Ukraine launched a daring attack on a major Russian warship in occupied Crimea on Dec. 26 as part of Kyiv’s strategy to deny Russia control over the Black Sea. The Russian Black Sea Fleet has been forced out of its home port in Sevastopol, leaving all Crimean ports vulnerable to attack. Data from the Institute for the Study of War shows a decline in the number of Russian naval vessels in Sevastopol between June and December 2023. Russia’s move to deploy ships and submarines armed with Kalibr missiles in the Black Sea exposes them to potential Ukrainian attack.
Ukraine’s success has been attributed to domestically produced missiles and drones, as well as the use of fighter aircraft to launch both domestically produced and NATO-supplied missiles. The country’s advanced air defenses have been effective in shooting down Russian missiles and drones. However, despite Ukraine’s success at sea and in the air, many believe victory is not possible against the ongoing Russian ground offensive.
A different outcome may be possible if Ukraine utilizes air attacks in coordination with ground forces. To achieve this, the Ukrainian Armed Forces must create temporary windows of localized air superiority and employ new weapons to be more successful against Russia. Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, has called for armed UAVs, counter-battery capability, and assets for electronic warfare to break out of the current positional stalemate.
A modernized Joint Air Attack Team (JAAT) would synchronize attack helicopters, artillery, and close air support to overcome superior numbers and avoid a war of attrition. This approach would give Ukraine a fighting chance to achieve momentum in the ground war and ultimately achieve victory. The embrace of a sophisticated combination of techniques on the ground, joined with prowess at sea and in the air, would lead to a pathway to victory for Ukraine and its allies.