Hudson Institute

Ukraine Military Situation Report | April 3

Senior Fellow (Nonresident)
Ukrainian soldiers participate in a military training drill at an undisclosed location in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on March 6, 2024. (Jose Colon via Getty Images)
Ukrainian soldiers participate in a military training drill at an undisclosed location in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on March 6, 2024. (Jose Colon via Getty Images)

 Below Hudson Senior Fellow Can Kasapoğlu offers a military situation report about the war in Ukraine.

1. Battlefield Assessment

Evidence suggests that last week Russia deployed additional personnel and military equipment to its positions along the Luhansk axis, fortifying its existing troop concentrations there. While Ukrainian forces mostly remained in defensive positions, their continued control of elevated terrain around critical sectors, including in the wider Bakhmut area, limited further Russian advances.

Attacks in the Belgorod and Kursk regions by the anti-Kremlin paramilitary Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC), conducted in cooperation with pro-Kyiv Chechen combat formations, made a tactical impact. However, these incursions have yet to force significant changes in Vladimir Putin’s planning in Ukraine.

Nonetheless, recent RVC rhetoric suggests that the corps possesses long-term strategic objectives, such as overthrowing the Putin regime through a persistent war of attrition. This indicates that anti-Putin Russian fighters remain determined to continue their operations in the coming months despite heavy bombardment from the Russian military. While the RVC and similar paramilitary groups are unlikely to catalyze regime change in the Kremlin, their actions could foment instability within Russia’s borders.

Positional fighting also continued last week in multiple locations, especially near Avdiivka, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson. Open-source intelligence (OSINT) suggests that Ukrainian forces near Kherson are using MiG-29 aircraft equipped with French-made AASM-250 Hammer guided bombs to conduct pinpoint hits on Russian positions. Previously, the Ukrainians had been using their MiG-29 fighters to carry American-supplied AGM-88 anti-radiation missiles.

Ukraine also continued its efforts to use drones to destroy Russian personnel and equipment, forcing the Kremlin to adapt to new tactics. Since the outset of the conflict, Ukrainian drones have preyed on critical Russian assets, including landing ships, main battle tanks, communications equipment, and even military command and control infrastructure. Reports circulating on social media suggest that Russia is setting up mobile counter-drone groups to combat these efforts.

These outfits feature trucks equipped with heavy machine guns, Zu-23-2 anti-aircraft guns, electronic warfare systems, and smoke grenade launchers. Designed to shield Russian troops and platforms from drone attacks, the groupings closely resemble the mobile anti-aircraft units Kyiv employs to fight Shahed drones.

The Russian Armed Forces have also sought to copy Ukraine’s innovations in their use of unmanned ground platforms to support their offensives in Bakhmut. Reportedly, Ukrainian aerial drones have quickly hunted down these Russian vehicles. The future of warfare is emerging daily on the battlefields of Ukraine.

Alongside its ongoing ground assaults along multiple axes, Russia maintained a high tempo in its aerial attacks. In an attempt to blackout Ukraine’s electrical grid last week, the Russian Aerospace Forces continued to target Ukrainian energy infrastructure with a large number of Kh-101, Kh-555, and Kh-59 cruise missiles, Iskander ballistic missiles, Kinzhal aeroballistic missiles, and Shahed loitering munitions. Mimicking past strikes, Russian forces aimed at Ukraine’s civilian population, with last week’s aerial attacks concentrated on major cities including Odesa and Kharkiv.

As per Ukrainian official reports, Ukraine’s air defense crews engaged nearly all of Russia’s Shahed kamikaze drones successfully. However, Ukrainian defenses were unable to intercept the Kh-22 and Kh-31 anti-ship missiles or the S-300 air defense missiles modified for land-attack roles. As Ukraine has long faced difficulties intercepting these projectiles, Russia’s strike packages now feature them in increasing numbers, pressuring Ukraine’s air and missile network and underscoring Kyiv’s need for additional Western arms transfers.

2. Ukraine Strikes Deep inside Russia, Hitting the Russia-Iran Joint Drone Plant

On April 2, Ukraine struck Russian territory, hitting the important Russia-Iran joint drone plant in the special economic zone in Alabuga, Tatarstan. The facility produces Shahed-baseline loitering munitions, a disruptive military capability that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has been providing to Russia to bolster the Kremlin’s invasion. Russian Shahed salvos have long targeted Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and claimed many civilian lives.

A previous edition of this report examined a strike on the Tatarstan plant as an unconventional option Ukraine could employ to counter Russia’s advantages in conventional warfare. This week’s attack illustrates how Kyiv is already taking advantage of those options. It demonstrates Ukraine’s rising long-range strike deterrent, which is now—evidently—able to hit targets located at least 630 miles inside Russia. This bold move also sends a firm warning to Iran, a key supplier of Russia’s war in Ukraine, a day after Tehran received another firm warning in Damascus.

Initial OSINT indicates that the Ukrainian military employed a new unmanned system to execute the attack in Tatarstan. While only a careful assessment of the wreckage can conclusively identify the weapons that created it, available data suggests that Ukraine used an A-22 Foxbat, an indigenous light aircraft, in the strike. In 2023, Russia reportedly downed a manned A-22 during a Ukrainian surveillance mission in the border areas.

Designed by Aeroprakt, the Foxbat platform reportedly features an additional fuel tank and a remote-control system modified for robotic warfare roles. Its command-and-control systems, navigation features, warhead configurations, and communications equipment remain unknown. (Future editions of this report will seek to examine them.) The aircraft contains roughly 150 pieces that can be assembled in about 500 man-hours. Relying on indigenous production lines, Ukraine can produce a large number of A-22 modified unmanned systems in a short time, potentially boosting its long-range strike options.

3. Battle Damage Assessment of Ukraine’s March 23 Overnight Strikes in Crimea

As the dust settles, the impact of Ukraine’s recent strikes in Crimea, conducted overnight on March 23, is becoming clearer. Satellite imagery suggests that Ukraine managed to hit Russia’s Ropucha-class landing ship Azov, causing damage to the platform and the surrounding piers. However, the fate of the Yamal, another Ropucha-class Russian warship targeted in the attacks, remains a mystery.

Nonetheless, according to more recent Ukrainian reports, the Russian Navy’s landing platforms were not the sole targets of Ukraine’s strikes on occupied Crimea. Available evidence illustrates that Ukraine also hit the Yury Ivanov–class intelligence vessel Ivan Khurs, a key ship for locating radar systems and missile launchers. Satellite imagery suggests that while the vessel was not sunk, its operations were disrupted. The Ivan Khurs has long been a target of Ukrainian forces, which had previously targeted the intelligence platform with naval drones.

Ukraine’s strike in Crimea reportedly featured a mixed strike package comprising multiple missiles, including air-launched Storm Shadows from the United Kingdom, France-supplied SCALP-EG cruise missiles, and land-attack variants of Ukraine’s Neptune missiles. Kyiv also targeted the main communications center of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. In all, the strikes of March 23 showcased Ukraine’s ability to use its arsenal effectively.

4. Russian Glide Bombs Are Becoming More Dangerous

In early March, visual evidence posted on social media sources unveiled the wreckage of a new Russian glide bomb configuration called the Universal Interspecific Gliding Munition (UMPB). The weapon probably saw its combat debut in Kharkiv. Initial findings suggest that the UMPB is an improved glide bomb exhibiting a new design philosophy. Rather than using a conversion kit common in Russian glide bombs, its wing is integrated into the body of the weapon for enhanced performance.

The predecessor of the UMPB, the UMPK glide bomb, remains a formidable option in Moscow’s arsenal. Augmented with satellite navigation and inertial-measurement unit-guidance systems, the UMPK has an estimated range of 25 miles when released from medium altitude. Russia likely uses its Su-34 bomber as the primary platform to deploy this weapon. OSINT suggests that the Russian military has integrated its UMPK configuration components with destructive air-ground assets, such as the FAB-1500 bomb and the RBK-500 cluster munition.

Bolstering its arsenal with cost-effective standoff weapons such as glide bombs, Russia is increasingly attempting to pressure Ukraine’s limited air defense capabilities. This dynamic reflects a dangerous imbalance: Russia is rapidly improving its strike packages with cheap and effective solutions such as UMPBs, UMPKs, Iranian Shahed loitering munitions, and North Korean ballistic missiles, while Western military assistance, especially in the aerial systems domain, faces significant delays, crippling Ukraine’s air defense capabilities. While Kyiv has employed creative alternatives like the FrankemSAM initiative as stopgap solutions to defend its skies, Ukraine needs to do more to ensure the continuity of munitions and air defense systems against a rapidly expanding and diversifying Russian strike deterrent.

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