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700 kilometers into enemy territory: why explosions on Russian airfields are a brilliant special operation

On December 5, the enemy fired more than 70 missiles at Ukraine, including both old Soviet-made supersonic Kh-22 missiles (with less-than-a-mile precision) and newer ones.

North of Dzhankoi, S-300 air defense systems modified to hit surface targets fired barrages of missiles.

Near the line of contact, Russian jets were hovering—most likely, these were bearers of anti-radiation missiles waiting for our radars to turn on.

This was quite a massive attack after a pause for additional reconnaissance, the preparation of a mission, and radio-technical reconnaissance. In addition, there were Soviet-made missiles brought from arsenals all over the country. They had to be restored, culled, and "pinged", and their propellant, whether solid or even liquid, had to be checked. Then, the route must be programmed—some Russian missiles still use good old punched cards to that end. In general, arranging a strike is no quick job.

Ukraine suffered two waves of missile attacks, although there were earlier attacks of up to 100 missiles in three waves. It’s still hard to say if our strikes on the Dyagilevo and Engels bases had any impact or if Russia is running out of missiles.

How did the Ukrainian air defense forces handle the missile attack?

Sixty aerial targets were said to have been shot down. It’s a brilliant result, given that we have been repelling air raids for weeks, often forced to switch to reserve positions, our air forces are outnumbered and have shorter-range on-board radars, and the air defense is using 30-year-old missiles.

Although this result is not fantastic, as we had one of the best air defenses in Europe and a strong radar field even before the war, it’s close to ideal.

Despite a series of hits on electronic intelligence units, attempts to suppress our surface-to-air systems, and Russian electronic warfare systems, our air defense is still alive and kicking. However, it indeed suffered a few blows.

What were the results of the missile strike?

Odesa and the Odesa region were left without heating and electricity. Automatic power distribution was shut off in the Sumy region, which probably means that distribution automation and grids were hit. Like earlier, the northern part of the Kyiv region, including Kyiv itself, had severe problems, as Belarus is close, the capital city consumes more electricity, and a few thermal power stations were heavily damaged. Trains fell behind schedule, which is a clear sign that the enemy was targeting the traction substations of the railway.

However, the enemy failed to achieve his main goal, which was to break the single energy system into "islets", making us unable to balance nuclear power plants so that we would be forced to shut them down. It would have harmed the economy as well as people's morale, given the cold weather, and posed the risk of a nuclear disaster. But they failed, as both our army and power engineers have long been working beyond the bounds of possibility.

Why are massive drone attacks unlikely?

In response, we carried out a series of drone attacks on airfields: Dyagilevo, Engels, and Kursk. At least two strategic bombers were put out of action for months: the Tu-95 we saw being extinguished with foam might be irreparably damaged, while in the Tu-22M3, the engines and tail fin need replacement. In Kursk, a hit on a fuel depot caused a severe, hours-long fire.

Jets in Dyagilevo. Photo from social media

Jets in Dyagilevo. Photo from social media

Many don’t understand what a brilliant operation it was—hitting a target 700 km away with, basically, makeshift weapons under barrages of missiles launched by a technologically superior enemy.

Some say now that it would have been better to wait and accumulate more drones to make the strike more powerful. However, it doesn’t work this way.

In Russia, there were claims that the Tu-141 Strizh, a USSR-made reconnaissance drone decommissioned from the Ukrainian army, was used to make the strikes. Even if it’s true, it means that the drone had to be restored from storage facilities overgrown with grass and equipped with an adjustment system, its photographic system had to be removed, and a warhead inserted, in addition to the search for spare parts. It’s artisanal work.

If we send our drones to Engels, they need to leak through country-level air defense, sector-level air defense (for example, in Belgorod), army air defense, and the base’s own air defense. The fact that they did it was both luck and excellent planning. However, planning an attack on Russia’s airfields with dozens of drones carrying 250-kg warheads would be too much.

In any case, just a few weeks ago, it was hard to imagine fire and sirens on an airfield capable of accepting heavy bombers belonging to the nuclear triad. So were the casualties that included not only no-name technicians but a major, Yevgeniy Raisovich Navlyutov, who served in Dyagilevo, heavily damaged strategic bombers, destroyed mobile generator unit, and flaming fuel tanks.

The major killed in Dyagilevo. Photo: Ministry of Defense of Russia

The major killed in Dyagilevo. Photo: Ministry of Defense of Russia

Russia not only failed to shut down our single energy system, but it also allowed giant rocket-propelled drones to fly 700 kilometers into its territory.

From victory to victory, through the sunken flagship, a series of "goodwill gestures", and human losses unseen throughout the whole Cold War and modern Russian history. We’re in the tenth month of a "special military operation that is going according to plan".

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