Why Russia didnʼt win Ukrainian skies and the influence of Shahed drones on future wars. Worldʼs leading media about the war on November 11

Anton Semyzhenko


How did it happen that Russia, having many times more powerful military aviation forces than Ukraine, could not gain dominance in the air? This is what Forbes is trying to figure out, analyzing the paper devoted to the Ukrainian strategy for the defense of the sky in this war from the British RUSI, the Royal Institute for Security and Defense Studies. In the first weeks of the war, the authors of this study write, Russia was close to mastering the Ukrainian skies. To do this, from the very beginning of the full-scale invasion, it attacked Ukrainian air defense systems ― in particular, target detection radars. The Russians knew the exact location of the radars and disabled many of them ― so Ukrainian S-300 systems could not detect enemy aircraft or missiles in the early stages. Then Ukrainian fighters ― MiG-29 or Su-27 ― took over the elimination of Russian planes, according to the study. Our planes were also shot down, and for us these were painful losses ― but for Ukraine it was more important to buy time. And it succeeded: during these few days, the Ukrainians repaired and moved part of the radars, which partially restored the air defense capabilities, and Russian planes could not afford to fly at high altitudes. They also had a lot of problems at medium altitudes. The Buk systems, of which Ukraine had about a hundred in service before the start of the full-scale conflict, effectively hit air targets and, moreover, are quite mobile ― these installations are difficult to destroy. On top of that, the Russians faced another problem: their ground forces were bogged down in a hopeless attempt to capture Kyiv. Therefore, they began to need the help of aviation, for which the occupierʼs planes had to descend even lower ― there they could already be reached by portable MANPADS like the Stinger. This led to the fact that in one of the weeks of the war, the Russians lost eight planes at once due to small MANPADS. As a result, the capabilities of the Russian army weakened and it switched to using aircraft only in support operations close to the front line or to launch missiles from the Russian hinterland. However, Forbes concludes, such successes of the Ukrainians are not a reason for the West to calm down. As soon as the Russians somewhere punch a significant hole in the Ukrainian air defense, their planes will be able to cause significant damage to the Ukrainian army and even take away the hard-fought initiative in this war from the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Therefore, the Allies need to continue to strengthen the Ukrainian air defense systems with the latest equipment, and ideally to transfer modern fighters.

Iranian drones have become one of the new phenomena in this war and one of the few effective tools that Russia has mastered during the invasion. Security experts Michael Knights and Alex Almeida try to understand what the Shahed-136 and similar devices mean for the future of war in the article for The New Lines (also published on the website of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where both authors work). The text begins with a historical parallel: in the 1930s, there was a civil war in Spain, which various European countries used as a training ground for new tactics and types of weapons. Later, they used these developments in World War II. Now Russiaʼs war in Ukraine has also become a testing ground for many types of new weapons. And perhaps Iran benefited the most from this: it turned out that small and fairly accurate drones are effective in modern warfare. Yes, they will not cause significant destruction, but they can damage infrastructure elements in a localized way, which will take many months to restore. Therefore, industrial facilities ― from oil refineries to pharmaceutical companies, urban infrastructure and military objects such as ships ― are under threat. Yes, there are means capable of effectively shooting down these drones, but here a second factor is added ― the price. One Shahed-136 costs $20,000, while an anti-missile projectile costs from $400,000 to a million, the article says. Having contracted thousands of these "mopeds" in Iran, Russia hopes to eventually exhaust Ukrainian air defenses, when it will be expensive for Kiev and its partners to find thousands of expensive missiles. It can be concluded that cheap means of shooting down such drones are now needed. Either projectiles or other drones like the Switchblade ― the main thing is that they can be made and provided in large quantities. After all, the probability that weapons similar to the Shaheds will be distributed in the world is very high.

The war in Ukraine forced Europe to change its approach to the mobility of its troops, writes Politico. Now one of the main tasks of the departments of European countries responsible for infrastructure is to make sure that local roads are able to withstand the weight of tanks and other heavy weapons. “Until recently, the idea of ​​spending money on strengthening the structures of bridges and railways so that the 62-ton Leopard tank could pass over them seemed like a mindless throwback to the Cold War,” the article says. “The Kremlinʼs bloody attack on Ukraine changed that.” Now the task of the European road services is to make it so that weapons could quickly move across the continent to where they are most needed. For borders not to become an obstacle, the EU proposes to create an electronic weapons base that would allow to quickly overcome checkpoints. The ultimate goal is to make the tank go from Lisbon to Warsaw as easily as a truckload of apples. However, additional pillars or stronger materials are not enough for this: according to Politico interlocutors, one of the key vectors in this process will also be the protection of the continentʼs transport infrastructure from cyber attacks.