Colonel: Ukraine's air defenses proving more effective than expected

Colonel Mart Vendla.
Colonel Mart Vendla. Source: ERR

Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian armed forces have shown more effective air defense than could have been expected, said Colonel Mart Vendla, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) on the ETV show "Ukraina stuudio."

Russia fired more than 80 rockets at Ukraine last Monday, October 10, half of which were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses. According to Colonel Vendla, this confirms that the quality of Ukraine's air defense systems is high.

"In fact, since the beginning of the war, Ukraine has shown a much more effective air defense system than could have been expected," said Vendla.

"It is well-known that, in the first phase you try to nullify your opponent's air defense systems in order to ensure maneuverability. The Russians have failed to do this. They failed to do so in the first two weeks, and the situation has only worsened for Russia since then, because Ukraine has been getting a lot of real-time information about where it is being attacked from. This has allowed Ukraine to manage its resources very well against these attacks," Vendla explained.

According to Vendla, Ukraine's S-300 medium- and long-range air defense system is still operational, with its allies also contributing additional defense technology.

"The Americans are adding their NASAMS, the Germans have already added IRIS-T and there is also talk of Spanish Hawks maybe being added to the system, not to mention the Stingers and the smaller ones, the ones that are shoulder-fired," Vendla said.

However, Vendla went on to explain, it is actually the smaller anti-aircraft guns that shoot down a large proportion of cruise missiles.

"Curious as it may seem, a large proportion of cruise missiles are shoulder-launched. Cruise missiles can't move freely within the general air defense bubble because they are detectable by radar and can be fired with rockets, so they look for low positions, where they can get close to the target covertly. If it can be more or less geographically determined where these potential corridors are, they will come in very low and can be shot down with relatively cheap equipment," the colonel explained.

"(Air defense) guidance systems are complex because there are radar systems and different intelligence sensors, with the latter potentially visible for certain weapons," he added.

No major Ukrainian breakthrough at Kherson yet

While on Saturday, rumors based on Russian sources began circulating on social media of an intensified counter-offensive by Ukrainian troops at Kherson, according to Vendla, there is no sign of that at the moment.

"It is largely an artillery duel. It is an attempt to break the firepower of the Russian troops who are 'on the defensive.' This is usually an indication of a possible offensive. However, for the time being, if the numerical ratios (of troops) are not currently favorable enough for a counter-attack, one can assume Ukraine will fight smartly, as it has done so far, that it will not just get its people killed, but will (instead) wait for a moment when the balance of forces is in its favor and then take advantage of that moment," Vendla said.

"So, at the moment we don't foresee a large-scale breakthrough, but when those (favorable) circumstances occur, it will probably happen," he added.

According to Vendla, the most critical aspect of the current situation for Russia is the prolongation of the war, which is also enabling Ukraine to grow stronger.

"From Russia's point of view, the entire basis of the Ukraine campaign was laid out in the first two weeks. The hope that the conflict would end within the first two weeks, most of the effort was focused on that. Because that didn't materialize and the war has been going on for over 230 days, Russia is getting weaker and more isolated every day, while Ukraine is getting more support, more aid, more training, more everything from its allies. The strategic initiative has been in Ukraine's hands for quite some time now," the colonel explained.

Concentration of Russian troops in Belarus dangerous for Ukraine.

Vendla told "Ukraina stuudio," that while there is currently no indication that Russia will be able to create a new front line in the war using the troops it has amassed in Belarus, the situation remains dangerous for Ukraine.

"We can see how Belarus, as a state allied to the Russian Federation, has to support Russia's actions. For a long time, Belarus has managed to avoid participating in the war directly. According to the information we currently have available, there is still no large contingent of troops concentrated in Belarus that could be used to open up a new front. Rather, logistics, equipment and materiel are being moved out towards Russia's frontline in Ukraine, with the personnel brought in also being given some training. However, we don't see any formation of (new) units at the moment," he said.

"However, it is an important development, because at the moment the Ukrainian effort is clearly to the south and east. Any new front opening up from the north would be dangerous for Ukraine, because it would have to free up some of its troops and commit them to the so-called 'guard,'" Vendla added.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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