Russian Forces LaunchOffensivein Northern Kharkiv Oblast, Employ Glide Bombs

Russian forces launched an offensive operation in northern Kharkiv Oblast, making tactically significant gains and seizing several settlements. Russian forces have been utilizing glide bombs to target Ukraine, contributing to their advance and posing a significant threat to Ukrainian forces.

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Russian Forces LaunchOffensivein Northern Kharkiv Oblast, Employ Glide Bombs

Russian Forces LaunchOffensivein Northern Kharkiv Oblast, Employ Glide Bombs

Russian forces began an offensive operation along the Russian-Ukrainian border in northern Kharkiv Oblast on May 10, 2024, making tactically significant gains. The operation is likely the initial phase of an offensive effort intended to push back Ukrainian forces from the border with Belgorod Oblast and advance to within tube artillery range of Kharkiv City.

Why this matters: The use of glide bombs by Russian forces has significant implications for the ongoing conflict, as it allows them to target Ukrainian positions with precision and cost-effectiveness. If Ukraine is unable to counter this technology, it could lead to a shift in the balance of power on the battlefield, with potential consequences for the region and global security.

Russian forces launched two limited efforts in the area, one north of Kharkiv City in the direction of Lyptsi and one northeast of Kharkiv City near Vovchansk. Ukrainian forces repelled Russian armored assault groups near Vovchansk early in the morning, but fighting continued in the area. Russian forces significantly intensified airstrikes, shelling, and MLRS strikes against Ukrainian positions, logistics, and infrastructure ahead of and during the offensive operations.

Geolocated footage confirms that Russian forces have seized several settlements, including Strilecha, Krasne, Pylna, and Borisivka, north to northeast of Lyptsi, and have established a foothold in the area five kilometers deep and 10 kilometers wide. NASA Fire Information for Resource Management (FIRMS) data from May 10 indicates that heavy fighting has likely occurred in and near these four settlements. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Russian forces have started a new wave of offensive actions in the Kharkiv direction.

In addition to the offensive operation, Russian forces have been utilizing glide bombs, weighing up to 1.5 tons, to target Ukraine, with daily use along the frontline. These weapons have contributed to thecapture of Avdiivkaearlier this year and aided the Kremlin's advance. The glide bombs, equipped with special wing kits and satellite navigation systems, can fly up to 70 kilometers and cost less than $20,000 to produce, making them a precise and cost-effective option compared to Russian cruise missiles.

Ukrainian soldiers have been facing glide bomb attacks for about a year, with increasing frequency and size in recent months. The glide bombs are used to force Ukrainian infantry out of their dug-outs, with the ability to flatten everything, regardless of trench depth. Ukrainian soldiers describe the sound of glide bombs as a "hissing sound" followed by an explosion, debris, and a shock wave.

Ukraine has been unable to produce its own glide bombs due to the risk of Russian S-400 air defense systems downing Ukrainian planes. Ukrainian experts and soldiers agree that the only realistic answer to Russian glide bombs is to match Russia's capacity to shoot down the planes that carry them. Ukraine has had success in shooting down Russian planes, with over a dozen downed in February alone, attributed to Western-supplied Patriot air defense systems. However, Russian forces destroyed two Patriot launchers in March, forcing Ukraine to keep its remaining systems away from the frontlines.

Russian forces intend to establish a 10-kilometer buffer zone along the northern border in Kharkiv Oblast, pushing Ukrainian forces out of tube artillery range of Russian logistics in Belgorod Oblast and bringing Russian forces within tube artillery range of Kharkiv City. A Russian advance to within 20 kilometers of Kharkiv City would likely allow Russian forces to conduct routine indirect fire against Kharkiv City with tube artillery. Until Ukraine receives more air defense systems from the West and can afford to take risks, Russian planes carrying glide bombs will remain a significant threat in the ongoing conflict.