Death by a thousand cuts. Attacks on non-essential infrastructure
Cost / efficiency
As part of a special military operation (SVO), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) - kamikazes of the "Geran-2" type and their analogues - have become one of the most effective means of influencing the infrastructure of Ukraine and the rear facilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU).
A distinctive feature of UAVs of this type is their low cost, providing an optimal cost/effectiveness ratio when hitting most types of targets. The low cost of kamikaze UAVs leads to the fact that even their destruction by the enemy using anti-aircraft guided missiles (SAMs) is unprofitable for the enemy from the point of view of the cost/effectiveness criterion - the cost of destroyed kamikaze UAVs is often significantly lower than the cost of the SAMs that destroy them. However, this rule does not always work, in particular, when the means of destroying a UAV turn out to be much cheaper than it, this is possible, for example, in the case of destroying a kamikaze UAV:
– rifle weapons and/or small-caliber automatic guns;
– man-portable anti-aircraft missile systems (MANPADS);
– anti-tank guided missile systems (ATGM);
– outdated anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM) with inexpensive missiles;
– electronic warfare (EW) means.
Small arms, small-caliber automatic guns, MANPADS and ATGMs ensure destruction of kamikaze UAVs only at low altitudes; accordingly, the probability of being hit by the above weapons can be minimized by increasing the flight altitude of the kamikaze UAV to the maximum possible, provided by its flight performance characteristics (FTC). This issue was previously discussed in the material “Gain altitude: new tactics for using the Geranium-2 UAV will allow you to maximally deplete Ukrainian air defense”.
When flying at high altitude, followed by a dive on the target, kamikaze UAVs of the “Geran-2” type become practically invulnerable to “inexpensive” air defense systems
As for outdated air defense systems with inexpensive missiles, then, based on open data, Few such air defense systems were supplied to the air defense forces of Ukraine.In addition, the question arises of the effectiveness of radar stations (radars) of outdated air defense systems in terms of the detection range of kamikaze UAVs that are quite subtle in the radar range.
In addition, it is potentially possible to reduce losses from enemy air defense systems by using towed decoys, which was previously discussed in the material “Towed decoys for the Geran-2 UAV will reduce the effectiveness of Ukrainian air defense systems by 1,5–2 times”.
In turn, the electronic warfare systems used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, apparently, are for the most part unable to suppress Russian kamikaze UAVs, as evidenced by regularly recurring cases of them hitting targets deep in the territory of Ukraine.
On the other hand, it cannot be denied that Ukrainian air defense systems still manage to destroy some of the Russian kamikaze UAVs; in addition, one can notice a slight decrease in the intensity of attacks by kamikaze UAVs and other long-range precision weapons (LTO BD) on Kiev. In turn, this suggests that air defense and electronic warfare systems densely concentrated around Kyiv ensure the destruction of at least part of the Russian military-technical base, which makes such raids less effective.
Unfortunately, the cost/effectiveness criterion in the case of Ukraine does not work fully, since we spend our own funds on the Northern Military District, and Ukraine spends funds from the United States, Great Britain and other Western countries, and the Ukrainian leadership clearly does not care how empty their pockets are. In such conditions, the destruction of kamikaze UAVs costing several tens of thousands of dollars with the help of missile defense systems costing several million dollars is quite acceptable for Ukraine.
The cost of one missile defense system used by the Patriot air defense system is comparable to the cost, according to various estimates, of approximately 50–250 kamikaze UAVs of the Geranium-2 type, but for the Ukrainian Armed Forces this does not matter - the banquet is paid for by the Americans and Europeans
Thus, there is an objective need to find ways to maximize damage to the enemy using high-tech weapons, primarily relatively inexpensive kamikaze UAVs, taking into account minimizing the risks of their destruction by enemy air defense and electronic warfare systems.
Presumably, one of these ways is to strike the enemy’s secondary infrastructure facilities located outside the range of his air defense and electronic warfare systems, so that the damage caused is comparable to striking his key protected objects.
Let's consider this method using the example of disruption of the railway infrastructure and disruption of power supply.
Destruction of railway infrastructure
About a year ago, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation began systematically striking the traction power substations of the Ukrainian railways in order to partially or completely paralyze the movement of electric trains. At that moment, it seemed that the goal was “just about” to be achieved, at least that’s what some well-known bloggers claimed, but at some point the attacks on traction power substations stopped. Either more worthy goals appeared for the WTO DB, or someone needed the Ukrainian railway intact, or striking traction power substations was considered ineffective.
Also, attacks were carried out periodically on railway junctions, however, most likely, their main target was trains with equipment, ammunition and personnel, and the destruction of the railway tracks themselves was a by-product.
As an alternative, striking the railway tracks directly could be considered. It is believed that railway tracks damaged by an explosion can be restored as soon as possible, but conditions could potentially be created in which this would be difficult or even practically impossible.
Firstly, this is the geography of the strikes, in particular the following conditions must be met:
– main routes are selected that do not have or have a limited number of bypass routes;
– the longest stretches are selected;
– access by road is difficult or absent (highlands, wooded, swampy areas, etc.);
– strikes are delivered to points located at the maximum distance from repair services;
– strikes are delivered to points outside the range of enemy air defense and electronic warfare systems.
Scheme of Ukrainian railways
Secondly, the tactics of application:
– the first blow is delivered to the railway track;
– the second blow is applied to the same place, during the estimated period of time when work to restore the railway track should be carried out;
– subsequent paired strikes are delivered at intervals that do not allow for complete restoration of the functionality of the section of railway tracks selected for attack.
Thirdly, the modification of the kamikaze UAV:
– to deliver the first strike, a kamikaze UAV with a high-explosive warhead is used;
– to deliver the second strike, a kamikaze UAV with a cluster warhead is used;
– for guidance, a civilian coordinate guidance system can be used, which is less resistant to the effects of electronic warfare (since the impact of electronic warfare is not expected);
– additionally, to improve the guidance accuracy, due to the simplicity of the recognized image (parallel rails), the kamikaze UAV can be equipped with an optical guidance system based on civilian components.
How will it look in practice?
After determining the optimal points for delivering strikes, in accordance with paragraph “geography”, strikes are delivered almost simultaneously at all “pinching points”. The kamikaze UAV route should be laid away from the line of combat contact (LCC), large populated areas, military and industrial facilities, which could potentially be covered by air defense and electronic warfare systems.
Before striking, kamikaze UAVs are placed on a course that coincides with the direction of the selected section of railway tracks; in the presence of an optical guidance system, the point of impact (between the rails) is adjusted.
After the strikes are carried out, traffic along the enemy's main railway lines stops. While in theory it could only take a few hours to restore the damaged section, in practice the tracks would need to be cleared to allow repair trains to pass through, which would ultimately lead to delays.
For each point, the time of the second strike is determined by calculation and/or according to human intelligence data (or other methods). Ideally, the blow should be delivered at the beginning of the repair work, which will lead to the incapacitation of repair vehicles, equipment and specialists, in the absence of completed track repairs.
Then the cycle repeats.
In many ways, the task of disrupting power supply is equivalent to that solved for disrupting railway traffic, only instead of the railway track, towers of high-voltage power lines (PTLs) must be affected.
High voltage power line 750 kW
The geography and tactics of striking are selected according to similar criteria: points as far away from “civilization” as possible, with complex terrain of forests/hills/swamps, and the absence of enemy air defense and electronic warfare systems nearby. Strikes should also be applied in pairs - to disable power transmission towers and to disrupt repair and restoration work.
Map of power grids of Ukraine
Taking into account the specifics of power lines, several payload options for kamikaze UAVs can be additionally considered:
– pressure-action anti-personnel mines of the “Lepestok” type;
– metallized or graphite fibers.
Lepestok-type anti-personnel mines can be planted immediately after a strike to disable power lines. Considering that dense thickets of grass, bushes and undergrowth almost always grow under power line towers, mine clearance will be a rather difficult and time-consuming task.
The advantage of this method is that there is no need to determine the time of arrival of repair crews to strike them and disrupt repair and restoration work.
As for metallized threads and graphite fibers, for some reason this type of ammunition is not used by the Russian Armed Forces, although potentially this could be a very interesting solution for disrupting the operation of enemy power supply facilities, however, this is rather a matter of backfilling.
It will be quite difficult for the enemy to counter attacks delivered in the proposed format.
If we strengthen air defense, then where: along the entire length of all routes of main railways and power lines? Build all-round air defense around the country? Even Russia cannot do this.
Organize “flying squads” of air defense and electronic warfare to accompany repair teams? It is possible, but it will not be easy, in addition, knowing about this format of counteraction, the Russian Armed Forces may become “interested,” and in this case, the air defense systems themselves may become a target for somewhat more serious weapons than kamikaze UAVs.
So the disabling of Ukrainian railways and electrical networks will indirectly contribute to the destruction of the Ukrainian air defense system.
By using air defense systems to protect repair crews, the Ukrainian Armed Forces can make them vulnerable to attacks by the Russian Armed Forces
If the safety of the repair teams is not ensured, then after a while they will simply run out or they will begin to deliberately sabotage the work and look for reasons to delay the trip to the site as much as possible.
The methods proposed above for disrupting the operation of railway communications and power supply will only work if they systematically influence the “pain points”, that is, railway tracks that provide most of the train traffic and high-voltage power lines coming from power plants and high-voltage substations.
It is characteristic that the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of Ukraine is already striking Russian railways and power lines using sabotage reconnaissance groups (DRGs) and recruited agents, however, due to the small number of DRGs and the poverty of the recruited agents (who are usually poorly educated, easily suggestible asocial individuals ), such sabotage is carried out haphazardly, which does not allow it to have any serious impact on the operation of Russian railways and power supply networks.
On the other hand, with systematic and systematic strikes against secondary infrastructure facilities in Ukraine, a cumulative effect will be achieved. In particular, when systematically striking railway tracks, in accordance with the proposed algorithm, “thrombus” effects will occur when traffic jams are created on the routes blocked by the strikes, increasing over time.
In turn, when main power lines fail, sudden unpredictable power outages will occur, which can lead to an uneven load on the remaining power grids, rolling blackouts and failure of high-voltage equipment.
In fact, the railway communication of Ukraine will be paralyzed, and the electricity supply will be significantly disrupted.
An additional advantage of striking secondary infrastructure is the ability to quickly restore the infrastructure as a whole immediately after the strikes cease, which may be necessary after the denazification of a particular region of Ukraine is completed.
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