For 20 days now, Russian brigades have been trying – and mostly failing – to advance north and south of Avdiivka, Ukraine’s stronghold northwest of Donetsk in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
The Russians’ obvious goal: to isolate and starve out the Ukrainian garrison at Avdiivka — including the battle-weary 110th Mechanized Brigade — and force officials in Kiev to make a difficult choice. Either surrender the city or redeploy valuable brigades from other sectors in order to save it.
There is one major thing so far that has thwarted the Russians’ plan. For three consecutive weeks, Ukrainian army artillery bombarded the attacking Russian columns, destroying the equivalent of a brigade. This meant 2,000 men and hundreds of vehicles.
Each of the Ukrainian infantry brigades in Avdiivka has their own large guns and rocket launchers, but the main artillery firepower in the area belongs to the 55th Artillery Brigade of the Ukrainian Army.
It is a powerful formation, and uniquely suited to the brutal fighting around Avdiivka.
The 55th Brigade is one of 14 separate artillery brigades in the Ukrainian Army. It is armed with an eclectic mix of weapons, including former Soviet Gyatsynt B and Musta B guns, as well as at least 10 Kaiser self-propelled howitzers donated by Ukraine’s NATO allies.
The Tsars appeared to be the brigade’s only self-propelled howitzers. This makes the truck-mounted 155mm guns especially valuable in an intense battle. “Kaiser allows you to take up a firing position and open fire in less than a minute,” said one Ukrainian gunner. Tell Radio Free Europe. “It takes three to five minutes to shoot the target and leave the position.”
Firing and acceleration help the Caesar battery avoid Russian counter-battery fire. To hit a Caesar battery before it fires, the Russians must identify the source of incoming shells, send up a drone to spot which shells are being fired, and then aim their guns to respond, all in 180 seconds.
Not without reason, though Improve their anti-battery tactics Before Operation Avdiivka, the Russian Army apparently had not destroyed any of the 55th Brigade’s Tsars.
Every day that the 55th Mobile Howitzer is in action means more Russian vehicles destroyed and more Russian dead. Even worse for the Kremlin is that the Tsars appear to be firing American-made M864 cluster munitions, each one scattering 72 grenade-sized bomblets.
A barrage of well-aimed cluster munitions can destroy entire enemy platoons. video The fall of a cluster barrage targeting the attacking Russians around Avdiivka on or before Monday clearly illustrates the lethal effects of the shells.
Ukrainian Ministry of Defense: “A clear message from the Tsar self-propelled howitzer” Sarcastically. “Go home or the 155mm shell will have no mercy.”
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