The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System will soon be introduced in the Ukraine war.


Asia Times is initiating a near-daily Ukraine war situation report based on multiple military and think tank sources. It’s our unvarnished bid to cut through the propaganda and misinformation of all sides that contribute to the fog of war.

Summary

According to both Ukrainian and Russian reports, the city of Severodonetsk is at least 80% in Russian hands.

The main issue now is whether Russian forces can cross the three bridges across the Donetsk river to Severodonetsk’s twin city of Lysychansk. The principal collateral Russian forces move is to push south from Lyman and Rubizhne, and north from Popasna, and close the pincers on the Ukrainian forces that are forced out of Severodonetsk.

There was no ground movement in the Northeast around Kharkiv but incessant Russian artillery fire continues.

In the south, Ukrainian forces, by the account of the Ukrainian General Staff (UGS), are probing Russian fortified defenses in the Kherson area. In response, much as in the north, there is heavy Russian artillery fire west of Kherson toward Mikolaiv, the defensive Ukrainian-held city shielding Odessa.

The US will provide High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine, with a Ukrainian promise not to use the systems to fire into Russia. Russia says that’s like “throwing gasoline on the fire.”

Russia in apparent response conducted drills involving “intensive maneuvering” of its nuclear missile forces, the Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.

The equipment used by the Strategic Missile Forces — Russia’s main nuclear deterrence division — includes the “Yars,” an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of up to 6,500 miles (NATO designation SS-27 Mod 2, road-mobile MIRV ICBM). The range would allow the multiple-warhead missile to strike any target in the US.

The Situation will have a detailed assessment of the probable impact of the HIMARS’ introduction to the war in tomorrow’s edition. Here’s a preview:

Effective only if a) well protected against air attack. Delivery of German IRIS-T SLM, 3 miles, IR-electro optical guidance (ready to be delivered to Egypt, but to be diverted) could be a critical factor. b) firing against moving targets that can maneuver, i.e. other artillery, command trailers, integrated air defense systems (IADS), etc, requires an observer (e.g. drone with imagery and with coordinates) and a command link.

M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) vehicles with the 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery Regiment, Kentucky Army National Guard participating in Saber Strike 18 execute a fire mission at Bemoko Piskie, Poland, June 14, 2018. Photo: US Army / Charles Rosemond

The Kremlin announced that the Zircon hypersonic missile, just tested again a few days ago, is now fully operational.

Russian air attacks on the 22,000-kilometer extensive Ukrainian railroad net are continuing and inflicting substantial damage. Russia now enjoys virtually unchallenged air superiority.

After the EU’s oil embargo-light, the Russian ruble continued trading near 4-year highs.

Center and East 

Oleksandr Stryuk, mayor of Severodonetsk, said that as of sunset on June 1 Ukrainian forces controlled perhaps 20% of the city and the Russians controlled 60% and 20% was “no man’s land.”

Russian forces were reported by the UGS to have engaged Ukrainian forces in the town of Toshkivka, 6-7 miles south of Severodonetsk, but importantly on the west side of the Donets river. The Russian forces appear poised to intercept retreating Ukrainian forces.

US sources report that Russian forces pushed west out of Lyman in the direction of Slovyansk, though it is not clear how much terrain they gained. Russian rockets struck Slovyansk. The Russian aim, as noted yesterday, is to close any exit to the west of Ukrainian forces (10,000 – 15,000) engaged near Severodonetsk.

South

The UGS reported Russian forces moving north about 50 kilometers west of Donetsk on the Donetsk – Zaporizhia line, noting that the Russians had taken two small towns. The UGS also noted that the Russians have made small gains just north of Donetsk.

North of Kherson the Ukrainian counter-attack continued on the south side of the Inhulets river but made insignificant progress. According to German sources, Ukrainian forces in the area are “thin” and appear to be mainly engaging for disruptive purposes.

Net assessment: Combat losses, sustainability of combat

NATO places Russian losses at 12-15,000 killed in action (KIA). Wounded in action (WIA) numbers are much less clear; the standard ratio is between two to three WIA for every KIA.

NATO makes no formal estimates of Ukrainian KIAs and WIAs. President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian leadership figures have spoken of “50 to 100 KIA per day.”

This would translate into 5,000 – 10,000 KIA and 10,000 to 20,000 WIA on the Ukrainian side. Add to that the 8,000 prisoners of war (POWs) the Russians say they are holding and Ukrainian manpower losses run anywhere between 23,000 to 38,000 soldiers.

The Kyiv Post newspaper reports that according to Zelensky Ukraine is suffering up to 700 casualties a day. Of those, “60 – 100” are KIA. Obviously, a 7:1 WIA:KIA ratio would greatly increase overall Ukrainian personnel assets out of action.

Russian troops enter the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk in a recent photo. Image: Twitter

The breakdown of active combat assets to combat support personnel is not known. So the Ukrainian losses represent a low of 10% of their real combat assets but it’s probably a far higher percentage.

Ukraine without a doubt is starting to see real issues of sustaining combat throughout the summer.

Strategic Issue

Carlo Masala, professor at the University of the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr), Munich, complained in his daily podcast that the West has not agreed on war aims. This, he said, is “a major strategic mistake.”

“We observe that the interpretations of this conflict are continually diverging further. There is no agreement on how this conflict might be terminated and how much further it may be allowed to continue.”