Russia has launched about a dozen hypersonic missiles during its war on Ukraine and is running out of precision guided munitions in general, a Pentagon senior defense official said Tuesday. Efforts to replace them are hindered by sanctions and export controls imposed since the February invasion, the official said.
As a result, Russia has relied more on dumb bombs in its airstrikes. Russia has been launching between 200 and 300 sorties a day in recent weeks, but many of those aircraft only stay in Ukrainian airspace briefly to drop munitions, then get back into Russian airspace, the official said.
Monday saw an uptick to about 350 sorties, focused on Mariupol, the Donbas, and some strikes on Odesa, the official said. On Monday night, Ukrainian officials told CNN that Odesa had been struck by three hypersonic missiles.
The senior defense official said the Pentagon could not confirm the Odesa strikes but said that Russia has launched “between 10 and 12” hypersonic missiles since the invasion began in February.
Early on in the war, Russia struggled to fire its precision guided munitions on their bombers and fighter jets, with the bombs refusing to release or misfiring. The Pentagon said it had seen indications of Russian aircraft returning to base with the munitions still on their wings.
But Russia has still fired more than 2,100 missiles into Ukraine.
“They have blown through a lot of their PGMs,” the official said, referring to Russia’s stock of precision guided munitions.
“Precision-guided munitions” can refer to a wide range of weapons, even broadly to hypersonics. The Congressional Research Service defines them as “air- and ship-launched missiles, multiple-launched rockets, and guided bombs. PGMs typically use the global positioning system (GPS), laser guidance, or inertial navigation systems to improve a weapon’s accuracy to reportedly less than 3 meters.”
The Pentagon had been providing a regular update on the number of Russian missiles fired but stopped earlier this week, saying that the metrics it was tracking and making public was shifting.
The official said the sanctions and export controls that the U.S. and other countries have put in place since the war started has helped limit Russia’s ability to procure the raw materials and parts it needs to resupply.
“We know that the sanctions are responsible for making it harder for Mr. Putin to replenish those stocks, particularly when it comes to some of the electronic components that go into precision guided munitions,” the official said. “So we do think that he’s having some defense-industrial-base issues.”
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