Just because some information is presented in a classified briefing, that does not mean it is necessarily true or accurate. The men and women who put these briefings together or wrote the intelligence reports are human and can make mistakes. Keep that in mind as you read the rest of this article.
Let’s take a look at two of the BLUFs on three of the briefing slides. Remember, BLUF is the acronym for Bottom Line Up Front. If you are going to prepare briefings in the U.S. military you have to be proficient in the use of acronyms. The first two images are dated 28 February 2023. It is important to understand that this is a snapshot judgment based on the information that the Defense Intelligence Agency had in hand on that date.
BLUF #1 — Current UKR Air Defense (AD) plan balances limited resources to protect critical national infrastructure (CNI), population centers, front line of troops (FLOT), and other key assets across Ukraine. UKRs ability to provide medium range air defense to protect the FLOT will be completely reduced by MAY 23. UKR assessed to withstand 2 – 3 more wave strikes. As 1st Layer Defense munitions run out, 2nd and 3rd Layer expenditure rates will increase, reducing the ability to defend against Russian aerial attacks from all altitudes.
The red blocks on the right hand side of the image above show the dates when the particular Ukrainian AD systems will cease to exist or be able to fire.
The next slide provides a more detailed explanation of what is in store for Ukrainian AD capabilities:
1. SA – 10 and SA – 11 comprise 89% of Ukraine’s Air Defense medium/high-range, medium/high-range (>20,000 ft.) Based on current interceptor consumption:
- BUK (SA – 11) will be completely depleted by 31 MAR 2023
- S – 300 (SA – 10) will have be (sic) completely depleted by 02 MAY 2023
2. AD systems with remaining interceptor inventory (SA – 3, SA – 12, NASAAM, IRIS – T, etc.) have a limited quantity of systems, which means that only select assets can be covered. They are unable to match the Russian volume and cannot be layered.
3. US/A&P SHORAD (Short – Range Air Defense System) contributions (Stinger, Avenger, Gephard, Crotale, etc.) continue to mitigate the expenditure of Strategic and Tactical SAMs. However, short – range, low altitude systems do not have the same deterrent effect on the threat of Russian multi-role aircraft tot the FLOT and CNI.
4. Limited or no Ukrainian Air-to-Air Defense (A2AD).
5. Multiple mitigating systems must be simultaneously pursued to increase decision for more sustainable solutions.
To put it in layman’s terms, Ukaine no longer has an Air Defense capabililty that can shoot down Russian missiles and combat aircraft flying above 20,000 feet. This turned out to be a prescient assessment. During the past three weeks, the Russians have been using more aerial delivered bombs launched by combat aircraft and have scaled back the use of missiles. And no, that does not mean Russia ran out of missiles, it is simply more cost effect and more lethal to drop 500 kilo and 1500 kilo bombs on Ukrainian positions. This fact also helps explain why Ukrainian casualties have gone up.
Pay close attention to this next BLUF. It concerns the reports on Ukrainian and Russian casualties.
We have low confidence in Russian (RUS) and Ukrainian (UKR) attrition rates and inventories because of information gaps, OPSEC and IO efforts, and potential bias in UKR information sharing. Casualty assessments, which fluctuate depending on the source, are informed by RUS, Wagner, and UKR officials. In the below sustainability assessments, high indicates the forces can sustain operations across all domains, moderate indicates the forces have difficulty sustaining operations in one domain, and low indicates the forces are unable to sustain operations across multiple domains.
What this assessment does not provide is a detailed explanation of the sources for the casualty and loss figures. This is shocking. DIA has the ability using overhead imagery to count destroyed and damage vehicles, tanks and artillery. If they were doing that I would expect the document to be classified TOP SECRET by virtue of the systems employed to gather such information. Instead, this document is classified S/NF.
I believe the information about Russian losses came from the Ukrainians. That is why the Russian casualties are exaggerated and the Ukrainian losses are minimized. That is why, in the BLUF, the brief specifically mentions, “potential bias in UKR information sharing.” This is just a nice way of saying, we know Ukraine is lying but policy considerations prevent us from saying so.
Notwithstanding the deception about Russia’s actual casualties and equipment losses, these briefings paint a dire picture of Ukraine losing its ability to fend off missile and aircraft attacks. And that is exactly what has happened.
An acquaintance who I respect, was quite willing to accept the Ukrainian claims in the early days of the war at face value. No longer. He now concedes that Ukraine is routinely lying to the U.S. about troop strength, readiness and battlefield achievements.
There is still lots of happy talk in the U.S. and NATO about Ukraine holding firm and Russia running out of shells. But media outlets fully supportive of the Biden policy in Ukraine are telling a different story. The Washington Post reported four days ago:
Even amid a shortage, Ukraine is firing about 7,700 shells per day, or roughly one every six seconds, according to a Ukrainian military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Russia, which may also be running low, is firing more — by some estimates triple that amount.
To keep up with their adversary and still conserve ammunition, the Ukrainian military is now pickier in selecting targets, often prioritizing equipment over small groups of infantry. Precision is key because misses mean wasted shells. And in underground workshops across eastern Ukraine, soldiers are using 3D printers and recycling unexploded ordnance to create alternative munitions.
Artillery rounds for Ukraine’s Soviet-era guns, which make up the majority of their arsenal, have long been in short supply. That has forced a reliance on the artillery provided by Kyiv’s Western allies because they use 155mm-caliber shells, which Ukraine has more of for now but for far fewer guns.
In light of the discrepancy between what Secretary of Defense Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Milley are telling the public and the disquieting facts revealed in the leaked cables, it is fair to assume that someone with clearances,who was disgusted by the lying, decided to blow the whistle without identifying himself or herself.
Some have suggested that the Biden Administration leaked this material in a bid to rally support for more aid to Ukraine. That is ridiculous. Some of the TS material floating around the web is revealing and damaging to U.S. relations with a host of countries and organizations, such as Israel, South Korea, Ukraine and the UN Secretary General. The size and scope of the leak persuades me that this was done by someone acting as a whistleblower.
I think Lloyd Austin and Mark Milley are channeling some Leslie Nielson from the Naked Gun: