The United States is expected to send a new, longer-range weapon to Ukraine, which has responded to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s request for rockets that can strike deep into the front lines of the nearly year-long conflict with Russia.
Now the Russian forces will have to adapt or face potentially catastrophic losses.
The new weapon, the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), will enable the Ukrainian military to hit targets at twice the distance of the rockets it currently fires with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
Supplied by the United States. If included, as expected, in a forthcoming arms aid package reported by Reuters, the 151 km (94-mile) GLSDB will put all of Russia’s supply lines in the east of the country within reach, as well as part of the Crimea occupied by Russia.
Because of this, Russia will have to relocate its supply depots further from the front lines, increasing the danger to its troops and making it much more challenging to launch a new offensive.
“This could slow down [a Russian assault] significantly,” said Andriy Zagorodnyuk, Ukraine’s former defense minister. “Just as the HIMARS significantly influenced the course of events, these rockets could influence even more.”
The GLSDB is a GPS-guided glider bomb that can be maneuvered to hit hard-to-reach targets, such as command centers. The GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) and the M26 rocket engine are both standard issues in US armaments, and this weapon was developed jointly by SAAB AB and Boeing.
According to the sources, it’s not HIMARS-ready just yet, but the United States plans to ship Ukraine additional rocket launchers. Reuters looked at a document that suggested the GLSDB might be supplied as soon as the spring of 2023.
VULNERABLE SUPPLY LINES
When the United States first sent HIMARS launchers in June, it supplied rockets with a range of 77 km (48 miles). This was a huge boost for the Ukrainian military, allowing it to destroy ammunition depots and storage facilities for Russian weapons.
Once Ukraine has the new glide bombs, military experts say, Russia will have to move its supplies even further.
“Currently, we cannot reach Russian military installations located more than 80 kilometers away,” declared Ukrainian military analyst Oleksandr Musiyenko.
“If we can reach them practically to the Russian border or in the occupied Crimea, then, of course, this will reduce the attack potential of the Russian forces.”
Importantly, once Berdyansk and Melitopol are reopened, the entire occupied land route to Crimea will be accessible to the Ukrainians.
Therefore, Russia will have to redirect its supply trucks to the Crimean crossing, severely damaged in an October attack.
Musiyenko claims that Russian forces are utilizing Crimea as a major military base to supply the southern front with reinforcements.
“If we had a 150km (ammunition), we could catch up with it and disrupt the logistical connection to Crimea.”
In addition to the practical implications, the addition of a longer-range weapon to Ukraine’s arsenal has the potential to spook the Russians.
The GLSDB is “a pretty crucial move to offer the Ukrainians more range and keep the Russians guessing,” according to Tom Karako, a weapons and security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
NO ATACMS – YET
The decision by the Biden administration to deliver GLSDB to Ukraine is an attempt to appease Ukrainian demands for the 185-mile (297-km) range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile, which the United States has repeatedly rejected. In order to supply, for fear of more warfare.
Considerably what Ukraine aims to achieve—disrupting Russian operations and gaining a tactical advantage—is well-suited to glider bombs, which, while not as powerful as ATACMS, are much cheaper, smaller, and easier to deploy.
However, according to Karako, the Ukrainians may end up receiving a longer-range weapon in the future.
“Time and time again, we have seen the administration say they would go to a certain point, but no further,” he said. “Then, as the situation has deteriorated, they have found it necessary to actually go further.”
This was the case with HIMARS, the Patriot missile defense system, and, earlier this month, Abrams tanks, all of which were initially banned from Ukraine before the administration finally approved shipments.
But for now, the focus will be on how quickly the new glide bombs can reach Ukraine, Zagorodnyuk said.
“If they speed it up… this could greatly change the situation on the battlefield.”