Russia fails to properly defend itself against Ukrainian dro…

A drone. Stock photo: Ukrinform news agency

Experts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) believe that Russia is stepping up its defences to counter Ukrainian drones, although it is unlikely that it will be able to deploy mobile fire groups on the necessary scale.

Source: ISW

Details: ISW indicated that the Russian military is reportedly forming mobile fire groups to counter the threat of Ukrainian UAV strikes.

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However, analysts suggested that it will be challenging for them to deploy these groups on the required scale anytime soon.

The experts noted that the Russian state-run newspaper Izvestia (The News) reported, citing military sources, that Russia is forming mobile fire groups as part of unspecified combined arms, air force and air defence armies to fight drones and will equip these groups with thermal imagers, electronic warfare systems and machine guns mounted on pickup trucks.

Izvestia provided no information about the locations where Russian forces intend to deploy the mobile fire groups or their composition and echeloning.

ISW pointed out that the Russian military, in particular, faces the threat of Ukrainian drones both in the occupied territories of Ukraine and in Russia at oil refineries and other critical infrastructure supporting Russia’s war effort, and it is unclear whether these mobile groups will be able to protect the territory targeted by Ukrainian drones.

The description of Russian mobile fire groups by Izvestia resembles Ukraine’s tactical mobile fire groups, which Ukrainian defenders began deploying on a large scale in the spring of 2023 to respond to regular Russian attacks involving Shahed-136/131 drones.

“Ukrainian forces have long been conducting drone strikes against Russian targets in occupied Ukraine, and the Russian military command’s decision to form the mobile fire groups is likely in response to the recent intensification of Ukrainian drone strikes against Russian oil refineries in February and March,” ISW noted.

At the same time, experts suggested that Russian troops are having difficulty properly deploying short-range air defence systems along the expected flight vectors for Ukrainian drones, and Russian forces appear to have failed to cover even critical potential targets in well-protected areas of Russia.

ISW experts added that the large-scale deployment of mobile fire groups in Russia’s west could pose similar challenges for the Russian military, as the Russian military may not be able to deploy enough of them on the required scale.

To quote the ISW’s Key Takeaways on 30 March: 

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy indicated that delays in American security assistance have forced Ukraine to cede the battlefield initiative, not contest the battlefield initiative, and continue to threaten Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.
  • Russian missile strikes destroyed one of the largest thermal power plants in Kharkiv Oblast on 22 March, as continued delays in US security assistance degrade Ukraine’s air defence umbrella and increase Russia’s ability to significantly damage Ukraine’s energy grid.
  • Russian forces are demonstrating technological and tactical adaptations and are increasingly using unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) on the frontlines of Donetsk Oblast.
  • The Russian military is reportedly forming mobile fire groups to mitigate against Ukrainian drone strike threats but will likely struggle to field these groups at the required scale in the near term.
  • Russian authorities continue to escalate legal pressure against migrants in the wake of the 22 March Crocus City Hall attack, prompting both Russian authorities to increase deportations and migrants to voluntarily leave Russia.
  • Positional engagements continued throughout the theatre on 30 March.
  • Russian mobilised personnel continue to suffer high casualties while fighting in Ukraine.

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