As per the military command in Kyiv, it has been reported that the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) have adopted a new strategy. Specifically, Russian fighter aircraft have been observed to operate in an offensive operational posture in the air, with reduced frequency of patrol flights.
Reports suggest that Russian warplanes have been deliberately encroaching into the range of Ukrainian anti-aircraft systems for several consecutive days. The aim of this tactic is to detect the location of Ukrainian air defense. Ukraine’s air defense comprises Soviet-era S-300 systems and recently acquired Patriot, IRIS-T, and NASAMS systems. The head of the Ukrainian United Press Center of the Tavric Direction, Mr. Oleksiy Dmitrashkovsky, confirmed this change in Russian tactics.
During the early days of the war, the Russian Air Force had to neutralize the enemy’s air defense before flying freely over Ukraine. However, the recent Russian Air Force’s intensified air attacks on Ukraine are being attributed to this reason. Although Ukraine has received several air defense systems in recent times, it has not been able to fully restore its pre-war anti-aircraft capability. The ongoing supply of air defense systems to Ukraine and Russia refraining from taking any action could enhance Ukraine’s anti-aircraft defense in the coming months, posing a threat to Russian warplanes.
However, this altered Russian tactic also implies that Ukraine is not utilizing the radars of these air defense systems, making it difficult for Russian planes to determine their location. This decision involves some risk as entering the zone and range necessitates Ukraine’s activation of radar to target the missile for interception. Furthermore, Ukraine’s non-use of its air defense radars confirms an established fact that it is targeting Russian positions through real-time information provided by US/NATO AWACS.
Russia has changed the tactics of its drone usage as well. The Shahed-136, also known as Geran-2, drones of Iran are currently being utilized as decoys to precisely pinpoint the location of stationary or mobile air defense systems. Their intended purpose is to draw attention to themselves, leading the defense system to recognize them as a potential threat and respond by launching a missile. The vulnerability of the Shahed-136 provides an opportunity for the Russian Lancet kamikaze drone to launch an attack on the defense system from another angle.
The synchronization of data transfer between Iranian Shahed-136 and Russian Lancet drones raises a significant question in light of the recent chess-like attack. Dmitrashkovsky stated that the Russian Air Force is now using aerial bombs in a new capacity as decoys to serve a greater purpose. The 500 kg and 1,500 kg flying explosives are being used to draw attention and create a dilemma for Ukrainian air defense systems. The activation of the air defense system presents a possibility of intercepting an aerial bomb, but it also renders the system visible to Russian fighters in the air. This could trigger the launch of a Kh-31P air-to-surface missile aimed at the Ukrainian air defense system.
Dmitrashkovsky’s statement suggests that Russian tactics aim to exert greater pressure on the front line. Our sources indicate that the Ukrainian armed forces may face new challenges as Russia prepares to deploy the LO Sirius heavy drone, armed with 100kg precision-guided bombs, along the entire length of the front line. The Ukrainian air defense system faces a difficult decision regarding intercepting the bomb, which could result in the destruction of the air defense system, intercepting the missile but not the bomb, or not intercepting either threat.