Ukraine update: Why are Ukraine’s claims of tank kills spiking so high? HIMARS might be the answer

Ukraine update: Why are Ukraine’s claims of tank kills spiking so high? HIMARS might be the answer

Claimed Ukrainian tank kills per day: 

June 27: 20 
June 26: 21
June 24: 4
June 23: 3
June 22: 8 
June 21: 0
June 20: 19
June 19: 9
June 18: 3

If you keep going back, you’ll see that zero to nine is about the usual range, with a few bigger days here and there, like June 20. I don’t recall ever seeing two 20+ tank days in a row. 

Now, it’s reasonable to suspect these numbers. Combatants have an incentive to exaggerate the losses of their enemy. If you asked Russia, they’ve destroyed more tanks than Ukraine had at the beginning of the war, three times over. It’s hilarious. Ukraine’s numbers are more reasonable, but there’s no way to confirm. For context, Ukraine claims 1,440 total tank kills. Oryx’s list of visually confirmed kills puts the number at 789, and the guy is on vacation without updates for the past week. So we can confirm 55% to 60% of Ukraine’s claims, which is actually quite remarkable. It lends some credence to the numbers. So assuming we can at least trust the trends, what’s going on these past two days? Combat isn’t any heavier than it has been for the past two weeks. Those lower numbers from previous days make sense given the current shape of combat operations: 1) Russia reduces ground to rubble, 2) Russia sends infantry to see if anything is left. If they die, then go back to one—otherwise, 3) proceed to next objective. There is zero “maneuver combat” in which armor columns face off against each other in open combat. 

On the southern fronts—Kherson and southern Donbas—counterattacking Ukrainian forces are assaulting prepared entrenched defensive positions and Russian artillery, so again, little chance to destroy Russian armor. In that kind of environment, it makes sense that few Russian tanks meet their demise. The ones that do, more often than not, are hit by Ukrainian artillery.

#Ukraine: A Russian T-72B-series tank was destroyed by Ukrainian indirect fire in the East. It is claimed M777 155mm artillery was used.

— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) June 26, 2022

Needless to say, artillery isn’t the most efficient way to kill tanks. 

So if the shape of combat operations hasn’t changed these last two days (i.e., we haven’t seen the emergence of new maneuver combat), and the intensity remains the same, where did those 41 new claimed tank kills come from? 

Ukraine ain’t specifying, but I bet it has something to do with Ukraine’s targeting of Russian supply and command-and-control centers. With the arrival of HIMARS long-range rocket artillery, Ukraine appears happy to blow through its remaining supply of Tochka-U ballistic missiles. Between those two systems, Ukraine has made short work of Russian depots, giving us spectacular pyrotechnic displays. (Click the link above for many examples.)

One of the fires was so dramatic that it was initially thought to have caused a secondary fire 10 kilometers away. 

Today’s Sentinel satellite imagery shows massive fires all around the targeted ammunition dump. Fires, likely started by a secondary explosion, can be seen up to 10 km around the targeted facility. Impressive image.

— Benjamin Pittet (@COUPSURE) June 27, 2022

Yet as the Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) crew dug in, they made a surprising discovery: 

.@kromark shared an image of the base taken today at 10.53 UTC. I made a GIF with both images, it looks like the base was totally destroyed.

— Benjamin Pittet (@COUPSURE) June 27, 2022

“Totally destroyed” is an understatement. What was once a series of roads, buildings, vehicles, and emplacements is now literally a dirt pit. 

Click here (48.550551, 39.002990) for a Google Earth view of the location before Russia set up shop—you can see the dirt roads and plenty of shrubbery that no longer exists. This spot is about 65 kilometers (about 40 miles) from Ukrainian territory, well within HIMARS’ 85-kilometer range. 

These strikes wouldn’t have provided the dramatic light and sound shows like the nearby ammo depot. This is near a small hamlet, not a major city, making it less likely to deliver cellphone footage from the locals. And since HIMARS is operating at night, any cell phone footage would merely be flashes of lights with no hope of geolocation. And while the ammo depot burned all day, leaving a smoke trail over 100 kilometers long, vehicles wouldn’t smolder much past morning.

Had this one OSINT guy not dug into those curious fires near a major depot strike, we would’ve never known this base even existed. Yet Ukraine knew the base existed and what was parked there. Their drones and access to military-grade satellite imagery would assure that. So while we may not have the evidence (yet) to tally whatever was destroyed at that site, Ukraine would know, and add them to their public tally. 

Meanwhile, this guy apparently has insight into what was happening on the other side of the HIMARS delivery. (“ZSU” is Ukrainian army. This is from Russian Telegram.)

A message by some user “Don’t Make the Russian Bear Angry”: “ZSU guys, bastards, have delivered the first 80 km strike using the US MLRS M142 HiMARS. Many warriors of ours were killed, i have no words. God, what for?” – No reason, just for fun of course.

— English Luhansk (@loogunda) June 27, 2022

What possible reason, indeed? Has to be sadistic “fun,” can’t be anything else. Why would “warriors” be struck in the middle of a war?

I’m really coming up empty here, guys … 

Large shopping mall in Kremenchuk with hundreds of civilians inside has been hit by a Russian strike. Russia is a disgrace to humanity and it must face consequences. The response should be more heavy arms for Ukraine, more sanctions on Russia, and more businesses leaving Russia.

— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) June 27, 2022

That mall was hit midday to maximize the number of civilian deaths. If Russia really thought it was a military facility, it would’ve struck at night, when vehicles would be stored for the night with soldiers sleeping near them. 

Russia wanted to kill as many civilians as possible. They are terrorists. 

That alone is good reason to strike Russian forces behind the front lines, and it’s just one of thousands of similar reasons.

Tuesday, Jun 28, 2022 · 6:23:12 PM +00:00


BREAKING: Turkey satisfied with Sweden, Finland response in NATO talks. Turkey is likely to give the two countries the green light to join NATO. 🇸🇪🇫🇮🇺🇦

— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) June 28, 2022

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