Russian authorities accuse Ukraine of carrying out drone strikes against several military bases on the Russian side of the border this week. The purpose of the strikes was reportedly to disable long-range Russian aircraft.
The attacks attracted great attention in the international media. Two of the targets, Diaghilevo airport in the Ryazan region and Engels airport in the Saratov region, are actually located tens of miles from the Ukrainian border and the attacks were likely carried out by 50-year-old drones .
Drones from the 70s
– It seems that the Ukrainians used old Soviet-made reconnaissance drones, which were converted into attack drones.
This is what Norwegian Defense College lieutenant colonel Geir Hågen Karlsen told Dagbladet.
The Soviet Tupolev Tu-141 Strizh reconnaissance drone was probably used in the attack. Drones have a range of around 1,000 kilometres.
– Shouldn’t these drones belong in a museum?
– Yes, but if you put in a new control system and replace the cameras with explosives, you can get a relatively usable weapon system. But it’s not exactly a “stealth drone”, so it’s rather surprising that the Russian air defense failed to stop them.
– How did these old drones manage to get so far into Russian territory without being stopped?
– It’s a sign that Russian technology is not as good as we thought. Weaknesses in coordination, cooperation and training may also have played a role, replies Karlsen.
Old weapon systems
Karlsen says many of the weapons used in the war in Ukraine are starting to wear out.
– Modifying old technology is not uncommon in a war context. You can also see it in many of the missiles used by the Russians.
Many of the weapons used during the conflict, such as the Tu-141 drones used in Monday’s attack, are remnants of the Cold War, according to the lieutenant colonel.
– That’s how it is in war, you use everything that comes across, says Karlsen.
– War is approaching
He goes on to say that the attacks will most likely not have a major impact on the war as a whole.
– Nor should we exaggerate the effect of the attacks, the capability is too small to make a major military difference. If you look at how many missiles and drones the Russians are using to attack Ukraine, the few Ukrainian drones won’t make a huge difference.
But while the attacks won’t have a very large effect, Karlsen believes they will help boost morale among Ukrainians.
Furthermore, he says that the Russian population can no longer ignore the war, as many did at the beginning of the conflict.
– There is no doubt that this war is getting very close to the Russians now. It is useless to hide the videos on social networks and the concerns of the people who live near these airports.
I don’t want to contribute
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Tuesday that US authorities are not helping Ukraine create long-range weapons for attacks on Russian territory, but that they are not hindering their efforts in this direction.
– We have neither encouraged nor allowed the Ukrainians to attack Russia, Blinken said.
Like many other allies, the US government has held back from supplying Ukrainian forces with long-range weapons that can strike targets deep inside Russia, fearing this could lead to a direct confrontation with Russian forces.
– Together with other partners around the world, we are determined to guarantee them the equipment they need to defend themselves, to defend their territory, their freedom, said the foreign minister.