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!
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!]
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.
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.”
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.”