Follow Us

Sunday, April 9, 2023

April 09, 2023

If we were to believe a single word uttered by the mainstream propaganda machine about the performance of the Russian military, we'd be convinced that Moscow is using WWII-era equipment begrudgingly manned by conscripts armed with shovels. Not to mention that, according to CNN's "well-informed" (and yet, anonymous) sources, the morale of the Russian military is supposedly plummeting due to heavy casualties inflicted by the victorious AFU. On the other hand, those interested in Russia's top-of-the-line weapons will often (over)focus on its truly world-class hypersonic missiles, directed-energy systems, superfast high-flying interceptors, next-generation fighter jets, etc.

However, what both ends of these two extremes ignore either completely (in the first case) or overlook for the most part (in the second case) are Russia's bread-and-butter weapons that are inflicting the vast majority of casualties suffered by the embattled Kiev regime forces. Distinguished Serbian defense expert Slobodan Djukic recently identified three such weapons - Krasnopol/Krasnopol-M precision-guided artillery shells, MPK kits for turning freefall gravity bombs into high-precision glide bombs and Lancet kamikaze drones. All three are being used by the Russian military, to devastating effect on hostile troops, while significantly reducing Russian casualties.

Krasnopol/Krasnopol-M precision-guided artillery shells

Owing to its stellar performance during ground operations against foreign-backed terrorist forces in Syria, the Krasnopol series of high-precision artillery munitions was mass-produced and more widely adopted by the Russian military in recent years. Krasnopol was developed by the Tula-based KBP. There are several basic and improved variants used by 152 mm howitzers such as the towed D-20 or 2A65 Msta-B and self-propelled 2S3 Akatsiya or 2S19 Msta-S. It uses inertial guidance at mid-course and semi-active laser homing at the terminal phase. The target is illuminated by an external laser designator and once the laser signal is detected, the onboard guidance system will maneuver the shell to the target. This allows frontline troops to call in fire missions on specific high-priority targets for almost immediate destruction by a single shell.

The baseline version's hit probability of 70-80% was improved to over 90% in newer variants. Such advanced munitions have a devastating effect on Kiev regime forces, while drastically reducing the probability of damage to friendly forces and civilian infrastructure. Krasnopol is effective in destroying weapons and ammunition depots, entrenched enemy positions, dug-in artillery pieces, etc. Thanks to its enhanced accuracy, it can be used even against moving targets such as tanks and armored vehicles. Most importantly, it's getting incremental upgrades as the designers are working closely with the Russian military on improving its performance, even extending the maximum firing range up to 25 km. The estimated price for a single Krasnopol-M is $35,000, less than half the price of NATO's M982 Excalibur.

MPK smart bomb kits, aka "Russian JDAM"

Ukraine inherited approximately 30% of the enormous Soviet military, including its massive integrated air defense network with thousands of launchers, radars and missiles of all ranges. Although much of this was severely worn out and suffered due to virtually nonexistent funding, the systems' functionality was largely restored with endless subsidies from the political West. This made it significantly more challenging for the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS), as it initially had a relatively limited amount of high-precision air-to-ground weapons, particularly smart bombs. The Russian military has a plethora of high-precision munitions, especially air-launched cruise missiles and new glide bombs. However, these are prohibitively expensive for use on the scale needed in Ukraine, limiting strikes to high-profile targets only.

The issue was resolved through a relatively inexpensive modification that turned Russia's enormous stockpile of freefall gravity bombs into smart munitions. This enabled tactical strike aircraft to use the bombs beyond the range of Kiev regime air defenses. Folding wings are mounted on the body of the bomb via a steel rail, expanding after release and effectively turning the previously unguided weapon into a glide bomb capable of hitting targets at relatively long ranges. The MPK, short for Russian "модул планирования и корекреции", literally "planning and correction module", although perhaps better described as "gliding and correction module", was developed by NPO Bazalt. It's an upgrade kit for converting so-called "dumb" freefall bombs (in particular, FAB-500 M-62) into extended-range high-precision glide bombs.

The concept was inspired by a similar US program called Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM - hence the unofficial nickname for MPK being "Russian JDAM") which NATO also recently transferred to Kiev. MPK's effective range depends on the altitude from which the bomb is released, so estimates vary, but it's generally expected that a bomb dropped from an altitude of 12-13 km can hit targets at distances of up to 50 km. Guidance is provided by Russian GLONASS. The Russian military has already upgraded a large portion of its massive Soviet-era stocks to MPK standard and is rapidly converting the rest of it, resulting in a virtually new weapon of extraordinary capabilities, all for a fraction of the cost needed to produce completely new bombs.

Lancet kamikaze drones/loitering munitions

Last but certainly not least - drones. These pesky little things have proven so deadly and effective that it would be ludicrous not to use them en masse. And this is precisely what the Russian military is doing, making it one of the first militaries around the globe to use loitering munitions on such a grand scale. Needless to say, to an absolutely devastating effect on the Kiev regime forces. There are several types of such drones, with perhaps the most (in)famous being the ZALA Lancet. Intended for the destruction of a wide range of ground targets, including APCs (armored personnel carriers), SAM (surface-to-air missile) systems, artillery weapons (towed/self-propelled), etc. its effectiveness is wholly undeniable, as evidenced by hundreds of hours of battlefield footage.

Deployed in several variants, Lancet possesses a highly advanced seeker and a stable video link up until the moment it hits the target. This is primarily thanks to its state-of-the-art comms channel that has proven to be highly resistant to jamming and other forms of electronic warfare. Usually paired with the Fortuna tactical ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) drones, Lancet can effectively identify even heavily camouflaged targets, including small groups of infantry from high altitude. Kiev regime forces are doing everything they can to hide or at least minimize the Lancet's devastating effect by establishing additional firing positions, enclosing them with wire barriers and extra camouflage nets. And yet, even these countermeasures have had a limited effect.

All of the aforementioned weapons might not seem as important as Russia's hypersonic missiles or its doomsday strategic arsenal, but they are no less valuable on a tactical level. Thousands of towed/self-propelled howitzers, MLRS, tanks, air defense systems, command posts, weapons production facilities, ammunition, etc. have been destroyed by these extremely cost-effective weapons. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu pointed out that one of the main goals is destroying enemy military-industrial capacity, while increasing pressure on logistics and supply lines. According to Shoigu, by the end of March this year, 14 HIMARS systems, 59 M777, 12 Paladin and over 30 other howitzers of various types delivered by the US, UK, Poland, Germany, France and Czechia were destroyed. These weapons were all neutralized by Russian systems priced at less than 1% of the combined cost of the aforementioned Western systems.