Ukraine War Day #124: What Can Russia Do About Drone Attacks?

Dear Readers:

Previously we have discussed Ukrainian drone-bombings of Snake Island; and also of certain Russian assets, like the floating gas-extraction platforms in the Black Sea. Add to that the recent droning of an oil refinery in the Rostov Oblast of mainland Russia. Such attacks are usually proceeded (purely by coincidence, of course!) by the UFO phenomenon known as American Worldview satellites hovering overhead and snapping polaroids for their collection. Given the obvious coordination between American satellites and Ukrainian drones, is there anything the Russians can actually do to prevent such attacks? Or must they just sit helplessly and wait for them to happen?

To answer such questions I have this piece by analyst Mikhail Khodarenok. Gazeta is actually nice enough to give us a bio of their contributor, so let us summarize that quickly: Khodarenok is literally a rocket scientist. He graduated from the Minsk Higher Engineering Rocket Institute in 1976, and then the Military Anti-Air Command Academy in 1986. He commanded Rocket Division C-75 from 1980-83; then was Deputy Commander of a Rocket Regiment 1986-88. Senior officer in the General Staff 1988-2000. After which he retired and started working as a military analyst for various newspapers.

Khodarenok is famous for his flashy ties.

All this to say that he knows what he is talking about, when it comes to rockets, drones, and anti-air defenses.

A few days ago, June 22, the Novoshakhtinsky Factory of Petroleum Products (НЗНП) was attacked by two Ukrainian bomb-carrying drones. The factory is located in Russia proper, in the Krasnosulinsky Region of the Rostov Oblast (main city = Krasny Sulin). According to the wiki, this region was actually part of the Donetsk Gubernia of the Ukrainian SSR from 1923-1931. At which time, as if to spite those pundits who claim that Communists always took territory away from Russia and gave it to Ukraine, this region was re-districted to be on the Russia side of the administrative border. A kind of economic Gerrymandering among Soviet regions, purpose being to increase efficiencies of supplies and logistics. This map shows the relative positions (I have marked with arrows) of Mariupol, Donetsk, Rostov-on-Don, and Krasny Sulin. The oil refinery Novoshakhtinsk is the town right below Krasny Sulin. The so-called “internationally recognized” Ukrainian border runs just to the West of Krasny Sulin. Somehow the Ukrainians were able to vault their drones over this border into Russia proper, but the article doesn’t say from whence they were launched, or what their range is.

According to the factory’s press release: “As a result of terrorist actions incoming from the western border of Rostov Oblast, two unpiloted drones struck at technical objects within the publicly traded company Novoshakhtinsky Petroleum Products. The attack caused an explosion. There were no human casualties. The fire was localized and put out.”

The НЗНП factory went live in 2009. It has a capacity of refining up to 7.5 million tons of oil annually, and is the sole working oil refinery in the Rostov Oblast. It specializes in the production and sale of fuel oil, furnace, marine and diesel fuel, and straight-run gasoline.

Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov hastened to reassure everybody that the explosion and fire would not put a crimp on the distribution of benzine and diesel fuels to consumers living the South of Russia: “The factory actually did not supply the kind of fuels needed for motor vehicles to the internal market; and at the current time was undergoing renovation,” according to Shulginov.

[I am not actually sure how to read that; whether or not the refinery was operational at the time, and whether or not it supplied fuel to the Russian military. Because the Ukrainian side claim this was a “legitimate” military target, just like Russia targets their military fuel supplies.]

For Their Photo Album?

Like Johnny on the spot, before the drone strike itself, American satellites were seen hovering overhead. The Russian news agency RIA Novosti confirmed that two satellites, Worldview-1 and Worldview-2, both owned by Maxar Technologies Inc., had been snapping photos of the oil refinery, just before the drone strikes.

Sauron’s Eye In the Sky

But the real question here is, how can Russia defend its infrastructures objects from these Ukrainian drone attacks? Khodarenok hastens to defend Russian anti-air systems, who often take the blame when this sort of thing happens. People who say that these systems, such as the Panzir-S1 and the so-called “Top” system, are helpless against drones, simply don’t know what they are talking about. These systems proved their anti-drone effectiveness in several theaters of war, including Syria, Lybia, and the Ukraine. An up-and-coming Russian system called “Derivation Anti-Air” (Деривация-ПВО) is still in the testing phase, but shows great promise. It is equipped with smart explosive shells which explode themselves right alongside the target, guaranteed to destroy even the smallest drone.

The Ukrainian drones which attacked the oil refinery are of the type “Kamikaze Drones”. Most likely, according to Khodarenok, they are either native Ukrainian PD-1 drones; or Chinese drones of the type Skyeye 4450, which are sold freely on the world market. Either type can be stuffed with explosives.

Russian 57 mm “Derivation PVO” Anti-air system.

Lessons to draw: In this region bordering on the Ukraine, the anti-air defense systems must be fortified, starting with radar location systems. A radar field should be set up no shorter than 50 meters (tall). This is the height needed to intercept drones. Moreoever: units of the radio-technical troops need to react very quickly in identifying the location of the target. At a height of 50 meters, the radar can “see” an area only around 15-17 kilometers. Therefore, this is the distance at which the radar systems need to be positioned one from the other. Moreover, the anti-air rockets should be able to cover the entire sky over these important infrastructure objects, without any gaps. In other words, a layered and inter-woven defense system consisting of short-, medium-, and long-range missiles.

Khodarenok also advises the use of strike helicopters, as components of a fully integrated and multi-layered anti-air defense system.

That’s it for Khodarenko’s analysis, and it only remains to speculate why the Ukrainians are wasting their precious drones on these pinprick strikes. Not that the strikes are not destructive, and do not cause loss of property and even lives, sometimes. But nonetheless have very little importance, in the strategic sense. (I am not counting Snake Island here, which is obviously of great strategic value.) To answer my own question, why are they doing this? I think the best answer is: Because they can. Or maybe, an even better answer: Because the Americans are running a controlled experiment?

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27 Responses to Ukraine War Day #124: What Can Russia Do About Drone Attacks?

  1. colliemum says:

    I’d go for your 2nd answer, yalensis: they do it because the Americans are running this ‘experiment’.
    Perhaps some thought ought to be given to how to blind ‘Sauron’s eyes’. After all – these are ‘private satellites, not belonging to the US and therefor NATO military, right? That’s what we’ve been told, after all, by the west’s MSM and we do belie them, don’t we!
    So: why not blind them, accidentally-on-purpose? After all, accidents do happen, and putting out of business satellites owned by a private company ‘by accident’ isn’t an attack on a NATO member, demanding NATO intervention, is it? Better do it now before the USA demands NATO changes their ‘rulz’ again …

    Liked by 1 person

    • yalensis says:

      That sounds like a great idea, but what kind of accident? Like launching a rocket that “accidentally” knocks into the satellite?


      • colliemum says:

        A bit of ‘accidentally misguided’ electronic blinding? I’m sure some tech-savvy people would know!


        • yalensis says:

          That seems to be the consensus! But I still wonder how and whence the laser beam should be delivered to its target. Sharks in space suits?


          • colliemum says:

            I’d think Russia might haver ‘war satellites’ of which we don’t know anything, and might be able to re-program them to accidentally blind those commercial spy satellites.
            After all, wouldn’t they do this to US satellites should Biden be even more like an eejit and try to get the USA into a proper war at Russia’s borders?


  2. Liborio Guaso says:

    From what the US media such as CNN say, Ukrainian Nazism in the Dombas is liquidated and the fear is if Russia will continue the offensive towards the west. Curiously, the same fear that forced the landing of the so-called D-day to stop a supposed Russian invasion of all of Europe. Let us remember that all of Europe sent its best assassins to kill Russians with the Nazis and feared a just retaliation.


    • yalensis says:

      I actually watched a CNN report this morning just to see what kind of B.S. they are selling now. The sock-puppet sounded nervous and was speculating just “how far” Russia planned to go. It’s almost like they have accepted that Russia takes Donbass and starting to worry, “Where will they stop?” They should have thought about that sooner, I think Russia was actually willing to negotiate in good faith right up to the failure of the Istanbul talks.


  3. michaeldroy says:

    Training I guess. I mean if you are going to do proper training of Ukrainian soldiers on these weapons you can hardly hit targets in Poland or even Ukraine.
    Training followed by rapid movement in the hope that Russia wastes a Caliber missile on taking out the launch place.


  4. FatMax says:

    “Rocket Division C-75”
    That’s actually a division of S-75 surface-to-air missiles, famous “flying telephone poles” of the Vietnam War.
    ” precious drones”
    Which are attacking high-value targets. Compared to damage they can inflict to an important part of civilian infrastructure, they cost practically nothing.
    What else are Hohols gonna do with those drones? Send them over Donetsk? Or Snake Island? LMAO!


    • yalensis says:

      That’s for clarification, Max. Yup, S-75 not C-75, duh!
      Still, I wouldn’t downplay the value of the drones. Those things cost a pretty penny, and Ukraine don’t have too many of them left.


  5. S Brennan says:

    So far the Russ have managed this war far better than any of the US misadventures since Korea. Mistakes, yeah sure but, they’ve quickly been corrected…unlike say Vietnam where the US, under Gen. Westmoreland continued to make the same set of mistakes from 1964-68 and even after he was promoted under the “heck-of-a-job” policy of DC. ‘Cause when you’re the top West Point Grad…well…you can do no wrong can you?

    Anyhow, I am sure the Russ are on the case. Satellites are currently off limits, though destroying these two’s usefulness is a trivial matter, a well placed, high power laser will render their optics inoperable without spreading a debris field.

    As a side note; what kinda insurance do these “private” eyes in the sky have? I ask because almost all insurance policies have an “act of war” exclusion, if these don’t, that infers that they’re hostile participants in an undeclared war…I’d look through the stockholders report.

    Anyhow, the 3LAs always blurring moral clarity for momentary advantage and in the process, betraying the American value system that made the US a respected leader in the midst of war torn Europe. The 3LAs virulent nihilism has infected every level of our US society, their influence has the same corrosive effect as the debauchery of the Roman empire. The Stalin’s Beria never had as much power over society as has been ceded to 3LAs. Our society rots like a fish, from it’s head.


    • yalensis says:

      You ask some excellent questions, like about the insurance policies of these aerial spies. That would be very interesting research. Since this is a private company, another possible thing to look at is whether anybody did any “short sales” against it, or whatever it’s called when you bet against a company’s stock. I could see an interesting conspiracy possibility (would make a great thriller novel!) whereby somebody bets against the company, and then instigates Russia to shoot down their satellites.
      Using lasers, you say? How about sharks with frickin’ laser beams?


      • S Brennan says:

        You don’t need to “shoot it down”, the satellites optical sensors can be overloaded by…wait for it…optical input and that is where the laser comes in, it destroys by “overfeeding” the sensor and or, amplification circuit burning either or, both.

        A laser that can easily destroy your eyesight may not even be powerful enough to penetrate clothing. Whether organic or, synthetic, optical sensors are delicate things.


        • yalensis says:

          Okay, but how is the laser beam delivered to the satellite? From Earth or from Space? (I know these are dumb questions, but I honestly don’t know…)


          • FatMax says:

            “The system can also blind enemy satellites in orbits of up to 1,500 km and “disabling them during their fly-past by means of laser irradiation”, according to Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Yury Borisov.”
            Blinding satellites is an extreme move, ofc. I don’t think anyone wants to engage in such behavior, if there are no reasonable alternatives. Blinding military/scientific satellites could get out of hand.
            Although, “WorldView” satellites are commercial, not military.
            Russia could blind them, say “sorry, what a horrible mistake!”, pay the damages and just carry on.


  6. the pair says:

    i’d say instead of trying to take them out with various kinds of exploding ordinance, remember what iran did:

    if the drones can receive signals then it can probably be disrupted/hacked; especially if they can be caught and reverse engineered. ditto musk’s starlink. EMP might be an option, but again i’m just a random internet punter. as for the smaller consumer-level drones, they have a very limited range and usually have to be manually “launched” and “piloted”. as for US involvement, that’s a given at this point as even the NYT admits ukraine is crawling with spooks (like we didn’t know that since 2014). the entire battlefield is just an R&D opportunity to these psychopaths so expect a lot more lunatic behavior as they get a lot more desperate.


  7. Stephen T Johnson says:

    I think it’s highly likely that the RF are or will be rethinking their drone / counterdrone strategy. I doubt any of us have much of an idea what will emerge on the other end, but I expect it’ll include a full range from little quadcopters to the Okhotnik


  8. Beluga says:

    The Worldview satellite doesn’t “hover”. It’s going at 25,000 km/h or more at an altitude of about 750 km on average. The only satellites that hover are geostationary and orbit at 36,100 km — GPS satellites, typically. Good luck getting a sharp picture from one of those.

    A drone equipped with a decent camera would give better pictures of the refinery in its current state and send back pictures giving decent targets to analyze before picking a juicy one for an actual attack later. By another drone. Seems dead simple to me.

    I see red herring all over this post and the Snake Island woowoo Worldview “spy” satellite being in the vicinity. With a 95 minute orbit length, these things cover the entire earth to give people like Google their views. It’s near enough in the vicinity often if you look into how such satellites operate in a continuous spiral like a coil spring advancing a few hundred km per orbital pass. Surely the KISS principle applies here? Use a drone for what it is designed to do – spy. Then pack it or its brother full of what, 5 kg of explosive, and send it off to be a flying bomb. No satellite required.

    As for Snake Island, its strategic importance would have been high a hundred years ago. People seem to think in terms of pirates and sailing ships. These days an immoveable hunk of rock stuck out at sea with known co-ordinates is merely giving a bit more early warning to raise the alarm on incoming missiles to the mainland from its radars. Since the Ukrainian/Navy is inflatables/old junk until the US patrol boats arrive, a sea-borne attack is as easy to fend off as the Russians have repeatedly shown. Their Pantsir and Tor AA defences seem to work well on missiles arriving from the Odessa area. As for using M777 howitzers with their extreme range ammo, a good breath of wind on a 50 km journey will ruin their aim. Might as well hurl rocks. I think the Russians are holding Snake island just to piss off the Ukrainians. If the Ukrainians somehow regained it, tell me how they would resupply the place with armaments of any kind with the “navy” they have. You know, with Russian frigates about, their crews laughing their heads off at the sitting duck dummies beavering away.

    None of these points negates the Russian rocket expert nattering on about systems to identify, track and destroy drones. Obviously needed, although the MOD briefings seem to include a daily clutch of drone downings. What’s needed is a cheaper way of doing it than firing off big AA rockets.

    My opinions, of course. I just see no need for inventing conspiracy theories when none are required when it comes to the Worldview woowoo satellites. Maybe I think too logically as an old retired mechanical engineer, and NATO/US/UK/Ukrainian nefariousness that knows no bounds has simply passed me by.


    • yalensis says:

      Beluga, you might be right about the Worldview satellites, maybe that is just a conspiracy theory, I dunno. Regarding Snake Island, though, those Russian pundits did manage to convince me that it is strategically important. Given that a harpoon missile stationed thereon would have the range to reach Sebastopol. I just don’t think it would be prudent for Russia to allow the Ukrainians to take this rock!


  9. Tony Kaku says:

    You can put a laser in a passenger jet plane. The plane flies fine with a hole in the roof. More power reaches the satellite than if you have the laser on the ground.

    Hover is hover; what satellites do is orbit.


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