The Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU) are aggressively deploying unmanned aerial vehicles and Short Range Ballistic Missile Grom-2 (also known as Operational-Tactical Missile System Hrim), which presents a significant obstacle for the Russian military to overcome. According to official information released by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Russia’s air defence forces are currently fending off the strikes. Sergey Zybinsky, head of the news department for the Zapad grouping, said on April 9 that operators from the Buk and Tor anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM) destroyed four drones in the Kupyansk direction of the Kharkiv region. These unmanned aerial vehicles include Fury, Valkyrie, Elf, and Leleka-100.
Additionally, the Turkish surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles known as “Bayraktar TB2” have begun engaging in combat activities in the approximate vicinity of Kherson. They assist the high-precision multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) of the HIMARS program, allowing those systems to designate and destroy vital Russian targets. HIMARS missiles were successfully deflected as a direct result of the actions made by the Russian air defence; additionally, one Bayraktar TB2 was rendered inoperable as a direct result.
All reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles operating in the special military operation zone are of Ukrainian origin, except for Turkish UAVs. This includes the Ukrainian-made reconnaissance UAVs destroyed on April 9 by the West grouping of the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces. The maximum allowable weight for Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is 10 kilograms, and their maximum operational height is 2,000 metres. The Russians claim that their air defence troops effectively destroy these UAVs even though they are constructed out of composite materials, making it harder for radar to pick them up.
Cost-benefit ratio concerns
The surface-to-air guided missile (SAM) of the Buk anti-aircraft missile system weighs several hundred kilos, and the SAM of the Tor anti-aircraft missile system weighs roughly 160 kilogrammes. This means that they are far heavier and more expensive than Ukrainian targets by a factor of ten.
The primary objective of the “Buk” and “Tor” systems is to intercept and destroy enemy cruise missiles and aircraft. It would appear that Kyiv is replacing aircraft and helicopters with drones due to a shortage of those types of aircraft. If Ukraine uses 20 to 30 light and affordable UAVs to attack Russian positions, followed by sending military aircraft to attack Russian positions, a question arises over whether or not Russian anti-aircraft gunners will have sufficient ammo, notably missiles.
Much has been written about the lack of shells in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, but this can be partially offset by Ukrainian reconnaissance and strike UAVs, American high-precision HIMARS projectiles, and Grom-type ballistic missiles that are currently being developed and tested in combat conditions. The latter is compared to the Russian operational-tactical missile system (OTRK) Iskander, which has a range of approximately 500 kilometres for destroying targets. According to a March 2023 report by the Russian Ministry of Defense, Russian air defence systems had previously intercepted a Grom-2 ballistic missile near a Russian military airfield near Simferopol, as per the authors of the authoritative Telegram channel Rybar.
Rybar observes that the newest Ukrainian OTRK Grom-2 is still undergoing testing in the Tuzlov region south of Odesa. The latest attempt, like the one on March 29 in Gvardeyskiy, tests the missile system’s capabilities for long-range attacks deep within Russia. In a direct line, Tuzly and Feodossia are separated by 415 kilometres.
The Ukrainian media reports that the Grom-2 OTRK was designed by the Yuzhnoye design bureau (Dnepr, Ukraine), which in Soviet times designed the R-36 Satan intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) still employs the heaviest missiles in the world, and until the events of 2014, Yuzhny specialists supported their operation.
Increased Air Defence deployment
According to Andrei Demin, commander of the Air Defense Forces and Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces of Russia, his country has expanded the number of air defence systems along the Ukrainian borderDemin, commander of the Air Defense Forces and Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces of Russia.
The number of units equipped with medium and long-range anti-aircraft missile systems, like S-400, S-300PM2, and S-350 – manufactured by the Almaz-Antey concern, and anti-aircraft missiles and guns has increased by more than five times with the Pantsir-S complexes, according to comments made by Demin in an interview with the newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda, which the Russian Ministry of Defense publishes.
According to his explanation, the Aerospace Forces air defence systems and the connected military air defence systems are deployed as a cohesive system under a single command in the border regions (Belgorod, Bryansk, and Kursk). These spots are located at the furthest possible range of enemy air attack systems.
According to Demin, addressing the responsibilities of detecting aviation targets operating from Ukrainian territory entailed the participation of more than fifty mobile radar stations, and A-50U radar patrol and guide aircraft were put on duty in the air 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Russia claims that since the beginning of the special military operation, it has destroyed more than one hundred Bayraktar drones given to Ukraine.