How a superior Ukraine finds ways to counter Russia: NPR

A Ukrainian soldier digs a trench outside the capital, Kyiv, in March. In the face of a more powerful Russian army, the Ukrainians had to find ways to defend themselves. The Ukrainians emphasized basic measures, such as digging deeper trenches to defend against Russian artillery, as well as high-tech methods, such as using tablet computers on the battlefield to coordinate artillery fire.

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A Ukrainian soldier digs a trench outside the capital, Kyiv, in March. In the face of a more powerful Russian army, the Ukrainians had to find ways to defend themselves. The Ukrainians emphasized basic measures, such as digging deeper trenches to defend against Russian artillery, as well as high-tech methods, such as using tablet computers on the battlefield to coordinate artillery fire.

Vadim Gerda / AFP

Kyiv, Ukraine – There are two important things to know about military trenches. First, you will never find a soldier who likes to dig one. Second, the deeper they are, the safer they are.

“Digging a hole is no fun,” he said. Stefan KorchakHe is an American who knows the Ukrainian military well. He has been living in Ukraine for 25 years and covering the war for Kyiv Post.

“Their army has developed the discipline to have soldiers dig holes, the moment they stop, wherever they are, any time they can come under Russian artillery. And that saves lives,” Korchak said.

When Russia invaded Ukraine again in 2014, the Ukrainian army was simply outgunned. Since then, Ukraine has had to discover creative ways to defend itself and fight back, from low-tech to high-tech.

You can call them “war intruders”. It seems that many of them are working.

Retired US Army Lieutenant General Ben Hodges He saw the Ukrainian army improve firsthand. He became the commander of the US Army in Europe shortly after the first Russian incursion.

When U.S. forces helped train the Ukrainians, he was instantly struck by their technological savvy when the U.S. provided radar equipment that detected incoming Russian artillery fire.

“I quickly found out that radar is better than I realized,” Hodges said. “The Ukrainians took it and were able to use it in ways I didn’t know were possible. And it’s not only about the technical side, but also about the tactical side, how they used it.”

He continued to admire Ukrainian prowess in the years that followed.

Hodges said in an interview from Germany, where he now works with European Policy Analysis Center.

In the current fighting, the Ukrainians are receiving American and Turkish drones that have proven highly effective against Russian armor and troops.

The Ukrainian military displays a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone at a military parade in the capital Kyiv on August 20, 2021. Russia has a much larger air force than Ukraine, but the Ukrainians have used the drones effectively in the current conflict.

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The Ukrainian military displays a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone at a military parade in the capital Kyiv on August 20, 2021. Russia has a much larger air force than Ukraine, but the Ukrainians have used the drones effectively in the current conflict.

Efrem Lukatsky/AFP

Meanwhile, Ukrainian artillery units use a network of tablet computers on the battlefield. This allows them to better coordinate their attacks on the Russians.

The previously outnumbered Ukrainians now have huge howitzers recently delivered by the United States, which helped level the field somewhat. The Americans are also offering a week-long crash course on how to use it, having trained a few hundred Ukrainian soldiers in recent weeks.

“I am not surprised that they are doing a very good job of getting new equipment, and how quickly they can learn how to use it,” Hodges said.

In air warfare, Russia has a much larger number of combat aircraft, a more advanced generation than the old Soviet-era MiGs that the Ukrainians fly. Ukraine also has limited air defenses on the ground.

Russia was expected to destroy the Ukrainian air force within days. Instead, Ukraine says it has shot down 200 Russian planes. The Ukrainians used shoulder-fired Stinger missiles to shoot down low-flying helicopters, and the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to shoot down higher-flying aircraft.

A Ukrainian soldier checks a shrapnel from a Russian Air Force Su-25 aircraft after a battle in the village of Kolonshchyna, Ukraine, on April 21. Russia was expected to achieve air superiority in the early days of the war. But Ukraine’s air defenses were so effective that Russian pilots often fired their weapons while flying over Russia and never entered Ukrainian airspace.

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A Ukrainian soldier checks a shrapnel from a Russian Air Force Su-25 aircraft after a battle in the village of Kolonshchyna, Ukraine, on April 21. Russia was expected to achieve air superiority in the early days of the war. But Ukraine’s air defenses were so effective that Russian pilots often fired their weapons while flying over Russia and never entered Ukrainian airspace.

Efrem Lukatsky/AFP

As a result, Russian pilots often fire their missiles over long distances – from Russia’s skies or the Black Sea – rather than venturing into Ukrainian airspace.

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“Our aircraft cannot stand technologically speaking. It is clear what the outcome of the battles will be,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Yuri Ignat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian air force. “So we have to use what we have to the maximum effect. There is no alternative but to preserve our equipment and the lives of our pilots.”

Information warfare was also expected to be dominated by Russia. However, Ukraine was often a step forward. Russian cell phones brought into the country by the Russians were cut off.

“You don’t just have to turn off roaming from one country, or another country, overnight,” he said. Cathal MacDadean expert in mobile security with Adaptive phone security In Ireland, who is watching the war closely. “You know, there’s planning, a lot of planning. Feasibility planning is done beforehand.”

When the Russians started stealing Ukrainian cell phones, Ukrainian citizens reported the thefts. This allowed Ukrainian officials to quietly listen to calls made by the Russians to those stolen phones.

McDade said the Ukrainians learned a lot of tricks from fighting the Russians.

“I saw a great comment,” McDade said. “You say ‘belly walking army,’ and someone responded with a tweet saying, ‘What looks like an army going right now is their mobile networks.'”

And in the case of Ukraine, its prowess.

Greg Meyer is NPR’s national security reporter. follow him @gregmyre1.

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