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UK Defense Ministry: ATACMS strike on Berdiansk airfield likely to reduce Russia's military capabilities in the area

by Dinara Khalilova October 20, 2023 1:08 PM 2 min read
A screenshot of an ATACMS launch on Oct. 17, 2023. (Valerii Zaluzhnyi/Telegram)
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Russia's loss of several combat helicopters as a result of a Ukrainian ATACMS strike on an airfield in occupied Berdiansk will likely negatively affect Russian defensive and offensive operations on this axis, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on Oct. 20.

"Given that Russian fixed-wing close air support to date has been extremely poor, Russian defensive lines have become increasingly reliant on rotary-wing support in the face of the Ukrainian offensive," the ministry explained.

Ukrainian forces used U.S.-supplied Army Tactical Missiles Systems (ATACMS) for the first time on Oct. 17 to strike Russian military airfields in occupied Berdiansk in Zaporizhzhia Oblast and Luhansk.

According to the U.K. Defense Ministry, the strikes possibly damaged nine Russian military helicopters in Berdiansk and five more in Luhansk, but the extent of damage is still unconfirmed.

Ukraine's Special Operations Forces earlier said that a total of nine helicopters were damaged in the attacks, as well as an air defense system, an ammunition warehouse, the airfields' runways, and "special equipment" stored at the premises.

Kuleba: ATACMS deliveries to increase, ‘optimistic’ that F-16s will arrive beginning of 2024
The U.S. will keep delivering Army Tactical Missiles Systems (ATACMS) to Ukraine on a consistent basis, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on the 1+1 TV channel on Oct. 19.

If confirmed, the loss of any aircraft will be hard to replace in the short to medium term, considering the current load on the Russian military production, the ministry wrote in its latest intelligence update.

"This loss will also likely create additional pressure on Russia's pilots and air frames, already almost certainly suffering combat exhaustion and maintenance issues due to the unanticipated protracted campaign."

The strikes will potentially force Russia to once again move operational bases and control points further from the front line, which will increase the load on logistics chains, concluded the update.

Ukraine continues its offensive operations in the direction of Berdiansk, which has been under occupation since the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022.

According to the U.K. Defense Ministry, Russia uses the city "as a primary Forward Operating Base on the southern axis providing both logistics and offensive/defensive capabilities."

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