armies in different countries. Plus, he spent a night at a Holiday Inn Express [little in-joke there for my American readers!]

Alexander Khramchikhin

This is what Khram has to say about the Ukies getting their hands on the blueprints: “Theoretically, their knowledge of the technical documentation may assist the Ukrainian soldiers or diversionary groups in their task of destroying the Crimea Bridge. Ukraine may also conduct air strikes against the bridge, for example from a Sukhoi-24. It’s dubious that these planes with a full load of ammo can reach as far as Crimea, but theoretically it is possible. I don’t actually see any other variants.”

Back in 2017 Lieutenant-General Igor Romanenko of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) declared that the bridge was vulnerable to military aviation; as well as rockets based either on sea or land.

Russian experts, employing a worst-case kind of philosophy, say that a Ukrainian attack against the bridge would not even have a strategic importance. It would not disrupt the communication between Crimea and the mainland. Due to the fact that these past hundred-some days of war, Russia has managed to build a land-corridor that stretches all the way from Rostov Oblast (Russia) through Donetsk through Zaporozhia and all the way to Crimea. The defining moment happened when Russian forces secured Mariupol and thus the entire northern shore of the Azov Sea.

Alexander Asafov

Nonetheless, this idée fixe of the Kiev regime — namely, the annihilation of the Crimea Bridge — has an important symbolic significance, according to still another political pundit, goes by the name of Alexander Asafov. “They [the Ukrainians] are not able to show any kind of [meaningful] resistance to Russian troops in the course of the Special Operation,” Asafov says, “but they have, for a very long time, been preoccupied with the war against symbols. One only has to recall their cancelling of Pushkin, Vatutin, the removing of the Lenin statues, and so on. For those people in what remains of the Ukrainian government,” he adds disdainfully, “the Crimea Bridge remains an irritating symbol for them, of their missed opportunities in countering Russia back in 2014, and also in the present day.”

Back to Khramchikhin: “From a deeply practical point of view, General Marchenko’s Target #1 is unrealistic. This object is too well-guarded and defended. Not to mention the fact that this bridge is of very sturdy construction, I think it could be destroyed only with a nuclear strike. Or perhaps a hundred powerful rockets, which all hit their tagets perfectly in sync. And you understand very well, that Russian anti-air defenses will not permit such strikes.”

Colonel Vyacheslav Khramtsov

Back to Vyacheslav Khramtsov, whom we met in Part I of this post, with a reminder that he is a military engineer [I wish the reporters wouldn’t keep switching around like that, from one to the other, then back again]: “There is not one strategic bridge that remains undefended. The Crimea Bridge possesses its own air defense systems. From sea-based attacks the bridge is defended by special units and barriers, which would prevent sea-based diversionaries from climbing up on the bridge and blowing it up with mines. There are also shore-based patrols. All of this together constitutes a system of defense. We recall that during the Great Patriotic War, even simple, non-strategic, bridges were guarded at their entrances and exits by armed security. We need to take into account what the UAF are capable of, and organize an appropriate defense system for all our strategic objects.”

Back to Khramchikhin, on the issue of the HIMARS: “Is is excluded that the bridge will be harmed by these American rocket systems. For starters, these rocket complexes have not yet been deployed, there is still training going on, of the Ukrainian soldiers. Secondly, the maximum effective range of a HIMARS is 300 kilometers. From this, it follows that they will not be able to bring them that close to the bridge, the ground to ground distance from Ukrainian territory is too far for that. And even if they were to fly that far, they would only be able to cause insignificant damage.”

Continuing with Khramchikhin, who gets the final word, when he is asked about the famous Ukrainian Neptune rockets: “For starters, the Neptune is an anti-ship rocket. Secondly, the Neptune is physically unable to fly from Ukraine to Crimea. Theoretically, if a Ukrainian ship equipped with a Neptune, were to sail close enough to the bridge, then, in the very worst case scenario, it would only be able to inflict minimum damage. This is why I say that, objectively speaking, the only way to destroy the Crimea Bridge is with a nuclear strike.”

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27 Responses to Ukraine War Day #116: Can Ukes Take Out Kerch Bridge? [continued]

  1. S Brennan says:

    One has to hope that the good Colonel Vyacheslav Khramtsov is right because, should he be wrong, the good people of Russia would demand from Putin a response worthy of Queen Clytemnestra. Regardless of my disagreement with Colonel Khramtsov, thank you so much for the most excellent reporting!

    And now for something completely different…no, not really off topic? But, if you think so Yalensis please feel free to delete the next paragraph. From my comment over at MOA:

    Lithuania’s shutting down Kaliningrad’s rail link to the rest of Russia is a pipsqueak move but it is an example of how the draft-dodging-warriors, [or do you say military-service-adverse-bullies] of the Clinton/Cheney/Obama/Biden-administration [singular intended] only know bluff and bluster…oh and…using the civilians of Europe and the USA as a shield. And that’s the crux of the problem, the people who cause these conflicts are, immune from the consequences. There is no downside to war in DC and in various capitals of the world and…that includes Kiev.


    • Stephen T Johnson says:

      Clytemenestra? Come, let’s stay in theme – think Princess Olga of the Rus and the Derevlians.

      But, seriously folks, look how many calibrations it took to take out that punk bridge in the Odessa region. Big bridges are, as a rule, pretty robust structures. So, short of nukes, I’m doubting it.


      • S Brennan says:

        Big bridges are…robust structures…short of nukes…doubt it

        The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed, not for lack of structure but because, too much steel was not removed. Shattering steel reinforced concrete with penetrating HE is what modern “bunker-busters” do. The real question isn’t the ability, it’s accuracy/effectiveness/size of the warhead and effectiveness of the air defense.

        Unlike many online experts, I don’t know either side’s fine technical details and I have plainly said so, I am open to being wrong. But, I have worked with munitions in the US Army and professionally as an engineer and as somebody who specializes in the design of structures, I question your jocular confidence in one of the most delicate structures in the history of human endeavors…particularly, when you couldn’t possibly know the fine details of either sides capabilities.


        • yalensis says:

          OMG, this is an image from my deepest nightmares! It just reinforces, how vulnerable are human engineering structures. If it’s not mathematically perfect, then… Humans, please check your hubris before attempting to effect the physical world…

          Liked by 1 person

          • S Brennan says:

            Any individual engineer who pushes at boundaries is bound to have nature push back, that is why we have teams and why successful companies have recently adopted a form of cockpit resource management (CRM) within those teams. Long story short, as a profession, we have decided that Cassandra declarations mustn’t be ignored.


          • Bukko Boomeranger says:

            If you have never seen the full footage of the event, you can Oogle for video of the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse, because there’s a black-and-white wide-field film of it too. (I can’t be arsed to provide a link; apologies for the laziness.) It’s amazing to see this advanced piece of engineering writhing like a snake for a relatively short time until chunks of it fall into the water. It might amplify your nightmares. OTOH, this “you are there” .gif (which I don’t recall seeing before) is more vertiginous then the one shot from far away, because at least in that one the frame of vision stays steady.


        • Stephen T Johnson says:

          Ah, I have fond memories of the Galloping Gertie film from my childhood…Dad would show it every year at the University open house, I’ve always wondered why & how that lone car got stuck out in the middle.
          Actually resonances can really do bad things to structures – I’ve read that -back in the day – Troops would be ordered to NOT march in step when crossing bridges for exactly that reason
          However, all that being said, missiles (and military attack) are a bit different. Bridges are robust, and in some cases, even built to fail in graceful and damage limiting ways.


    • yalensis says:

      Dear S Brennan: I would never delete nor edit your comment — not my style!
      Not to mention that the Lithuanian-Kalingrad gambit is truly an asshole move, and I might just do a post on this, we’ll see!

      P.S. I did not quite “get” your Clytemnestra allusion, even though I consider myself to be a highly educated classical scholar (well, not quite!). Please explain!

      Is this the famous quote where Clyt gets stabbed by her son Orestes and emits the famous proverb: “Aaaahahhhhgggggggaaa you son of a byotch… gargggg…”


      • S Brennan says:

        Clytemnestra is the wife & just murderess of Agamemnon. In order to assure a victory in Troy, Agamemnon murders their daughter in human sacrifice. When he returns triumvirate ten years later Clytemnestra dispatches old Agamemnon to the nether world. The male dominated ancient and classical Greeks considered it a justifiable revenge and a warning to husbands to not abuse their privileges…and true to the Greek way, she in turn is murdered in revenge…it was a patriarchy after all.


        • yalensis says:

          But wait! there is a twist. Turns out that daughter Iphigenia was not dead after all. Pops just pretended to kill her, then she was whisked off to Tauris (modern-day Crimea) where she got a job as the Head Priestess in the Temple of Diana.
          Gluck tells us all about it in his opera called Iphigénie en Tauride.
          While serving as Priestess, Iphigenia encounters her brother Orestes, who is on his way back to Sparta to kill mom. The plot has a lot of twists, because Sis doesn’t recognize Bro at first, and almost human-sacrifices HIM, along with his boy-toy Pylades. Eventually they learn each others real identities, then Orestes returns home and kills mom.


  2. the pair says:

    the line about air defense systems is probably spot on. they don’t always stop 100% of the projectiles (e.g. in syria) but they do a decent job in most cases (plus i seem to recall syria using s300s and opposed to the s400s being used by russia in this operation.)

    as for by air or sea, that’s not really an option anymore. the ukies have no naval capability other than tossing mines in the water and when they get one of their 5 planes in the air it’s usually taken down in minutes. drones and other surveillance take care of any possible ground attack (hopefully). i think this bluster is all part of the kiev delusions about EVER retaking crimea. reality will set in soon i’m guessing.


  3. S Brennan says:

    A blog worth reading:

    To me, the thing is far from over because, the “west” is led by irrational actors who have, through-out their protected lives, never experienced any aspect of the brutality war, or for that matter, any form of long-term privation. This aspect of their lives inures them to the suffering of their subjects. And yes, at this point, DC views the rest of America as subjects to their slightest whim. They will dig deeper until they reach hell or, hell reaches them.

    King George III must be ribbing George Washington in the underworld:

    “Thought the colonies could escape imperial rule, eh Mr. Washington? Look at them now, subjugated to a far greater degree under DC’s oligarchy than anything I ever envisioned…eh? DC is willfully entangling the USA in any…and every foreign conflict. They make me look like an isolationists…eh Mr. Washington? Well, it’s not your fault, you fought bravely, you knew war well, you tried to warn them and the people still believe you but, face it, you country isn’t ruled by it’s people but by a usurping cabal of soulless Oligarchs”


    • yalensis says:

      And George Washington’s ghost maybe responding regretfully: “You’re right, Georgie, we never envisioned it playing out like this…”


      • S Brennan says:

        Yes, if only we would listen to those who know all to well. Greek tragedy reminds us that human failings are at least as old as civilization itself.


  4. square coats says:

    Not about the bridge specifically, but I listened to some commentary a week or two ago (now I forget where) mentioning such a hypothetical situation as: suppose Ukraine used long-range missiles to attack Crimea, then Russia declared (reasonably and straightforwardly) that Ukraine was sending missiles into Russian territory and responded by shooting missiles at somewhere like Kiev, then Ukraine and the west could say Russia was unprovoked because Crimea is Ukrainian territory (according to them) and use Russia’s retaliation as an excuse for NATO becoming more involved, or something like that. I found this hypothetical particularly chilling because it seems like exactly the kind of baloney argument the u.s./west is so fond of.


  5. daniel_s says:

    Re Tacoma bridge collapse: this is basically the same phenomenon as the singing telegraph wires, i.e. a flow-induced vibration. In the case of Tacoma, the vibration fell exactly onto the resonance frequency of the structure, wherefore the amplitude increased until failure.
    Aeroelastic vibration phenomena were not so well understood in th 1930s,. Aircraft and turbomachine development after ww2 les to huge research efforts in this field, and we can expect today’s suspension bridge to resist


    • Eric says:

      Not withstanding the lack of understanding of dynamic loading effects at the time – to still have the bridge open for several days in the leadup to the collapse, in spite of the very alarming movements of the bridge – is nothing short of criminal. Insane even. Imagine if the Soviets had done that? All the talk would have been about the “usual” Soviet “disregard for human life” because many cars drove on it during this time and were on it at the time of collapse..

      This is where Russians and Americans are more similar to each other than with Europeans. As I said, the bridge was moving violently for several days before the collapse – where Europeans and Brits would consider it preposterous to even think about going on that bridge – many Russians and Americans would just get on with it and drive along it! Thinking it worth the risk

      I hadn’t seen that specific footage before though. I thought that some of the videos/photographs made it look worse because longlength bridges give the optical illusion of being curved, when they are not and so that would have made an already shocking oscillating of the bridge look worse….but that camera is only a short distance from the car, so those images are exactly as they seem and the situation was as bad as first thought..


    • S Brennan says:

      “Aeroelastic vibration phenomena were not so well understood in th 1930’s”

      While that is a truthful statement, the fact of the matter is the Bridge’s designer knew he was using girders in place of structural truss; FYI, one presents an open lattice, the other a flat plate to a wind vector normal to the span. As a side note, it is rare to find a bridge where the prevailing winds are not normal to the span. Anyhow, Leon Moisseiff knew the difference his girder would make and designed cutouts to prevent the pressure build-up that are the hallmark of Von Karmon vortex shedding. But, the contractor wanted to save money by avoiding the cost of this feature and so, the dog was lost. And so it goes.

      By the way, repairs to execute the original cutouts where ready to begin in the spring. People of the past where a heck-of-a-lot smarter than we give them credit for.


  6. Eric says:

    Going to be awkward for the Ukrainians giving the blueprints of the bridge to their own engineers – the same engineers who for 4 years said that the bridge was impossible to build!

    It’s 2 different bridges across the Kerch Strait – road and the narrower railbridge. Its more practical to go for the railbridge – you would think a saboteur putting a bomb on a train transporting some high value person or “stolen” freight from the recently taken territories , and then detonating it whilst travelling along on the railway bridge, though it would do nothing to harm the structural integrity of the bridge, it could definitely put that railway line out of action for maybe a week or more.
    Some bomb that explodes when the train is on normal open ground, or the embankment that leadsup to the bridge – will cause damage that’s easy and quick to repair for the railway line, and the situation of removing the derailed train-carriage should be simpler of course. But exploding on the bridge itself , would make that part of the railway harder to repair quickly, and of course a derailed train in the sea is not the quickest or easiest thing to recover, nor would it be good to have to go via the sea for repairing or replacing any part of the damaged side barrier or foundations.

    You would think that it would have to be the central span with the arches that is attacked – not just for the propaganda value as that’s the main aesthetic and icon of the bridge – but because then the shipping route is stopped, which would not happen if the attack happens along the viaduct. Though it must be said that even this would not be too bad because those centre spans make up a very small part of the bridge length (220m) in comparison to most famous bridges, where the central span dominates the overall length of the bridge or at least much of it ( mainly because the famous ones are the suspension bridges). It wouldn’t be that difficult to setup the shipping passage quickly again because of the relatively short length effected.

    Destroying those arches would be very expensive replacement for Russia – but not too expensive compared to the overall cost of the project ( 3 billion dollars?)Of course the propaganda value of doing it on the main, arch span of the bridge would be great for the Ukronazi’s, even if the net effect of in the scale of things would be nothing much – because getting “peremoga” for them seems to the equivalent of getting a get to enjoy itself by dangling a piece of string in front of themselves.

    Apart from the famous arch, most of the bridge is just a very long viaduct – so a proper military attack of multiple strikes hitting multiple spans, would not cause the bridge to collapse at all because it has a high amount of redundancy from it’s continuous spans.Those short continous spans that form the viaduct make it relatively easy to replace any damaged span. Either of the 2 foundations supporting the span getting obliterated would cause expensive damage and create a a headache in either rebuilding or repairing – but again not too expensive or time-delaying in comparison to the overall scope of the project.

    But yes, with there being 2 different bridges and a whole host of other aspects – the chances of Russian defences being so overwhelmed that they fail to defend the bridges, which therefore lead to stopping the functioning of both bridges, is zero outside of a nuclear attack as mentioned.


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