Western Navies See Strategic, Tactical Lessons from Ukraine Invasion

The lessons emerging from the war in Ukraine for Western countries and their navies, and for maritime matters more broadly, ranging from the strategic to the tactical levels, the chiefs of the French, U.K. and U.S. navies told the recent inaugural Paris Naval Conference. “One thing we should all take away is the importance of […]

RTS Moskva (121) following an April 13, 2022 strike from Ukrainian missiles. Russian MoD

The lessons emerging from the war in Ukraine for Western countries and their navies, and for maritime matters more broadly, ranging from the strategic to the tactical levels, the chiefs of the French, U.K. and U.S. navies told the recent inaugural Paris Naval Conference.

“One thing we should all take away is the importance of the will to fight,” U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said during a press briefing with the three chiefs following the conference.

Gilday underscored the depth of the Ukrainians’ desire to “fight for their freedom … down to every single person in their society.”

Adm. Pierre Vandier, the French navy’s chief of staff, noted that while the war in Ukraine seems based around a land campaign, it has a significant maritime dimension, while speaking at the Jan. 18 conference along with Gilday and U.K. Royal Navy First Sea Lord Adm. Ben Key. Amongst a range of strategic-level maritime challenges in the Black Sea region, Adm. Vandier pointed to the importance of keeping open the port of Odesa in southwestern Ukraine.

“It was very important to have this [as a] free port,” he said.

Key, who also serves as the British chief of the naval staff, said that despite the heavy land emphasis, the ability to keep Odesa has strong maritime implications.

“The loss of Odesa would have strangled the Ukrainian economy because of the inability to export grain,” Key said. “That would then have created huge food shortages in countries many thousands of miles away from Ukraine […] Even in something that is being contained to a small region, the maritime implications of not having secure sea lines of communication are considerable and will impact the international community.”

Adm. Mike Gilday, Adm. Pierre Vandier and Adm. Ben Key on Jan. 18, 2023.

At the operational level, there are a number of maritime activities underway, including maritime patrol, amphibious forces operations, mining and countermining, blockades and unmanned vessel use, Vandier said.

The war in Ukraine saw the use of USVs in an offensive role, with USVs contributing to strikes. In addition, technologies like cruise missiles have been used in strikes both from sea to shore and shore to sea. Several warships have also been lost.

“[This is] nothing new, but the range of what has been done shows the dimension of the maritime aspect of this war,” Vandier said.

During the conference, Gilday discussed how the Ukrainians are learning lessons themselves, and how their fighting spirit is even filtering down to the tactical level.

“The Ukrainians are learning war while they’re fighting the war, and they’re doing so in a way that is so agile, and so flexible, and so nimble,” Gilday said. “They’re leveraging technology down at the tactical level. This goes down to the soldier on the battlefield.”

“For all our navies and our sailors, that’s the kind of spirit we want,” he continued. “That brings an asymmetric advantage to our navies that perhaps puts you in a position of advantage in a fight.”

A version of this post originally appeared on Naval News. It’s been republished here with permission.

Russian Arctic Threat Growing More Potent, Report Says

Russia’s Northern Fleet’s ballistic missile submarines and strategic bomber force’s capabilities remain intact despite the heavy toll the country’s invasion into Ukraine has had on its naval infantry, army and special forces assigned to the Kola Peninsula, a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies found. The Arctic remains “of great strategic […]

Russian Borei-class nuclear submarine Generalissimus Suvorov. TASS Photo

Russia’s Northern Fleet’s ballistic missile submarines and strategic bomber force’s capabilities remain intact despite the heavy toll the country’s invasion into Ukraine has had on its naval infantry, army and special forces assigned to the Kola Peninsula, a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies found.

The Arctic remains “of great strategic value to Russia,” Njord Wegge, a professor at the Norwegian Defense University College, said this week as the report was released. On the military side, the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic provides a gateway for Russia’s Northern Fleet’s attack and ballistic missile submarines to move through the Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom [GIUK] gap to reach the Atlantic

The “Russian Arctic Threat” report noted Western-imposed sanctions on the Kremlin for the Feb. 24 invasion may have a future effect on Russian defense industry’s ability to deliver future strategic capabilities. The report mentioned their effect on ship construction and updating conventional land, sea and air weapons systems that rely on imported technology. The report cited the benefit and importance of keeping tight sanctions on dual-use computer chips that could be used for Moscow’s conventional forces in the Ukrainian fighting.

It remains to be seen how sanctions will work over the next four years, said Colin Wall, associate fellow in CSIS’ Europe, Russia and Eurasia Program. For now, “Russia will probably have to make tradeoffs” in spending and where it commits military resources as long as the war continues.

Russia has already deployed advanced tanks to the fight and could soon be sending advanced air defense systems to better protects its forces against a spring offensive, Wegge said. Both moves put further strain on the Russian industrial base.

In addition to smuggling and trading with partners who ignore the sanctions, “China has been important partner in the past” and could be again in filling in these military technological gaps, Wegge said. So far, Beijing has not stepped in to fill Moscow’s immediate military needs as Iran did with drones.

“Russia has had 10 years of successful modernization” of its forces that it can fall back on, he said, specifically citing hypersonic weapons and silencing its submarines.

Wall, who co-authored the report with Wegge, added, with Finland and Sweden applying for NATO membership Russia’s goal of “protecting its second strike capability” is of heightened concern in the Kremlin. Moscow’s other strategic goals in the Arctic are: protecting the Northern Sea Route as a potential major trade route between Asia and Europe; and protecting its energy industry in the region, a major source of outside revenue.

When Sweden and, especially, Finland are admitted to NATO, the security equation in the Arctic will change. Both panelists agreed the High North has been a region of relatively low tension.

The report noted Russia’s defense minister warned “retaliatory measures are required” such sending more land forces to northwest Russia if the two are admitted to the alliance.

CSIS Graphic

With Finland a member, the alliance would have better highway access and now rail access to the northernmost areas of Europe. In addition, Finland has a “broad mobilization base” in reserve manpower and stockpiled conventional arms, weapons and ammunition, Wegge said.

Wall described the Kremlin’s comments as “ratcheting up” tensions. He added it was unlikely immediately that United States or NATO would create a Baltic or Arctic Command in the near future.

“The Arctic is not going to shoot to the top of the priority list” of American immediate security concerns, Wall said. He expects U.S. presence to grow but to continue to rely on allies and partners to keep an eye on Russian activities.

Speaking at a Wilson Center event Thursday, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael Ryan, deputy commandant for operations, policy and capabilities, emphasized presence. “It’s about being there … to be successful” in providing security for the region, he said.

Adding the Arctic is a “unique domain” for security and military operations, Ryan said. The service’s expanded commitment can be seen in its building a heavy icebreaker and looking to buy another existing large icebreaking vessel to operate continuously there. Both are part of a long-term effort to rebuild the nation’s icebreaking fleet to three heavies and three medium icebreakers.

The CSIS report stated the Northern Fleet has two “ice-class” vessels in its number and can call up 46 civilian icebreakers when needed. Some of those icebreakers are armed.

Wegge noted at CSIS the American Marines and the Army’s 11th Airborne Division, based in Alaska, have stepped up training exercises in the High North with allies like Norway and large-scale exercises like Trident Juncture. For years, the Marine Corps has been prepositioning equipment in northern Norway to use in a crisis.

He added Norway can play a pivotal role in Arctic security in providing air and maritime awareness with its advanced platforms and technology.

Senator Questions If Allies Would Aid Taiwan in Potential Chinese Invasion

A senior Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence questioned several allies’ willingness to come to Taiwan’s aid if China invaded the island. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Monday at the American Enterprise Institute that debating if the United States should drop its strategic ambiguity stance if the island democracy was attacked is a […]

Taiwanese Marines on Jan. 11, 2023. Taiwan Ministry of National Defense Photo

A senior Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence questioned several allies’ willingness to come to Taiwan’s aid if China invaded the island.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Monday at the American Enterprise Institute that debating if the United States should drop its strategic ambiguity stance if the island democracy was attacked is a “moot point.” While Chinese President Xi Jinping expects the U.S. and Japan to respond, Cornyn is “a little less confident what our other allies would do.”

Australia and New Zealand have voiced support for Taiwan, but it “is a far cry from committing troops to repel an invasion,” Cornyn said as he also questioned Australia’s and New Zealand’s willingness to help Taiwan during a potential invasion.

As was the case with Russian President Vladimir Putin, “one guy decides whether to invade or not,” when it comes to Taiwan’s future, Cornyn said.

“I don’t think the Taiwanese are ready” for an attack. But “we’ve see all the signs” of increased Chinese belligerency following then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan, Cornyn said. This summer, Pelosi told Taiwanese officials that the United States “will not abandon its commitment” to the island’s security.

Beijing responded with missile tests over and near the island, flying hundreds of aircraft into its air identification zone over several days, sending warships around the island as it would in a blockade and using military exercises to test amphibious assault operations.

For several years, the United States has pressed Taiwan to improve its internal defenses by investing in anti-air and anti-ship weapons, investing in mines and mine countermeasures, extending training periods for reservists and stepping up military exercises rehearsing how to repel an invasion.

Cornyn also questioned whether Taiwan could “hold out for a couple of weeks … until the cavalry arrives” for its rescue. The situation is very different from that of Ukraine, which has land connections with NATO countries to move support into the country. Taiwan is an island and support would have to come by air or sea.

When asked what would deter Xi from an attack in the near future, Cornyn pointed to “cost” leading to potential failure.

On continued aid to Ukraine, he expected strong congressional support to continue. “My own view is that it is money well spent, he said. The senator said the expected audit – requested by the House – of past expenditures for and to Kyiv is necessary.

Cornyn is skeptical that the Kremlin is interested in serious negotiations with the Ukrainians now.

“If peace broke out tomorrow, they [would use the time] to regroup and re-arm,” he said.

He agreed with the Ukrainian assessment that the war began in 2014, when the Kremlin seized Crimea and backed separatists in the Donbas region with weapons, manpower and financing.

The Ukrainians have to set the terms of negotiations that lead to a settlement, he added. Putin’s goals now are “to grind the Ukrainians … and outlast the West” in the struggle.

The defense industrial sector is feeling the impact of that continued support to Ukraine, Cornyn said. He cited a new Center for Strategic and International Studies report that found it will take five years to replenish U.S. stocks of 155 mm artillery rounds.

“Javelins and Stingers, same story,” the senator said.

Aggravating the shortages is the potential for simultaneous engagement in two conflicts – one in Eastern Europe and another in the Western Pacific, he added. “I don’t see all hands on deck,” including the industrial base, should a crisis escalate to fighting in Asia or the Pacific.

“This ought to be a flashing red light to us,” Cornyn said.

“Certainly we are in a race” with China on advanced technologies, like artificial intelligence and quantum computing, he added. “There’s enough warning signals that we need to be ramping up our readiness” in the technology sector as well. Cornyn cited the semi-conductor manufacturing industry, for which both China and the United States rely on Taiwan.

Congress compounds the problem by relying on continuing resolutions, instead of passing budgets on time, and then passing appropriations through huge omnibus spending packages. The resolutions, with their caps on spending and restrictions on where money can go until a budget is passed, breaks up planning in the Pentagon and disrupts industrial base production, he said.

“I think it’s going to be a real heavy lift to get back to regular order” of passing individual appropriations bills with amendments accepted or rejected on the floor of both chambers of Congress, he said.

“CRs and sequestration is one of the places you would not want to go,” Cornyn said.

The fiscal year begins Oct. 1. President Joe Biden signed the Fiscal Year 2023 $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package into law on Dec. 29. The government ran on continuing resolutions during that time.

Report to Congress on Patriot Missiles for Ukraine

The following is the Jan. 18, 2023, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, PATRIOT Air and Missile Defense System for Ukraine.. From the report: The PATRIOT air and missile defense (AMD) system is an integral component of U.S. air and missile defense. The system and its interceptors are both expensive and limited in supply. On […]

The following is the Jan. 18, 2023, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, PATRIOT Air and Missile Defense System for Ukraine..

From the report:

The PATRIOT air and missile defense (AMD) system is an integral component of U.S. air and missile defense. The system and its interceptors are both expensive and limited in supply. On December 21, 2022, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced the United States would provide a PATRIOT battery to Ukraine as part of a larger $1.85 billion security assistance package. The provision of PATRIOT units now, and whether or not the United States may transfer additional PATRIOT units to Ukraine in the future, present issues that Congress will face in both its legislative and oversight roles.

What Is the PATRIOT System?

PATRIOT is an acronym for “Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target.”

The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command (AMCOM) notes

The PATRIOT is the U.S. Army’s most advanced air defense system. Capable of defeating both high performance aircraft and tactical ballistic missiles, it is the only operational [U.S.] air defense system that can shoot down attacking missiles. A PATRIOT battery (the basic firing unit) consists of about 90 soldiers, but three soldiers in the engagement control station are the only personnel required to operate the battery in combat.

Raytheon Technologies manufactures PATRIOT radar and ground systems, and Lockheed Martin manufactures the interceptor missiles.

DOD’s December 21, 2022, Ukraine Security Assistance Announcement

DOD’s December 21, 2022, announcement appears to represent a change in the Biden Administration’s position on the supply of PATRIOT units to Ukraine. Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, the Ukraine government repeatedly has asked the United States to supply PATRIOT systems. The United States to date has provided other, less capable AMD systems. According to a DOD news article, “Ukraine Getting Patriot Battery, Other Defense Weapons,” the United States will transfer a PATRIOT battery under the provisions of Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA), meaning PATRIOT battery systems, equipment, and associated interceptors could be taken from Army units/stocks (22 U.S.C. §2318(a)(1)). DOD further noted

PATRIOT is one of the world’s most advanced air defense systems, and it will give Ukraine a critical long-range capability to defend its airspace. It is capable of intercepting cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and aircraft … Our goal is to help Ukraine strengthen a layered integrated approach to air defense. PATRIOT will complement a range of medium and short-range air defense capabilities [Stinger and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS)] that we have provided and the allies have provided in prior donation packages … PATRIOT is a sophisticated air defense system so training will be required and will take some time.

Download the document here.

U.K. Sending 14 Challenger 2 Tanks, Ammo to Ukraine, Foreign Minister Says

The U.K. is sending 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks, dozens of self-propelled artillery and thousands of rounds of ammunition to Ukraine with the goal of helping troops push back against Russian troops in the eastern and southern parts of the country, U.K.’s foreign minister said Tuesday. The foreign ministry is focused on helping Ukraine […]

A Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank of the Royal Welsh Battle Group on Exercise Prairie Storm at the British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) in Canada in 2014. U.K. MoD Photo

The U.K. is sending 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks, dozens of self-propelled artillery and thousands of rounds of ammunition to Ukraine with the goal of helping troops push back against Russian troops in the eastern and southern parts of the country, U.K.’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

The foreign ministry is focused on helping Ukraine end Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to take Ukraine by force, James Cleverly told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cleverly spoke at CSIS while in Washington, D.C., to meet his American counterparts at the State Department.

The U.K. wants to send a message to the Kremlin that it will keep its commitment to Kyiv until the Ukrainians are victorious over Russia.

“We believe the introduction of NATO main battle tanks will be decisive” in expected fighting this spring,” Cleverly, who remains a serving artillery officer in the United Kingdom’s reserve forces, said in response to a question.

Cleverly said he considers this to be a longer war than the nearly one year since Russia fully invaded its neighbor. Instead, Cleverly points to Putin’s aggression beginning with the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 where it maintains a large naval base and its continuing military and financial support of separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Negotiation to end the war, which started on Feb. 24, 2022, needs to be done properly or consequences will be more lives lost and money spent, Cleverly said. He added Moscow has increasingly targeted civilians with ballistic missile barrages in recent weeks.

Putin shows no sign of backing away from a “long, drawn out attritional war,” which was the best chance of victory in the spring, Cleverly said. Then, the Ukrainians with support from NATO countries and others rushed anti-armor weapons to blunt the assault aimed at capturing Kyiv and other eastern cities near the border with Russia and Belarus.

London’s support has changed as the conflict has reached nearly a year of fighting, Cleverly said. The country started by sending Javelins, now it is sending heavy armor.

When asked whether the United Kingdom or any other NATO country might be sending fighter aircraft and longer-range artillery systems soon to Ukraine, Cleverly said that the equipment sent to Ukraine will continue to evolve, but he did not answer the question.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said his government’s ministers would be meeting with their counterparts in Washington, Paris and Berlin to discuss deploying more armor to the conflict, and other advanced systems and providing the training necessary for their use when he announced London was sending main battle tanks to Ukraine last week.

Following the announcement, Defense Minister Ben Wallace prodded Berlin to approve Poland’s shipping of its German-manufactured Leopard tanks to neighboring Ukraine.

Germany is sending Marder infantry fighting to Kyiv. For Berlin to get more actively involved in the conflict is a big step, given its 20th-century history, Cleverly said, adding it’s “an epoch-defining change.”

Cleverly said Germany’s support of the alliance’s decision to back Kyiv was further evidence that Putin’s belief that NATO would splinter over supporting Ukraine has proven false. It has caused Finland and Sweden to apply for formal membership in the alliance, he added.

The invasion “has been a tipping point for the alliance [and NATO] came out stronger” than before.

U.K. MoD: Russian Anti-Ship Missile Used in Fatal Attack on Civilians in Ukraine, Killing 40

Russian military likely used an anti-ship missile in the attack on Dnipro, which killed 40 people, according to the British Ministry of Defense. Russian troops used the long-range, 1980s-era AS-4 Kitchen cruise missile, launched from a Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire medium bomber, according to the British MoD on Monday. The Kitchen missile is a long-range tactical, […]

AS-4 Kitchen Missile flown by a Tupolev Tu-22M bomber

Russian military likely used an anti-ship missile in the attack on Dnipro, which killed 40 people, according to the British Ministry of Defense.

Russian troops used the long-range, 1980s-era AS-4 Kitchen cruise missile, launched from a Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire medium bomber, according to the British MoD on Monday.
The Kitchen missile is a long-range tactical, standoff missile. It is not known for its precision when used against ground targets, according to the British MoD.

Over the weekend, Russia launched multiple missile strikes, including the one against Dnipro, where the Kitchen is likely to have been used. The anti-ship missile hit an apartment building, Ukrainian officials said.

The death toll is now at 40, according to The New York Times, but 34 people were still missing three days after the strike. The Dnipro attack is one of the most deadly hits on civilian infrastructure since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago.

Russian missiles also struck Kherson, where a residential building, a vacant children’s hospital and a boarding school were hit. The bombardment killed three people, according to the Times.

So far, the United Nations has confirmed 7,000 civilians deaths, which include 398 children, but the death total is likely higher.

During a press briefing Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed that Russia launched missiles from the air, land and sea, but he did not specify the type of missiles. Russia does have Kalibr cruise missile capable ships in the Black Sea.

It is unclear how many ships Russia currently has in the Black Sea. On Saturday, the British MoD reported that 10 ships in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet left Novorossiysk Naval Facility.

Naval News reported that among the ships were Pyotr Morgunov, an Ivan Gren-class landing ship, and three Project 636.3 Kilo-class submarines.

U.S. Sending Ukraine Sea Sparrow Missiles in Latest Aid Package

The United States will send RIM-7 Sea Sparrows to Ukraine as part of Washington’s latest aid package. The Sea Sparrows, which can be launched from land or sea, will be used with Ukraine’s modified Soviet-era BUK system, Politico reported. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Laura Cooper confirmed during a Friday […]

NATO Sea Sparrow Technicians aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) load a RIM-7 missile into the ship’s forward NATO Sea Sparrow Surface Missile System (NSSMS), Dec. 9, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

The United States will send RIM-7 Sea Sparrows to Ukraine as part of Washington’s latest aid package.

The Sea Sparrows, which can be launched from land or sea, will be used with Ukraine’s modified Soviet-era BUK system, Politico reported. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Laura Cooper confirmed during a Friday press briefing that Ukraine would receive the Sea Sparrows.

“With air defense, you can never consider one system in isolation,” Cooper said. “It’s all about the layered air defense with multiple systems with different ranges applied over broad geographic territory protecting key nodes.”

The BUK system is good for short ranges, she said, adding that the Ukrainian defenses are using multiple systems to counter attacks from cruise missiles and drones.

The missiles are part of a $2.85 billion presidential drawdown announced Friday. The State Department also announced $225 million in Foreign Military Financing, according to the Defense Department announcement.

This is the 29th drawndown since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. As part of the aid package, the U.S. authorized 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, although a timeline for delivery is not clear.

The package also included 100 M113 Amored Personnel Carriers, 55 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, 138 High Mobility Mulitpurposed Wheeled Vehicles, 18 self-propelled Howitzers and 30 towed Howitzers. Additional ammunition is also part of package, including 1,200 Remote Anti-Armor Mine Systems and more ammo for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).

The aid package did not say how many RIM-7 Sea Sparrows would go to Ukraine.

Ship Insurers’ Exodus From Russia-Ukraine Trades Gathering Pace

By Alex Longley and Alaric Nightingale (Bloomberg) — A host of shipping insurers altered their policies for 2023 to exclude claims linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine, a further sign of…

By Alex Longley and Alaric Nightingale (Bloomberg) — A host of shipping insurers altered their policies for 2023 to exclude claims linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine, a further sign of...

Top Stories 2022: War in Ukraine

This post is part of a series looking back at the top naval stories from 2022. It has been 10 months since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the war is on track to extend into the new year. Peace talks between the two countries are unlikely to happen in the near future, due to unwavering demands on both […]

Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles. Ukraine MoD Photo

This post is part of a series looking back at the top naval stories from 2022.

It has been 10 months since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the war is on track to extend into the new year.

Peace talks between the two countries are unlikely to happen in the near future, due to unwavering demands on both sides, The New York Times reported Wednesday. Russia wants four regions of Ukraine it says it annexed in September, while Kyiv wants Russian leaders to face a war tribunal for the invasion.

Russia continued its bombardment of the country, with more missile strikes hitting Kherson, a southern city along the Dnieper River, which has been a target of Russian bombardment for the majority of the conflict. Kherson has been largely contested, with the port city the first to fall under Russian control before the Ukrainians reclaimed it in November.

For the most part, the conflict between the two countries has been fought on land and in the air, with Russia bombarding Ukraine with missiles. The Black Sea has not been a major theater in the conflict, outside of issues with exports and an early victory for the Ukrainians.

The most recent U.S. aid package — the 28th since August 2021 — included one Patriot missile battery. The package included additional ammunition from the existing U.S. ammunition stockpile.

Overall, the U.S. has promised $21.1 billion in aid for Ukraine.

The aid has largely focused on air defense, with the U.S. sending multiple munitions to protect against the air Russia bombardment.

The last time the U.S. sent maritime aid was 40 patrol boats in November, USNI previously reported. Washington also sent patrol boats in June. It was not clear in November what types of boats would be used. Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters at the time that the Ukrainians would determine how the boats would be used.

At the time, Russia had just sunk a Ukrainian patrol boat, possibly operating in the Dnieper River, Naval News reported. The U.S. also sent 18 patrol ships in June, including ones manufactured by Metal Shark.

Maritime operations have not been a main focus of the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Concerns about an amphibious attack on the port city Odesa did not come to fruition. While the Russians did complete one amphibious assault on coastal cities outside of Mykolaiv, it was unable to capture the city through the amphibious assault efforts. Instead, the Russian troops have largely reached Ukrainian cities by land.

Moskva Sinking

RTS Moskva (121) following an April 13, 2022 strike from Ukrainian missiles. Russian MoD

The Russian Navy has played a very limited role in the Ukraine conflict. While there have been about a half dozen ships in the Black Sea, which have fired missiles into Ukrainian cities, most have been kept away from the coast due to the threat of anti-ship missiles.

The U.S. has promised a land-based Harpoon launcher to the Ukrainians through USAI, although the timeline is unclear. Other allies, like the Danish, have provided Harpoon missiles to the Ukrainians.

The threat of anti-ship missiles has kept Russian warships away from the Ukrainian coast, especially after the Ukrainian Navy used Neptune missiles to hit RTS Moskva (121) which led to the ship sinking.

Moskva was likely blind to the Neptune missiles, USNI News previously reported, as it did not appear to have its fire control radars for its cruise missile defense system activated.

The sinking of Moskva was a morale victory for the Ukrainians, as the ship had attacked Snake Island in the early days of the conflict. With the ship gone, the Ukrainians were able to retake the island, although Russia claimed it left voluntarily.

In July, the Ukrainians sank a Russian supply ship headed toward Snake Island, USNI News previously reported.

Since the sinking of Moskva, the Russians have largely kept their Black Sea Fleet away from Ukraine. In September, it appeared that the Russian Navy largely moved its Kilo submarines to Novorossiysk port in Krasnodar Krai from Sevastapol, Crimea.

In October, the Ukrainians successfully struck Sevastapol with drones, forcing the Russians to move its Black Sea Fleet further into its ports. Admiral Makarov, the new flagship for the Black Sea Fleet after the Moskva sank, was likely damaged in the drone attack.

Grain

Wheat fields in midsummer in Ukraine, Oblast Lviv in 2012. Raimond Spekking Photo

One of the consequences of the Russia-Ukraine conflict was the inability of Ukraine to export its grain. The country is responsible for 10 percent of the world’s grain exports, and it often supplies lower-income countries in the Middle East and North Africa

Without the ability for Ukraine to export grain, fears arose of food shortages in countries across Africa and Asia. Russia, another large grain exporting country, also struggled to export the commodity because few countries and insurance companies wanted to risk relationships with Moscow.

Russia and Ukraine agreed to an export deal in July, which was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations. The deal allowed Ukraine to export grain from three ports.

The deal came to a temporary halt after the October attack on Sevastapol, but it resumed a day later. The deal is currently operating under a four-month extension.

Since the deal was struck, 15,917,590 metric tonnes of foodstuffs have been shipped. Of the 15,917,590 metric tons, 29 percent is wheat while corn accounts for 45 percent.

Ukraine Needs Better Defense Against Russian Drone, Cruise Missile Attacks

Kyiv needs close-in air defense systems like the Navy’s SeaRAM to better defend critical infrastructure and cities against Russian-launched swarming drone attacks and low-flying cruise missiles, a former Ukrainian defense minister and top Army commander in Europe said Tuesday. The equipment needed to resist Russian attacks, such as from drones, many of which are now […]

Pallets holding munitions are transported off an aircraft cargo loader into a Boeing 747 at Travis Air Force Base, California, April 26, 2022. US Air Force Photo

Kyiv needs close-in air defense systems like the Navy’s SeaRAM to better defend critical infrastructure and cities against Russian-launched swarming drone attacks and low-flying cruise missiles, a former Ukrainian defense minister and top Army commander in Europe said Tuesday.

The equipment needed to resist Russian attacks, such as from drones, many of which are now coming from Iran, is not pricy, said former minister of defense of Ukraine Andriy Zagorodnyuk. Much of the needed weapons are stockpiled in partners’ military warehouses.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time, but [short-range air defense systems] are still not here,” Zagorodnyuk said.

The most recent drone and cruise missile attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets have knocked out about 50 percent of the nation’s electrical system, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, a Ukrainian official working on integration with the European Union, said at the Atlantic Council event.

Ukraine needs “multi-level systems” from sophisticated Patriots best used to defend a city against ballistic and cruise missiles to the close-in defense needed to protect infrastructure like power plants and water systems from drone strikes, he and retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said.

The Pentagon is finalizing plans to ship at least one Patriot battery and precision munition kits to Ukraine, news sources have reported in recent weeks. A senior defense official told reporters Tuesday night that a Patriot missile battery will be included in an aid package for Ukraine set to be announced by the White House.

“Air and missile defense has to be an integrated network” to be effective, Hodges said.

One Patriot battery in Ukraine is “a drop in the bucket” when it comes to overall air and missile defense and is best employed to defend large areas, Hodges said. While it would require training Ukrainians on the system, Hodges expected those assigned to the battery would be experienced in operating missile systems and would successfully master Patriot quickly.

The way around more difficult repair issues without sending American soldiers into Ukraine would be to fall back on the private sector to be in country to assist Kyiv, rather than looking to Poland for parts or to the United States for major repairs.

“Maintenance is kind of mundane until you don’t have it,” Hodges said.

Ukraine still has urgent needs, such as a shortage of ammunition and weapons that need to be immediately filled, Zagorodnyuk said. He specifically mentioned armor, missiles that have longer than a 75-kilometer range and aviation.

These “are well-known problems,” he said.

On the longer-range missiles, like the Army’s surface-to-surface ATACMS [Army Tactical Missile System], Hodges said they could strike Russian supply depots in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, making it “very difficult to resupply its forces” now and in a possible spring offensive. They also could make Crimea “untenable” by knocking out command nodes, depots and the one bridge and one land route between Russia and the illegally annexed province. The Russian Black Sea fleet is harbored at Sevastopol in Crimea.

A MK 15 Phalanx close-in weapons system (CIWS) is test fired on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). US Navy Photo

“To me it should be a no-brainer,” Hodges said in adding range to the missiles shipped to Ukraine. These moves would make it much difficult logistically and for command and control if Russia were to launch a new offensive in the spring. The attack with newly trained reservists and regrouped units could come from Kremlin-ally Belarus where Russia has more than 10,000 soldiers as well as along existing fronts in the east and south.

Zagorodnyuk added although Russian commanders “will be trying really hard” in any new offensive, “I don’t think [a new attack] is going to be successful.”

If anything, the late fall and early winter missile and drone attacks on civilians have stiffened Ukrainian resolve, Klympush-Tsintsadze said. “People are getting more and more angry” over these strikes that are creating “a humanitarian disaster” across Ukraine and sending a new movement of refugees to neighboring countries.

Melinda Haring, deputy director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, said there is a belief for support in the Biden administration that is shared by French President Emmanuel Macron and other Europeans.

“I don’t believe Ukraine can re-take Crimea without starting nuclear war,” Haring said.

The Biden administration is concerned that attacks on Crimea could raise the possibility of a nuclear retaliation, Hodges said.

“The White House needs to say: ‘we want to win,’” he said.

At the same time, there is no agreement among Ukraine’s allies and partners that the country needs to win the war, Klympush-Tsintsadze said. Lacking that consensus “creates another hurdle in supplying weapons and support” for rebuilding utility systems, hospitals, schools and housing.

That agreement “is what we’re looking for,” Klympush-Tsintsadze said.

As for a cease-fire, she said the Kremlin would use the time to “exhale, regroup and attack again” if Russian soldiers remain in any part of Ukraine. The exit strategy to end the war needs to be: leave Ukraine, pay reparations for the devastation the war has brought on the nation and prosecute war criminals for atrocities committed following the Feb. 24 invasion, Klympush-Tsintsadzeadze said.

“Russia’s intentions have not changed” when it comes to taking over Ukraine, she added.