Ukrainian air defenders had one of their worst days of the entire war on Monday, intercepting less than half of the kamikaze drones, ballistic and cruise missiles launched by Russian armed forces in massed morning strikes against military and civilian targets.
An Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) statement said combat units firing from defense locations across the country shot down 18 cruise missiles and 8 kamikaze drones during Russian attacks timed to hit during start-of-the-work-week rush hour.
The Russian military used strike jets, strategic bombers and multiple ground platforms to launch a total of 59 aerial munitions at Ukraine from 7:00-8:00 a.m., official statements said.
According to AFU data made public later in the day, Ukrainian air defenses on Monday managed to hit 40 percent of incoming missiles and drones.
In the Kremlin’s two previous major air attacks, on Dec. 29 and Jan. 2, Russian strike planners hurled strike packages respectively of 158 and 134 weapons, and AFU officials claimed a shootdown rate of 81 and 75 percent.
Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yury Ihnat in a Monday statement said shortages of American-made Patriot anti-aircraft missiles sufficient to protect all of Ukraine’s air space from hard-to-hit ballistic missiles was a key reason for the Russian success.
“One has to understand these missiles fly in a ballistic trajectory, and that the systems that are capable of intercepting them are, for example, the Patriot. That’s why we have that result today,” Ihnat said.
“We can’t cover the entire territory of Ukraine with air defense systems so that no missile ever gets through. We defend areas locally, on probable approach routes and where we have troops and things like that.”
Rescuers and a policeman carry the body of a victim after Russian strikes in Zmiiv, Kharkiv region, on Jan. 8. PHOTO: Sergey Bobok/AFP
According to AFU published data, advanced Russian missile systems predominated in the Jan. 8 attack, including four Kinzhal ballistic missiles launched from four MiG-31K aircraft (NATO designation “Foxhound”), 24 cruise missiles of mixed types dropped by 11 Tu-95MS (NATO designation “Bear”) strategic bombers; eight Kh-22 cruise missiles dropped by an unspecified number Tu-22M3 (NATO designation “Backfire”) naval bombers; and six Iskander-M surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.
Less sophisticated weapons also fired by Russia in the Monday strikes against Ukrainian ground targets included seven S-300/S-400 anti-aircraft guided missiles; two Kh-31P guided anti-ship missiles launched from unidentified strike aircraft, and eight Iran-developed Shahed kamikaze drones, the AFU statement said.
Ukrainian air defenses shot down all the cheap kamikaze drones and 18 relatively slow-moving cruise missiles, but failed to hit a single, much-more-difficult-to-intercept, incoming ballistic missile, Ukrainian Interior Ministry military blogger Anatol Gerashchenko reported.
According to open-source reports, the AFU operates either two or three US-manufactured Patriot missile batteries donated by Washington and Berlin and a comparable SAMP/T advanced air defense system donated by Italy and France.
The specific location of AFU’s air defense systems is a military secret, however, AFU spokespersons in past months have confirmed multiple Patriot intercepts of Russian ballistic missiles, in the air space over the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
The Ukrainian military according to multiple military news reports in a surprise tactic fielded one Patriot system near the southern city of Mykolaiv in late December, shooting down a reported five advanced Russian strike jets in a series of air ambushes.
Current US Congressional disputes about the need, scale and timing of Patriot missile reloads to be delivered to Kyiv could leave the AFU unable to stop future Russian ballistic missile waves, the report said.
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