There have been mixed reports about the actual status of Russian precision-guided missiles and whether Russia still has stocks of them amid their losing invasion of Ukraine, which is about to enter its fourth month. Recent intel from the US and the UK have claimed that the Russians have burned through their own stocks of precision-guided missiles and that their arsenal is severely depleted.
“We do assess that they (Russia) are running through their precision-guided missiles at a pretty fast clip,” Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said. “We know that in Mariupol, for instance, their use of munitions has migrated from almost all precision-guided to a significant number of what we would call dumb bombs, non-precision-guided munitions.”
Furthermore, the British Defense Ministry also stated that the Russians would likely struggle to replace their precision weaponry as it had already been expended. They concluded that the Russians were running out of precision-guided missiles as the Russian forces had been bombing Ukraine with little to no regard for civilian casualties, revealing that they may be using these “dumb bombs” that Kirby had been referring to.
However, Russia was quick to dispel these claims made by the West. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov stated that they should have run out of missiles in March.
“The military-industrial complex supplies our army with all the necessary range of missiles in the required volumes. The stocks of modern high-precision missiles and ammunition are enough to fulfill all the tasks assigned to the Russian Armed Forces,” he claimed.
The Deputy Prime Minister also refuted Kirby’s claims that they had been using “dumb bombs,” saying that they were able to “hit military infrastructure facilities throughout Ukraine with high accuracy and thereby minimize civilian casualties.”
However, this seems like a flat-out lie. SOFREP reported on March 26 that US intel found that Russian missiles had a failure rate as high as 60%, which iis simply terrible. In the US we want missiles that are “Fire and Forget” in terms of reliability, not “Fire and Cross Your Fingers” as it appears with Russian quality. So if you are a Russian general trying to attack a target, you would have to be prepared to expend several missiles hoping one of them would hit their target.
That being said, is Russia actually running out of precision-guided missiles to fire at Ukraine? There are signs telling us that they.
So far, Russia has fired some 2,154 missiles at Ukraine since the start of the invasion on February 24. Much of these were fired during their initial advance to Kyiv to topple the Ukrainian government, a goal that they were not able to accomplish.
The Russians have used a number of precision-guided missiles in Ukraine. Some of these include the Kh-101 and Kh-55 cruise missiles that were seen to be launched from Tu-95s and y-160 Blackjack Bombers last April. Furthermore, the Russians have been using their ballistic missiles like the Iskander-M and the Tochka-U ground-launched ballistic missiles. These Iskander-Ms are notably faster than cruise missiles with a speed of March 6 to 7 that can travel over 300 miles to reach a target.
We have seen numerous pictures of missiles that failed to reach their targets and crashed mostly intact. There are also numerous videos of Russian Smerch MLRS system rockets failing after launch and crashing a short distance away from their launchers as well.
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) May 20, 2022
SOFREP previously reported that the nuclear-capable Iskander-M were also equipped with countermeasures and PENAIDs such as small decoys to evade air defense systems and trick heat-seeking missiles that could possibly shoot them down. These help them penetrate targets well-beyond enemy lines and help them to be more precise.
Kalibr cruise missiles, launched from ships or submarines, were also used by the Russian forces to destroy targets, notably destroying military factories in Ukraine in March. Along with this, Kinzhal hypersonic missiles were also used to destroy munitions depots and fuel depots in the Ivano-Frankivsk region in Ukraine. It was claimed by various military experts that the usage of the Kinzhal was a way for Russia to show off its supposed “military might” and that they had been running out of missiles to throw at Ukraine.
This would seem like the case as the usage of these precision-guided munitions is becoming less seen on the battlefield in Ukraine. During the earlier portions of the war, Russians could be seen firing precision-guided missiles at Ukrainian targets for days, continuously trying to hit military factories, depots, and even civilians to hurt the Ukrainian war effort and morale. However, nowadays, they have been more conservative with their precision-guided missiles.
“There are no volleys of long-range cruise missiles anymore, and there are almost no Iskander strikes,” military analyst Pavel Luzhin said.
A senior defense official also weighed in on the subject, stating that the Russians would not need a hypersonic missile to hit not-so-far-away buildings in Ukraine, stating that it was a “head-scratcher.”
“Why would you need a hypersonic missile fired from not that far away to hit a building? It could be that they’re running low on precision-guided munitions and feel like they need to tap into that resource,” he said last March.
“It could be that they’re trying to send a message to the West, but also to Ukraine, and trying to gain some leverage at the negotiating table. But it’s a — from a military perspective, if it was a hypersonic missile, there’s not a whole lot of practicality about it.”
“We do think that they are beginning to face some inventory issues with precision-guided munitions, which is one reason why you’re seeing the increasing use of what we would call dumb bombs, and we’ve also seen them suffer failures of some of their precision-guided munitions,” the defense official continued.
This is not to say that they have completely run out of their missiles. However, they are using them with more care as evidence points to the fact that they cannot produce more of their precision-guided munitions due to sanctions.
There is also evidence to prove this point. SOFREP previously reported that the Russians have shut down a surface-to-air production plant, the Ulyanovsk Mechanical Plant, known to produce various types of missiles due to a lack of foreign components. While this factory produces the 9K37 Buk (SA-11 Gadfly) and the 2K22 Tunguska (SA-19 Grison), it can be surmised that this phenomenon can be spreading to the entire military industry as they have been reported to be suffering from massive layoffs.
In fact, military expert and analyst Vladislav Seleznev stated in an interview with OBOZREVATEL that the Russians have been using “outdated” missiles with “significant accuracy problems. According to him, a Russian attack on the morning of May 16 in Yuzhny revealed that the Russians had trouble with the trajectory of the missile, hitting a recreational complex instead of a railway bridge. According to him, they were using X-22 class missiles which were very powerful but had tremendous accuracy problems.
With mounting losses in Ukraine as well as a non-functioning military-industrial complex, it’s unknown whether the Russians can keep up with the Ukrainians and their Western-supplied weapons. As fighting rages on in Donbas, with the Russians failing to gain any significant ground (in fact, losing ground), the absence of precision-guided missiles in the future in their arsenal may prove to be a significant factor in their performance in Ukraine.