Ukrainian-made Grim System used in Attacks on Russian Base in Crimea?

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  • 01:25 PM, August 11, 2022
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Ukrainian-made Grim System used in Attacks on Russian Base in Crimea?
Grim system @Ukraine MoD

Ukrainian experts believe locally-made Grim (Sapsan) heavy missile launchers were used in the attacks on Saky airfield in Crimea, making it the first combat use of these systems.

On August 9, Ukraine’s Air Force said several Russian aircraft were destroyed in the attacks. At Saky, Moscow had stationed Su-30SM and Su-24 combat jets, besides IL-76 airlifters.

Related news: Several Aircraft Destroyed in Ukrainian Attack on Russian Air Base; Russia Says Only Ammunition Detonated

The Crimean air base presently used by Russia is located at least 150km away from Ukrainian launch sites. U.S.-delivered HIMARS rockets have a maximum range of about 70km.

Well-known Ukrainian military journalist Andriy Tsaplienko said in a Telegram post on August 10 that Ukraine must have hit Saky using the truck-mounted Grim heavy missile launcher to inflict the kind of damage it claims.

Grim was developed by Dnipro-based Yuzhmash aerospace company from 2013-2019. Twin missiles carried aboard Grim would have a range of at least 280 km – twice the reach of the Ukrainian army’s aging Tochka-U rockets, and four times the range of HIMARS missiles. Each Grim missile carries close to a half ton of explosives, and is capable of pulverizing 10,000 square meters of target area.

Fielding the Grim was slow and difficult, due to limited financing of Ukraine’s defense sector, the exacting tolerances in ballistic missile manufacturing, and Kyiv’s loss of access to Russian-manufactured parts after Russian invasion of Crimea and Donbas in 2014. By 2019, only two systems had reportedly been built: one a test copy for the Ukrainian military, and one a sample for overseas arms sales, possibly to Saudi Arabia, the Kyiv Post writes.

In 2021 Ukraine’s Defense Ministry announced it intended to field a “division” of Grim systems, without saying when or how the systems would be paid for.

Open-source news reports and hundreds of videos and social media posts showed around a dozen powerful explosions in and around the Saky air station. The scale of each of the detonations – among other damage blowing out automobile windows a half-kilometer away – was consistent with the Grim missile’s 500 kg warhead.

If the Grim was used in the Saky strikes, given the quick succession of the explosions on Wednesday afternoon, it would likely mean Ukraine is operating at minimum six systems – three times as many as were thought to be operational in 2019.

However, some well-informed military observers suggested talk of Grim missiles hitting Crimea could be misdirection. “I think a Grim is just a clever cover for the actual means to deliver that long-range strike (on Saky),” said Oleksii Izhak, an analyst for Ukraine’s National Institute of Strategic Research was quoted as saying by the report. “Targeting and control systems need some testing and (the missiles) were hardly tested in real flights.”

Izhak did not completely deny the possibility of such systems being used. “But it (combat use of multiple Grim systems against Saky) is possible…and I hope it is,” Izhak added. He is a former Yuzhmash staffer.

Yuzhmash has not revealed how many Grim systems it has delivered to the Ukrainian military.

The Kremlin had announced its intention to destroy all Ukrainian military infrastructure, but hit Yuzmash only once - on July 15. The report said the plant seems ‘untouched’ owing to its design: As Soviet-era critical military infrastructure, Yuzhmash’s production lines are widely thought to be deep underground, in sites designed to resist a nuclear strike.

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