Jan Kool Profile picture
Apr 24 22 tweets 8 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
1/ I've been a student of #airassault in the #canadianarmy for some time, and thanks to great sources such as this one, have done some thinking on the VDV assault on #Hostomel. TLDR: AAslt remains relevant. The attack failed because of Russian errors.
2/ What follows is a thread on some of the planning and execution errors in the #RFAF AAslt on Hostomel on 24 Feb 22. My intent is to make sure we don't take the wrong lessons from this battle, and ID some good ones. @RCAFOperations @101stAASLTDIV @16AirAssltBCT #canmiltwitter
3/ First, the successes. The RFAF successfully surged a VDV battalion with aviation fires in support 100km beyond the FLOT, achieving operational surprise. They also destroyed at least two AD sites on the Dniper River with joint fires, according to #RUSI
4/ Ultimately the attack failed, largely due to the courage of the #NGU's 4th RRB, and brave men like @StarskyUA. This one is close to my heart, as I was the #UNIFIER advisor to the NGU and trained members of the 4th RRB in 2018. Slava Ukraine!
5/ I've identified five tactical "own goals" that the VDV committed, which contributed this this defeat.
6/ First, they failed to achieve tactical surprise. The attack occurred during the day (1100hrs), several hours AFTER the initial missile strike alerted Ukraine that something was up. Commuting soldiers (@StarskyUA) were able to get to their posts.
7/ The RFAF either planned or were lucky that majority of the 4th RRB were deployed in the Donbas, but by going during the day, the company of conscripts and HQ officers remaining had lots of time to prepare.
8/ Second, the VDV lost too many helicopters. Different sources place the number of helos involved between 30 and 90, and that they lost between 6-8 total. Most shootdowns were avoidable.
9/ Choosing to fly too high over the Dniper on ingress resulted in two shootdowns. These helicopters are easy targets for MANPADs, which require a sight picture for 5-9 seconds to target lock. Pilots on both sides now routinely fly 30-50 ft AGL to avoid this. Image
10/ Ka-52s also exposed themselves by flying over the airstrip rather than firing from stand-off battle positions. A guardsman on the runway was able to destroy a Ka-52 with an obsolete SA-16/18 that flew right over him. A night attack would have also prevented this shootdown Image
11 / as most older MANPADs do not have night optics. It's also notable that Western survivability systems and counter-measures will reliably protect against 1st and 2nd gen MANPADs. Clearly the Ka-52 here did not have the benefit of such a system.
12 / Third, it took too long to land the ground force, due to all the reasons listed above. Getting the GF on the ground sooner would have help suppress NGU fires on the aviation force. This LZ was clearly Cherry, and it took too long for the VDV to react.
13 / Normally, a cherry LZ means divert to alternate LZ, delay until the threat moves off, strike to make the LZ ice (safe to land on), or abort mission. It is unclear what occurred here, but likely a combination of delay, strike, and divert.
14 / If the VDV had a recce elm on the ground and/or an ISR asset in the air with eyes on the objective, they may not have been communicating to the Aviation Msn Comd (AMC). The aviation force would not have approached the cherry LZ like they did, or taken so long to land the GF.
15 / Fourth, after taking it, the VDV did not build combat power in the quantity or speed required to hold the OBJ. The TALO out of Pskov (16 x IL-76 with 1000 VDV from 76th GAAD) should have been tied more tightly to L Hour. The delay allowed artillery to deny the runway.
16 / There was also clearly no contingency for the airbridge with Pskov being denied. Two waves of VDV landed between 200-400 paratroopers over the course of the air assault. There should have been several more waves.
17 / Mi-17s weren't even full on the second wave, possible due to performance issues. If this was the case, they should have staged the PZ closer than Mazyr, which was 170km away (a 340km round trip!) Image
18 / A lack of persistent aviation fire support was a problem for the GF later in the battle. A Ka-52 FARP could have been established on the airfield by dedicating some Mi-17s to ammo and armourers. Fuel was available on the airfield, but was destroyed by the Avn Force.
19 / Fifth and finally, there seemed to be no plan to isolate the airfield from reinforcements. The 72nd Mech Bde, the 80th AAslt Bde, and the 95th AAslt Bde all rushed to Hostomel within hours. When they did, the lone battalion of VDV had no choice but to withdraw.
20 / Additional ground combat power may have held the airfield, as may have persistent avn fires, or even air cover (the absence of the RU Air Force during this battle is another issue!). Once the airstrip was damaged beyond repair by the UA air force, this became pointless.
21 / What is notable to me is how despite all of these clear planning failures, the basic air assault was still successful, at least for a time. The VDV did seize Hostomel, but could not hold it or use it as intended.
22 / This is in spite of strategic and tactical surprise being completely forfeited by the Russians. I respectfully disagree with @Jack_Watling. With surprise and better planning, AAslt remains an effective method of deep envelopment, and must remain in our tactical toolbox.

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