The Russian military has resorted to dropping massive Soviet-era bombs in an effort to circumvent Ukrainian air defenses that have proven more than a match for long range missiles and drones.
Ukrainian investigators have increasingly found instances of Russia dropping older bombs, some around 1,100 pounds. The low-tech explosives easily circumvent modern air defenses like the U.S.-made Patriot missile systems that are designed to counter long-range missiles and drones.
Russia’s bombs, resurrected from Cold War-era ordnance stashes, have two major advantages over missiles in that they have no propulsion system for air defenses to track, and they remain airborne for barely a minute.
“This is the evolution of the air war,” Ukrainian Air Force Lt. Colonel Denys Smazhnyi told the New York Times. “They first tried cruise missiles, and we shot them down. Then they tried drones, and we shot those down. They are constantly looking for a solution to strike us, and we are looking for one to intercept them.”
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“It’s evolution, countermeasures, evolution, countermeasures. It’s a nonstop process, unfortunately,” he added.
Russian forces have even gone so far as to retrofit large bombs with wings and navigation systems to extend both their range and lethality, U.S. officials reportedly told the Times.
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With no way to counter the bombs themselves, Ukrainian forces must target the planes that drop them, a tall order for a national air force with planes far older than Russia’s modern aircraft.