Details 08:30 24 Feb 2024

Ukraine's TOP-5 achievements of second year of the war

The second year of the full-scale war turned out to be controversial: on the one hand, the Ukrainian counteroffensive did not bring the quick results society hoped for. At the same time, a year ago, the Russians planned to capture the entire Donetsk region, but Ukrainian soldiers stopped the enemy. The European Union is starting accession negotiations with Ukraine. The Ukrainian military-industrial complex is gaining momentum: in a month, Ukraine produces tens of thousands of projectiles and six Bohdan self-propelled guns, and the production of armored vehicles has increased many times.

1. Ukrainians not only sink Russian ships but win the battle for the Black Sea, which saves Ukrainian economy

Indeed, Ukraine's Navy does not have a single warship, and the Russians have an entire Black Sea fleet that bombarded Ukrainian cities with missiles, and when the "grain corridor" stopped, it also blocked the ports. Ukraine's military commanders found a solution called "repeat at sea the tactics that worked on land." From the fall of 2022, the Ukrainians have attacked the Russians with inexpensive but modern and high-speed drones with remote control. For such a case, Ukrainian engineers have developed several models at once: intelligence uses Magura drones, and the security service has Sea Baby drones.

Another know-how was long-range strikes on ships with Storm Shadow missiles from Ukrainian Su-24 — theoretically, this is a weapon against stationary ground targets such as headquarters or warehouses. Ukraine used them to target ships in ports.

As will become clear later, the defense forces began their "sea counteroffensive" at the end of August. Then, intelligence fighters freed the Boyko towers — gas and oil drilling platforms off the coast of Crimea in the Black Sea where the Russians had radar systems. Next, Ukraine destroyed the radar and the air defense system in Crimea with Neptune missile. Near the peninsula, they eliminated the Russian tracking system Predel-E, a Russian military over-the-horizon radar system, alongside affecting other military facilities.

It seemed that this was purely a slap in the face of Putin, but in fact, it was a clear plan. The Ukrainians are methodically knocking out anti-aircraft defenses and radars, without which the Russian fleet cannot detect Storm Shadow or a flotilla of drones in time. Russia constantly misses strikes, and Ukraine's intelligence keeps perfectly finding targets for missiles and drones.

With missile strikes, Ukrainian defenders disabled the Russian landing ship Minsk, the submarine Rostov-on-Don, and the corvette Askold, at the same time damaging the shipyard Zaliv. Novocherkask landing ship was wrecked. Besides regular strikes on ground targets, even the headquarters of the Russian fleet got some.

In the meantime, naval drones sank the Caesar Kunikov ship, the Ivanovets corvette, and two Serna and Akula class amphibious assault ships. In addition, the Russian landing ship Olenegorsky Gornyak, the corvettes Samum, Sergei Kotov, and Pavel Derzhavin, a tugboat, a reconnaissance ship, and a tanker were damaged.

It is not surprising that at the end of 2023, the main forces of the Russian fleet fled to Novorossiysk, and when going to sea, they preferred to hide. Thanks to this, the Ukrainian authorities convinced the shipowners to enter Odesa and other ports again, even without Russian guarantees. From August to December 2023, Ukraine exported about 13 million tons of various goods by sea on 400 ships. Ukrainian engineers, meanwhile, are already developing new underwater drones.

2. Ukraine has built an Army of Drones, without which the army would not be able to survive now


During more than four months of fighting for Avdiivka, Ukraine's defense forces destroyed more than 1,100 units of armored vehicles and 248 artillery systems — and this with a total lack of shells. The Ukrainians were helped by drones, which partly replaced artillery on the battlefield.

Ukrainian fighters actively used drones even in the days of the anti-terrorist operation in the east, not to mention 2022. 2023 can be considered a breakthrough because Ukrainian soldiers turned unmanned aviation into a virtually new type of military, the recognition of which was the creation of the Unmanned Systems Forces headed by Colonel Vadym Sukharevskyi.

Separate units of UAV operators are appearing in the defense forces, and various drone combat tactics and interaction schemes are being formed. Moreover, fighters no longer have to learn by themselves because they are trained in an organized manner by state centers and volunteer initiatives.

Meanwhile, drone production is becoming one of the main directions of Ukraine's military industry: companies are launching new factories, and small productions where people assemble 15 UAVs per day emerge. According to Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the Ministry of Strategy and Industry, Ukraine is already producing thousands of drones a month. The plans include tens of thousands every month and more than a million by the end of the year.

This seriously strengthens the army because UAVs now operate literally at all battle stages. Quadcopters like Mavik and large wings like Stork detect the enemy or scout the positions. Bomber drones, from the modified Mavik to the heavy aircraft of the domestic Vampire, drop projectiles on the Russians or their equipment. FPV drones act as massive and highly accurate kamikaze. One team uses 500 to 600, or even a thousand such devices per month.

Thanks to them, the soldiers repulse assaults, take out enemy equipment from afar, hunt Russian artillery, find targets for their guns, and even arrange night bombing of the enemy.


Without drones, the Ukrainians would have to stop Russian infantry and equipment in close combat every day and withstand even stronger shelling — and this means constant, more significant losses and much larger retreats than from Avdiivka.

In addition, Ukraine has been developing new models of UAVs, which will soon replenish the army's arsenal. Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine's digital minister, promises hundreds of analogs of the Russian Lancet drone — high-precision kamikaze drones with a radius of tens of kilometers, shortly. Ukrainians are also experimenting with artificial intelligence for drones. Earlier, the authorities spoke about 10,000 UAVs with a range of up to 100 kilometers, which would be needed for strikes on Russian headquarters, warehouses, and other rear facilities.

In parallel, Ukrainian engineers are developing a new field: ground drones. One such device called Ironclad has already been tested on the battlefield by soldiers of the 5th Assault Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. A wheeled vehicle with a heavy machine gun can go ahead of the soldiers and destroy enemy positions, which means less risk to people.

This area is also very promising because there are many application scenarios. There is already an example of a Ukrainian drone rolling up to the bridge and blowing it up.

They can carry ammunition to the front line or evacuate the wounded. The armed forces have drones that neutralize minefields or place their own mines.

Let's note one more know-how: since April, the Brave1 platform has been operating in Ukraine, which helps developers, in particular drone manufacturers, to quickly go from an idea to front-line equipment and find funding.

3. The help of allies + the skills of the Ukrainian military is how Ukraine has created a powerful air defense system

There were no major blackouts for almost the entire winter of 2023-2024, which is the most apparent evidence of how Ukrainian air defense works. During the second year of the war, its fighters shot down more than 980 missiles of various types and more than 2,600 Shahed drones.

Ukraine does not produce air defense systems and only has the Soviet S-300, Buk-2, and others), so the allies should be thanked for strengthening the "air shield." The USA, Germany, and the Netherlands gave Ukraine the Patriot systems, which, together with the Franco-Italian SAMP-T, are the only ones that allow the armed forces to destroy any air target. The Norwegian NASAMS and the German IRIS-T are also very important: they are much more effective than the Soviet systems when it is necessary to shoot down cruise missiles and Shahed drones.

However, the merit of Ukrainian fighters is by no means less. To begin with, they mastered super-modern weapons, which had previously only been seen in Hollywood blockbusters, in months. They combined them with Soviet analogs in combat formations. In addition, air defense is far from a "sedentary" type of military. Ukraine's batteries are constantly maneuvering to intercept as many targets as possible. At the same time, you must stay undetectable to avoid the Russians detecting the installations and hitting them with missiles.

The attacks themselves have become much more complex than in 2022. Instead of strikes with one type of missile, the Russians arrange combined attacks: for example, they use ballistic Iskanders and winged X-101s, preceded by a bunch of Shaheds drones. All of them have different trajectories, speeds, and targets. They have also been using a volley of 10 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles flying at a speed of more than 12 thousand kilometers (!) per hour.

Ukraine still does not shoot down 100% of missiles — there is a simple lack of air defense systems. However, the defense has withstood: the Russians could not suppress it and then destroy Ukrainian cities, as they did in Syria. Thus, thousands of lives were saved, people were not left without food and warmth, the military industry continued to produce weapons for the army, and the economy in general was working. As of the end of 2023, almost 91% of Ukrainian companies have resumed their work since the beginning of the invasion.

This is against the background of forecasts that air defense is about to be exhausted because it will spend all its missiles on shooting down the Shahed drones. In response, Ukraine organized mobile groups on pickup trucks with anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, and MANPADS. They destroyed the drones, and the "big air defense" kept the ammunition. The allies also gave Ukraine anti-aircraft guns — let's note the Gepard self-propelled guns, which have been successfully landing not only drones, but also missiles.

Ukraine's armed forces even invented a new tactic — let's call it the "traveling Patriot." This installation cannot work near the front line: radars will easily detect and destroy it. Ukrainian fighters inconspicuously pull the deactivated Patriot to the front, and when other systems notice enemy aircraft, they turn on the complex only for a moment, fire a salvo, and then quickly withdraw the installation to the rear.

This is how four Russian planes were shot down near Avdiivka in the last few days before the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops. According to a similar scenario, in December, Ukrainians destroyed three Su-34s over the Kherson region, and in May, they shot down five planes and helicopters in the Bryansk region. Presumably, the "traveling Patriot" also fired on January 14, destroying the "flying radar" A-50 and sending the Il-22 to scrap. On February 23, the armed forces also used a long-range system — this time unknown — to shoot down another A-50.

The Ukrainians are also developing a new air defense format because, since the New Year, Yuri Ignat, spokesperson of the Air Force, has been hinting at unshot missiles that "did not reach their aims." Then, X-101 and Shahed drones are found in the fields. According to the spokesperson, electronic warfare systems are operating in Ukraine, and their task is to knock missiles and drones off course or jam their navigation, so these falls can be attributed to them.

4. Several breakthroughs in the supply of weapons from the allies

Yes, this sounds strange at a time when the Americans have not yet unblocked the aid, and the European Union's defense industry is only coming to life and cannot give Ukraine the required number of shells. But remember how a year ago they didn't give Ukraine F-16, cluster munitions, or ATACMS and tried to scare Ukrainians with "Ukraine fatigue."

The events turned different, and we read how Ukrainian pilots are learning to fly F-16 jets. Ukraine expects more than 40 F-16s from the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway. Meanwhile, France promised 78 Caesar howitzers, Denmark handed over all its artillery, Sweden announced a new package for $680 million, including underwater drones, and after joining NATO, they would also provide airplanes. Meanwhile, the Czechs found 800,000 shells for Ukraine.

Ukraine is also helped by the fact that now Western allies increasingly see Russia as a threat to everyone, not just Ukraine. Therefore, the victory of Ukraine will become especially beneficial for the Germans and the French, as it is better to help Ukrainians than to fight Russia on their own in the future.

Ukrainian diplomats did something called "working with fears" in psychology. Cluster munitions are considered inhumane — Ukrainians write the rules for their use and receive the ammunition. The Americans consider ATACMS to be too escalating — Ukrainians agree not to hit the Russian Federation with them, and the missiles arrive.

Moreover, Ukraine is gradually moving from arms packages to strategic cooperation. Thus, Ukraine has already signed security agreements with Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Italy, and Canada, similar to the American-Israeli ones. If we take a purely military bloc, the Ukrainian army will be helped this year with weapons (up to €13 billion) and support for military reforms. Ukraine is already preparing new agreements — in short, it is not worth talking about the fatigue of the West.

Similarly, Ukraine agrees with Western arms companies, such as Rheinmetall or BAE, about production in Ukraine — the security agreements also include a clause on the development of Ukraine's military industry. It is more profitable to build self-propelled guns or infantry fighting vehicles with the support of allies than to ask them because then, Ukraine would not depend on other countries' reserves and the decision-makers mood.

So far, the British have used an even more interesting format: they are starting to produce drones for Ukraine along with several other countries. These will be advanced UAVs with artificial intelligence that can attack the enemy in swarms. Other NATO members are also joining in: by the end of the year, Ukraine is promised as many as a million drones.

5. Ukraine is gradually moving the war to the enemy's territory

In 2022, the main disparity of the war was particularly felt: the Russians bombarded Ukraine's entire territory with missiles and drones, air strikes happened several times a day, and at that time, the Russian Federation itself was living a peaceful life.

Due to the lack of long-range missiles like Tomahawk missiles and the ban of the allies on hitting Russia with Western weapons, Ukraine's command switched to alternative methods.

For example, kamikaze drone strikes are similar to how Russia acts with Shahed drones. Ukrainian intelligence can find targets in the Russian Federation, manufacturers assemble devices, and operators send them to various targets — there is no time for testing, so they are tested immediately on the battlefield.

For example, at the beginning of fall, Ukrainian UAVs hit the Russian factory Kremny-El three times, which is one of the leading manufacturers of electronics for their army. In January, drones attacked the Shcheglovsky Val plant in Tula, which supplies the aggressors with air defense. Even the Tambov gunpowder plant, which is 700 kilometers from Ukraine, was attacked. Let's not forget the regular strikes of UAVs directly in the center of Moscow.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's security service attacked with drones the Russian military camp in the Kursk region and the airfield there, hitting five planes. Presumably, a drone also blew up the Zagorsk plant in the suburbs of Moscow in August. Hence, the Russians began to experience interruptions in the supply of Lancet UAVs to their army.

Such strikes are not about "letting the Russians suffer" but a way to stop the enemy military-industrial complex so that the Russians have fewer weapons. Of course, for this, Ukraine needs drones with a Shahed-level warhead to destroy factories, not just damage them. Kamyshin assures that analogs of the Iranian UAV have already gone into production.

The second target of the Ukrainians was the Russian economy — Ukrainian drones hit oil refineries and fuel tanks. There were eight such attacks in January alone, and gasoline is already becoming more expensive for Russians.

Against more difficult targets, Ukrainian defenders have to throw a group of special forces into the enemy's rear, just like in the times of World War II. In August, a group of intelligence soldiers reached the Soltsy airfield in the Novgorod region on foot. Ukrainian fighters burned one Tu-22 plane and damaged two more.

In the same month, Ukrainians attacked a military base in Pskov: planes were destroyed there, and an ammunition depot exploded. At the same time, Ukraine's arms manufacturers began to rework the Neptune missiles for strikes on ground targets. When they are finished, Ukraine will have another way of striking Russian factories and airfields.


All these achievements do not negate the fact that Ukraine still has a lot of work to do. Russia is also actively developing UAV technologies, so Ukraine needs to win this arms race. Air defense has its own challenge: to protect the troops from aerial bombs and to protect Kharkiv. Ukraine needs more shells and weapons from the allies. However, 2023 showed that Ukrainians can find solutions even under challenging conditions.


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