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Stinger, Javelin missiles for Ukraine meant to bleed Russia in urban combat?

Ukraine is also getting anti-aircraft, anti-tank missiles from European allies

stinger missile wiki A Stinger missile being test-fired by the US Marines | Wikipedia Commons

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a new arms package for Ukraine as the European country attempts to fight a Russian invasion.

The new arms package is worth $800 million and includes seven items, such as 800 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and 9,000 anti-tank weapons, 100 drones and over 20 million rounds of ammunition for small guns.

The US has previously supplied Ukraine 600 Stinger missiles and 2,600 Javelin anti-tank missiles and nearly 40 million rounds of ammunition.

Air trouble

The weapons supplied are for short-range engagements and thus primarily meant for defensive warfare. Thus, the Stinger missiles will be of little use to intercept ballistic and cruise missiles being fired against Ukrainian cities.

The Stinger missile can damage or destroy aircraft and helicopters at a maximum range of 8km. The Stinger is an old enemy of the Russian military. It first came into prominence during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, when the CIA supplied the Stinger to Afghan militants. Some estimates claim about 270 Soviet aircraft and helicopters were downed by Stinger missiles.

The Stinger is a infrared-homing missile, which tracks a target based on its heat signature. While the earlier generation of Stinger missiles had a simple heat-seeking sensor, the current generation has an imaging infrared seeker, which enables the missile to effectively 'see' a target and defeat possible countermeasures.

In addition to the Stinger, Ukraine is also believed to be getting supplies of Soviet-built anti-aircraft missiles such as the Strela. The UK is believed to be preparing to send its Starstreak missile to Ukraine. While comparable in range to the Stinger, the Starstreak is faster and uses laser guidance, enabling even better protection against countermeasures.

Weapons like the Stinger and Starstreak will be crucial for Ukraine the longer Russia continues its invasion. A prolonged conflict will deplete Russia's stock of precision-guided munitions, such as air-launched bombs and missiles. This would necessitate aircraft and helicopters having to rely on unguided weapons such as rockets and gravity bombs to hit Ukrainian targets. Unguided weapons typically have shorter range and accuracy than guided munitions, making the launch aircraft vulnerable to attack by weapons like the Stinger and Starstreak.

Ground scene

In addition to the Javelin from the US, Ukraine is receiving both guided and unguided anti-tank weapons from various European nations. These missiles are expected to become crucial as Russia attempts to take control of cities such as Kyiv and Lviv. Ukraine is believed to have destroyed scores of Russian tanks, which have lesser armour than western rivals.

In most recent examples of urban combat, such as the civil wars in Libya and Syria and US operations in Iraq and Israel's operations in Gaza, western forces have extensively used aircraft and drones to provide intelligence to forces on the ground.

The supply of additional rounds of ammunition also appears intended to keep Russia bleeding as the Ukrainian army and civilian resistance forces try to prevent Moscow's forces from taking full control of major cities.

Moreover, a prolonged invasion would mean Russia will need to keep cumbersome logistics lines secure by land and air to move spares, personnel, ammunition, fuel, food and other equipment. These supply routes will be enticing targets for Ukrainian anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.

Chechen legacy

Russia is no stranger to urban combat. Russian forces that participated in the nearly two-year-long 'first Chechen War' (1994-1996) were given a bloody nose by Chechen militants, notably during the battle of Grozny. Chechen militants acted in small teams, armed with anti-tank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades to attack Russian tanks and armoured personnel carriers. One NATO estimate of the conflict claimed 225 Russian armoured vehicles were destroyed and at one point, 846 out of 2,221 armoured vehicles were out of action.

The Russian military employed more efficient tactics in the Second Chechen War (1999-2000), resulting in fewer losses of tanks and men.

Russian casualties?

As of Thursday, Ukraine claims to have killed around 14,000 Russian personnel in the conflict and destroyed over 440 Russian tanks and 1,435 armoured personnel carriers, 86 aircraft and 108 helicopters.

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