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The use of ballistic missiles as a sign of the escalating conflict in Ukraine
Material posted: Publication date: 02-08-2014

The use of the armed forces of Ukraine operational-tactical missile complexes "Tochka-U" in the fighting in Donbas means a translation of the conflict into a new stage: Ukraine uses the most powerful available in its Arsenal of weapons. The effectiveness of their use is in question: the combat readiness of missile units is estimated extremely low.

The Mysterious "Point"

The greatest number of questions arise around the implications of "Points" on 29 July 2014, about which it became known from the message of the TV channel CNN. As mentioned in the report, the Ukrainian army launched three ballistic missiles short range "with tysyacheletiye" warheads. This definition of the number which now is armed the APU systems are only operational-tactical missile complexes (PTRC) 9К79 "Point" (or its improved version 9К79-1 "Tochka-U") with a range of up to 80 (up to 120 for a "Point-U") kilometers and a warhead weighing around 500 kilograms.

Was first made the claim that the purpose was one of the districts of Lugansk, controlled by the militia, but it soon became clear that it is not so: a single explosion of the missiles in Luhansk were reported, managed to find the only fallen in the Oktyabrsky district of the city fragments of the head portion.

According to the militia, for the purpose of rocket fire could be the position of the DNR divisions of troops at the height of Saur-Grave, which play a key role in the block surrounded by units of the Ukrainian army near the border with Russia. But, according to available information, in the area the rocket was not recorded.

A similar "disappearance" of three missiles in combination with the message about the launch on CNN, and then confirmation of that fact from the representatives of NATO led to the idea that the rockets could be shot down on the trajectory, and most likely by Russian air defenses.

If the aim of the Ukrainian missile was indeed Saur-the Grave, this version may be far from the truth: far from the border with Ukraine from the Russian side there are many towns that could be in the probable range of drop Points, especially given the already demonstrated low qualification of the Ukrainian missile, managed in 2001 during firing Goncharovsky on the ground in Chernihiv oblast hit by a missile with an inert warhead residential building in Brovary. From this point a single combat aircraft and "Spot" the Ukrainian army did not hold.

With regard to the possible consequences of falling "Points" possible solution for the interception of missiles (if it occurred) could be the only correct one. About the possible consequences from the very beginning and spoke on CNN, noting that the use of such weapons leads only to escalation of the conflict. In case of a fall "Points" on the territory of Russia the escalation could buy an entirely unpredictable extent: at all clearly expressed reluctance to get involved in the conflict in Ukraine, the Russian leadership wouldn't be a politically acceptable option than the operation to "peace enforcement".

A new surge of information about "the Points" was followed the next day, 30 July, when in the sky over a controlled Khartsyzsk militia was recorded the explosion and the release of unidentified objects. Among other things, expressed a theory that it could be hit by another "Point". It later turned out that the object was a 40-millimeter light charges on the parachutes used by the Ukrainian air force as an "ersatz" flares designed to protect aircraft from missiles with infrared homing. Descending on parachutes flashbombs from a distance have been taken by certain witnesses for the Marines or crew members knocked the machine. The wreckage of the plane has also not been found.

What's next?

Currently in service with the Ukrainian army is 12 missile complexes "Tochka-U" in the 19th missile brigade and an unknown number of these missiles complexes. According to available information, 50 rockets of this type in 2011, passed inspection from a Russian developer — JSC "SPC "engineering Design Bureau in Kolomna.

Given the desire for a speedy "victory" in the intensifying civil war, the use of these missiles may be considered as a tool for its possible attainment, in conditions when the Ukrainian air force is sharply reduced because of low readiness, and as a result of actions of air defense militias.

However, the practical use of this weapon, difficult. In fact, potential targets for "Point" or concentrated near the border with Russia, where the militia blocks the number of units of the Ukrainian army or in militia-controlled major cities. However, both carry serious political risks. The use of "Points" on the order of 10-20 kilometer band along the border with Russia very likely could drag Russia into the conflict directly, but using them in cities is fraught with a large number of one-time victims in the case of a particularly "successful" hit. And he and the other outcome could be costing Kiev too expensive — even the loss of international support, especially given the fact, already expressed the concerns of the West a new round of escalation of the conflict.

In favor of this point of view, evidenced by the sudden peacekeeping activity of U.S. Secretary of state John Kerry started speaking about the readiness of Kiev to negotiations and a ceasefire, but so far the actual results of this initiative are invisible. Fighting continues, despite the fact that, in General, the next offensive of the Ukrainian army failed, causing only the growth in the number of deaths among civilians and military personnel.

What if?..

We should not exclude that the first application Point was a kind of test on the part of Kiev, who checked the possible reaction of Russia and the world community to take this step. While it is possible to say that for Russia and for the world such actions are clearly unacceptable, but the logic of escalation may lead to a repetition of the incident, and then you need to ask a question about the possible consequences.

Option # 1: Russian city

Getting missiles of this type in the Russian city, town or other locality on the border with Ukraine, if Russian air defense will miss another attack, will almost certainly trigger an acute political crisis in Kiev, and in Moscow. The Russian leadership would be virtually impossible to explain to their citizens the reasons why the perpetrator of such a strike is not destroyed or arrested and taken to Moscow. Kiev, in turn, have to contend with the almost inevitable in this case, the transition of Russia to a military solution of the issue. The only question is its scale. The political consequences of direct intervention of Russia in the conflict so far impossible to predict.

Option # 2: Donetsk, Lugansk, further-everywhere

With the regular use of the Ukrainian army in the cities with heavy artillery and jet systems of volley fire "Point" makes some fundamentally different quality of war, but a direct hit by such missiles on a residential building or industrial facility can cause the deaths of many hundreds of people, in the worst case, if the target will be ecologically dangerous object, — many thousands. This can lead to the fact that Kiev will refuse to support even those, who definitely was on his side: political risk amid ongoing actively by all sides of the information war will become too large.

Option # 3: Exhaustion of patience

This option assumes that the military reaction of Russia in case if the application of the PTRC will become permanent even without missiles fall on Russian territory, just as the growing of the threat. In this case, a military response may be relatively small in scale and confined to the destruction of PTRC with air or with similar Russian weapons — such as PTRC "Tochka-U" or more modern "Iskander-M", now gradually superseding the "Point" in the composition of the rocket troops and artillery of the Russian army. This option, however, has a chance to very quickly escalate into option # 1, and its effects are also unpredictable.

Tags: war , AME , Ukraina

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