320 missiles in a day: Russia targets short-range ballistic missiles at Ukraine; what is the result?

Updated: Mar 02, 2022, 03:45 PM(IST)

According to experts, in the initial hours of the Russian onslaught last week included more than 100 missiles launched from land and sea.

Russian short-range ballistic missile attack on Ukraine

Russia has employed hundreds of powerful and precise ballistic missiles in the first days of its Ukraine attack, but analysts and US officials say many Ukrainian defences remain intact - effects that countries around the world are watching closely.

The use of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) is likely being watched closely as a real-world case study by China, North Korea, and other countries that have been developing increasingly advanced arsenals of such weapons in recent years. And Western governments who see Russia as an adversary are eager to gather data on the missiles' effects in combat.

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Russia used 100 missiles on Ukraine launched from land and sea

Russia had fired more than 320 missiles last Sunday morning, with the majority of them SRBMs, a US official said.

According to US estimates, the initial hours of the Russian onslaught last week included more than 100 missiles launched from land and sea, mostly SRBMs but also cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles.

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SRBM bombardment on Ukraine

That would make it the most intense SRBM bombardment between two territorial contiguous states in a conflict, said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"What we’ve seen in Ukraine corresponds to how many military establishments in many countries, including China and North Korea, may think of using precision ballistic missiles in future conflicts," he said.

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Russia likely used Iskander-M missile

Russia most likely used its only SRBM in active service, the Iskander-M, said Timothy Wright, a research analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

First used in combat in 2008 in Georgia, the Iskander is designed to confound missile defences by flying on a low trajectory and manoeuvring in flight to strike targets as far out as 500km with an accuracy of 2-5 metres, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

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OTR-21 Tochka SRBM

"It is likely to be able to accurately target and destroy what it is being fired at," Wright said, adding that Russia appears to possess around 150 launchers, which can also fire cruise missiles.

There also appears to be evidence that Russia has used the OTR-21 Tochka SRBM, which was believed to have been retired, he said. "If these were in storage, Russia may have decided to put them to use, rather than scrap them."

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Ukrainian airbases targeted

What the missiles targeted and how much damage they caused remains unclear amid the confusion of the developing war, but analysts said there appear to have been some strikes on Ukrainian airbases.

Iskander missiles launched from Belarus had hit an airport in Zhytomyr in northern Ukraine on Sunday, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister said.

"We see some damage at airports, and it looks fairly accurate," said Jeffrey Lewis, a missile researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS).

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Russian missiles experienced launch failures

Some strikes by unknown weapons at airbases appeared relatively limited in scope, however, and in some instances potentially misplaced, such as hitting stored rather than operational aircraft, said Joseph Dempsey, a defence researcher at IISS.

Ukraine has the Cold War-era Russian-made S-300v anti-aircraft missile system, which also has anti-ballistic missile capabilities, Wright said. It is unclear whether any engaged the Russian missiles, and some S-300v vehicles appeared to have been destroyed by strikes, he added.

The US official said that there were indications that some Russian missiles experienced launch failures.

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Asia will be bristling with conventional missiles

As the heir to the former Soviet Union's substantial missile arsenal, Russia boasts the widest inventory of ballistic and cruise missiles in the world, according to CSIS.

But other countries are buying or developing their own new missiles, driven by security concerns and a desire to reduce reliance on other suppliers.

Before the decade is out, Asia in particular will be bristling with conventional missiles that fly farther and faster, hit harder, and are more sophisticated than ever before.

(Photograph:AFP)

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