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British intel: Ukraine’s strikes at Berdyansk and Luhansk airfields reduce Russia’s capabilities at the front

Russia’s losses will likely have an impact on its army’s ability both to defend and conduct further offensive activity on this axis.
A destroyed airfield in Russian-occupied Berdyansk after Ukrainian strikes. Credit: Schemes (Skhemy) Project by Radio Liberty
British intel: Ukraine’s strikes at Berdyansk and Luhansk airfields reduce Russia’s capabilities at the front

On 17 October 2023, Ukraine likely destroyed nine Russian military helicopters in Berdiansk and five in Luhansk with US-provided long-range ATACMS missiles, the UK Defense Ministry reported.

According to the UK intel, if Russia’s losses are confirmed, “it is highly likely it will have an impact on Russia’s ability both to defend and conduct further offensive activity on this axis.” In addition, the confirmed loss of any air frames would be difficult to replace in the short to medium term.

That loss would also likely create additional pressure on Russia’s pilots and air frames, already “suffering combat exhaustion and maintenance issues due to the unanticipated protracted campaign.”

The UK intel also tweeted:

  • “Given that Russian fixed wing close air support to date has been extremely poor, Russian defensive lines have become increasingly reliant on rotary wing support in the face of the Ukrainian offensive.
  • Berdiansk was being used as a primary Forward Operating Base on the southern axis providing both logistics and offensive/defensive capabilities.
  • There is a realistic possibility this strike will compel nodes farther from the front lines, increasing the burden on logistics chains,” British intel concluded in its daily report.

Background

On 16 October, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ukraine launched American-provided ATACMS missiles at Russian forces for the first time, marking a significant escalation in Ukraine’s long-range strike capability.

On 17 October, Ukraine’s military said it “made well-aimed strikes on enemy [Russia’s army] airfields and helicopters near the temporarily occupied Luhansk and Berdiansk” with the missiles.

In the evening address on 17 October, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed that Ukrainian forces had deployed American-provided ATACMS long-range missiles.

Previously a “small number” of the missiles were secretly sent to Ukraine. The ATACMS will allow Ukraine to strike deeper into Russian-occupied territory. The missile models sent to Ukraine have a range of about 100 miles which helps Ukraine’s Forces during a crucial phase of its counteroffensive in the east and south.

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