September 11, 2023

Sitrep for Sept. 8–11, 2023 (as of 11 a.m.)

Sept. 6 Kostiantynivka Missile Strike

The opposition-leaning To Be Or media project has published a 3D visualization, proving that the reflections on the car roofs would be identical whether the missile flew from the northwest, on a trajectory almost parallel to the ground, or from the southeast, at an angle of about 45 degrees. However, the reflection of the missile in both these cases would only match if the length of the missile coming from the southeast would have been many times larger than what is realistically possible. Preliminary estimates based on the cars and grid modeled in the visualization suggest that the length of a hypothetical missile coming from the southeast would need to be 40 to 50 meters, similar to a Boeing 737-900, with the diameter of such an object comparable to the fuselage of an airliner. For reference, missiles fired by S-300 SAM systems are just over 7 meters long. In any event, the reflections on the car roofs are no longer central to our understanding of the Kostiantynivka missile strike, as we have now gained access to more compelling evidence indicating that the missile flew in from the northwest.

Thanks to one of our viewers, CIT has acquired detailed video from the explosion site, allowing us to create a panorama of the scene. These images show traces of missile fragments on both the asphalt and building walls.

First, it is interesting to note that all these marks are practically identical, indicating that the warhead of the missile contained prefabricated fragments. In the case of a conventional high-explosive fragmentation warhead, fragments of various sizes and random shapes are produced upon detonation. Moreover, these prefabricated fragments were not a part of a continuous rod warhead, otherwise, the marks would have been more elongated.

Additionally,  the streak-like blast pattern left by the dispersing prefabricated fragments is clearly visible.

This blast pattern extends onto the wall of the nearest building, allowing us to reconstruct the “plane” in space where they scattered from the exploding warhead. This reconstructed “plane” allows us to determine both the direction from which the missile came (northwest) and the angle at which it was descending.

A small crater to the southeast of the streak-like blast pattern on the asphalt is visible; it was presumably left by large missile components that continued to fly forward due to inertia after the detonation of the warhead.

It is worth noting that the surface in space reconstructed from the marks left by the prefabricated fragments is not a flat plane in the geometric sense. It has some curvature (resembling the surface of a cone; in military terminology, this is called a circular fragmentation field) because the prefabricated fragments gain lateral momentum from the missile, but also continue to fly in the direction it was moving before detonation.

Thus, the evidence from the impact site unequivocally confirms that the missile came from the northwest.

Additionally, based on the marks on the asphalt, it is clearly evident that the missile detonated in the air, not upon contact with the surface.

Having approximately estimated the power of the explosion, we compared all Western and Russian missiles with a warhead mass ranging from 30 to 200 kg (the most probable range being 50 to 130 kg). Among them, we selected all missiles with prefabricated fragments in the warhead, excluding cumulative, conventional high-explosive and penetration warheads—this means that our list includes missiles with blast-fragmentation (fragmentation) warheads containing prefabricated fragments that are not part of a continuous rod warhead. In some cases, the type of prefabricated fragments is not specified—we have included these missiles in the table as a precaution. The list includes the corresponding Russian and Western air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, as well as air defense missiles (in the absence of specific information regarding the presence of prefabricated fragments in the blast-fragmentation warhead of such missiles, we included them as a precaution) and GMLRS. At the same time, we excluded coastal defense missile systems as they do not use prefabricated fragments.

Among the air-to-air missiles that meet the criteria, we highlight Russian missiles from the Vympel R-27 and Vympel R-37 families. A scenario involving them would look like this: a Russian aircraft, flying over occupied or Russian territory, launches such a missile at a Ukrainian aircraft detected in the air northwest of Kostiantynivka. The missile pursues its target, while the Ukrainian aircraft performs anti-missile maneuvers, possibly deploying decoys, causing the missile to lose track and hit the market. Technically, this version is similar to the HARM missile scenario. At the moment, we do not know how the safety and arming device of R-27 and R-37 family missiles works: it is possible that when the target is lost, the missile detonates in the air rather than at a random impact point. This version is entirely plausible and aligns well with the evidence of Ukrainian aircraft being in the airspace above Druzhkivka.

If this version is correct, Ukrainian authorities could easily prove it and resolve this issue by presenting missile fragments that can be identified, along with photographs of their location at the impact site—an official investigation should be conducted.

When considering the possibility of a missile strike from an S-300 or S-400 SAM system, we note that in all known and declared cases of their use against ground targets, fairly large craters have been visible in photos and videos. If we assume an attack from occupied territories, then the missile would have had to make at least a 90-degree turn, a maneuver that is very energy-intensive and reduces the flight range. As far as we know, the maneuvering capability of S-300 missiles only works when targeting airborne objects capable of evading, while ground targets do not move. Missiles like the 9K720 Iskander and cruise missiles are capable of maneuvering during flight towards ground targets, but do not match the type and size of warhead. Therefore, the last remaining option is an attack from the Belgorod region, as Kostiantynivka is only 18 km away from the frontline, and deliberate strikes on the town are carried out by Russian artillery rather than by more expensive and scarce long-range Russian air-to-surface missiles such as the Kh-31PD and Kh-58UShK. A former military serviceman who served on a S-300 system adds that the data available on the internet regarding the missile's range against ground targets (120 km), propagated by Belarus's Alyaksandr Lukashenka, is significantly exaggerated. This aligns with empirical data: as previously mentioned, since the start of the full-scale invasion, we have not seen the use of such missiles in strikes exceeding 100 km in range.

We dismiss the GMLRS version as implausible: we have not observed Russian electronic warfare being capable of diverting such a missile off course and causing it to hit a Ukrainian civilian target. In addition, it is difficult to imagine that the Russian Armed Forces have acquired a jamming system capable of diverting a missile from its course at a distance of about 18 km.

We do not consider missiles from Patriot systems because, as far as we know, these air defense systems are only located near Kyiv.

Thus, the most plausible scenario for us is the impact of either a Russian R-27 or R-37 missile or a Ukrainian HARM. Supporting the latter version, is an article Forbes published on Aug. 30, 2022. The article suggests that Ukrainian pilots are firing HARM missiles blind, using a mode that requires no new hardware in the single-seat, supersonic MiG’s cramped cockpit. According to Forbes, this mode was chosen to expedite the integration of US-made missiles into Soviet-made fighters, however, it also reduces accuracy. It can be assumed that an anti-radiation missile, when locked onto a Russian radar, could lose its target if the radar was switched off.

It is worth noting that last week, a number of experts and analysts came to the same conclusions we did, but did not make them public.

We are not trying to convey, as Mykhailo Podolyak, Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, put it, that "Russia is conducting more or less adequate combat activities" or that "5,999 (Russian—CIT) missiles killed, and one missile didn't kill—who knows whose missile this is." Our goal is to deliver truthful, objective information to the public, preventing such incidents from happening again. Concealing facts or embellishing them, in our opinion, is not a winning strategy in the internet age. However, it should be remembered that had Russia not initiated this war, such tragedies would not have occurred.

Strikes on Ukrainian Territory

On Sept. 8, the RuAF launched a missile attack on the city of Kryvyi Rih. As a result, one person was killed and 74 others were injured.

On the night of Sept. 10, the city of Kyiv and the Kyiv region were attacked with loitering munitions. The Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reports that 26 out of 33 drones launched by the RuAF were shot down. As a result of the attack, four people were injured; the blast waves damaged the premises of a school, a kindergarten, a village council, a hospital, an educational and rehabilitation center, a bus station, two shops, and a warehouse.

Frontline Situation Update

Meduza [international Russian-language online media outlet] published a report indicating that the Ukrainian offensive is now mainly concentrated in the Orikhiv direction (the area of Robotyne). There has not been much progress there in the past few days, as Ukrainian forces need to secure their flanks by moving towards the village of Verbove, before moving on to Novoprokopivka. The Ukrainian offensive in this direction has slowed down because Russian forces have transferred their reserves there, namely the 76th and 7th Air Assault Divisions.

Fighting continues south of the town of Bakhmut: the AFU have achieved limited success in the village of Klishchiivka.

Overall, over the past week, Ukrainian forces have not made any significant progress along the frontline. This is likely due to the fact that they are now focused on inflicting maximum damage on Russian troops by striking rear positions. We believe that this week, combat activities can be expected to continue near Robotyne and Verbove.

OSINT analyst Def Mon notes that the situation for the AFU is further complicated by the fact that some Russian fortifications have covered communication trenches that protect soldiers from artillery strikes, especially from cluster munitions.

ABC News, citing two sources among US officials, reports that Ukraine may soon receive ATACMS missiles. The first source claims that "they are coming," noting that “such plans are subject to change until officially announced.” The second source said that ATACMS are "on the table" and likely to be included in an upcoming security assistance package, adding that a final decision has not been made. However, it could be months before Ukraine receives these missiles.

In the Kherson region, three deminers from the HALO Trust organization conducting mine clearance, were injured by an explosion on a minefield. One of them sustained a severe head and neck injury, while the other two suffered shrapnel wounds.

Volunteers from the humanitarian organization Road to Relief came under a Russian attack, resulting in the deaths of two individuals. The vehicle, carrying four people, was traveling from Sloviansk to иwhen it was shelled by Russian forces at Chasiv Yar. As a result of a direct hit, the vehicle rolled over and caught fire. Spanish citizen Emma Igual and Canadian volunteer Anthony Ignat have lost their lives.

It has been revealed that British citizen Jordan Chadwick, who had fought in the International Legion of Ukraine, was found dead in a body of water with his hands tied behind his back. On June 27, the UK Foreign Office reported Jordan's death to his mother, British authorities are investigating the circumstances of his death.

To ensure the timely training of Ukrainian tank crews, Danish military personnel had to use tanks from museums. Training for AFUpersonnel started in the German community of Klietz in May. A coalition comprising Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium pledged to provide Ukraine with over 100 Leopard 1A5 tanks. However, as this is an outdated model no longer in active service, the tanks in storage were in poor condition and required repairs. Six operational tanks found in Danish museums were used to kickstart the training.

It has been reported that Japan will supply Ukraine with 24 trucks equipped with crane manipulators for “humanitarian mine-clearing purposes.”  The exact manner in which they are intended to be used is unclear.