Ukraine says Russia in less than a week hit it with 700 glide bombs, weapons that can really only be beaten by killing the planes

A Russian Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bomber fires missiles during the Aviadarts competition, as part of the International Army Games 2021, at the Dubrovichi range outside Ryazan, Russia Aug. 27, 2021.
A Russian Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bomber fires missiles during the Aviadarts competition, as part of the International Army Games 2021, at the Dubrovichi range outside Ryazan, Russia Aug. 27, 2021.REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
  • Russia hit Ukraine with 700 glide bombs in six days, a Ukrainian official reported.

  • Glide bombs have seen heavy use in the war, allowing Russia to hit Ukraine from safer distances.

  • Ukraine' has been struggling to adapt, partially due to what it takes to defeat these weapons.

Russia has been hitting Ukraine with glide bombs, with one official reporting that Moscow's forces dropped 700 of the devastating explosives in just under a week.

Glide-bombs strikes allow Russia to hit Ukrainian forces while keeping the aircraft releasing the munitions at a safe distance, and that's a problem because the bomb can really only be countered by shooting down the aircraft before it drops it.

Shooting down the fighter-bombers means putting precious air defenses closer to the front, where they'll be at greater risk. It also means pulling stretched capabilities away from other areas. Ukrainian air defenses also don't have enough ammo.

During a media briefing on Wednesday, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said Russia dropped 700 glide bombs on Ukraine from March 18 to the 24, just a six-day period.

"Russia's main advantage on the battlefield is now the widespread use" of these bombs, the foreign minister said, adding that they allow Russian forces "to destroy the targets of the strikes and advance through the ruins."

Attacks in that time period also included 190 missiles of various types and 140 Shahed drones, attacks that stress Ukraine's defenses, making it harder to task them to other missions.

Glide bombs began showing up last year but have seen increasing use since the start of this year.

"Russian forces have significantly increased guided and unguided glide-bomb strikes against rear and frontline Ukrainian positions in 2024," the Washington DC-based think tank The Institute for the Study of War wrote in an assessment last week.

It noted that the Russians employed "mass glide-bomb strikes to tactical effect in their seizure of Avdiivka in mid-February."

Russia has a variety of glide bombs in its arsenal, including some weighing more than 6,000 pounds. Once launched, the glide bombs quickly fly towards their targets. Aircraft release them from far away, too, meaning that Russia can keep its warplanes out of harm's way when attacking.

"The only way to counter this barbaric tactic is to shoot down aircraft that drop these bombs, which requires a sufficient number of modern air defense systems at the front," Kuleba said, noting that "strong air defense on the front line would allow our troops not only not to lose ground, but also to force Russians to retreat."

Ukraine, which has had success downing some of Russia's fighter bombers, particularly its Su-34s, has been sounding the alarm on the dire state of its ammo and air defense supplies for months now.

With US aid to Ukraine tied up in Congress, even amid signs of progress, Ukraine is running low on key air defenses, like advanced Patriot systems, it needs to defend its front lines and protect its civilian centers from attack.

ISW said that if Ukraine's air defense umbrella is allowed to degrade, it "would allow Russian forces to significantly increase glide bomb strikes at scale and possibly even allow Russian forces to conduct routine large-scale aviation operations against near rear Ukrainian logistics and cities to devastating effect."

"Expanded aviation operations," the think tank added, "could allow Russian forces to heavily degrade Ukrainian combat capabilities and isolate sectors of the battlefield in support of efforts to make operationally significant gains."

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said an additional five to seven Patriot air defenses were needed. Kuleba made an argument for additional Patriots as well, saying: "Ukraine is currently the only country in the world that undergoes ballistic missile attacks almost every day. Patriot should be placed now here in Ukraine to protect real human lives, and not stay in places where the missile threat is zero."

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