BUK + flechettes = contradiction

In CL’s report on the NYT’s unusual scraps of integrity in reporting on the Kostiantynivka (aka Kostyantynovka) market-place attack, the new standard story is revealed.

But evidence collected and analyzed by The New York Times, including missile fragments, satellite imagery, witness accounts and social media posts, strongly suggests the catastrophic strike was the result of an errant Ukrainian air defense missile fired by a Buk launch system.

The attack appears to have been a tragic mishap.

Readers will recall that a BUK missile is purported to have downed MH17. In this case, a BUK missile was fired from North-West of Kostiantynivka, presumably at an incoming Russian ground-to-ground missile or Lancet-like drone. The problem with this story is the flechettes.

One of the earliest rounds employed by the US is the Beehive, developed in 1957, apparently developed from lessons learned in the Korean War as a counter to massed infantry attacks on artillery positions, and used in this capacity during the Vietnam War. The designation of the round is APERS-T – anti-personnel-tracer. In a brief search, I have seen no reference to flechettes in any other capacity than anti-personnel.

The Ukraine’s legacy Air Defence missile systems included the S-200, S-300 and early model BUK systems. The range of the BUK is less than that of the S-200/300. It operates in ranges between these and the point defence Pantsir. The Russian Air Force knows comprehensively the capability of these systems, especially the S-300 and the BUK, and fears them. Because of these systems, all high altitude airborne attacks on Ukrainian facilities have been conducted with stand-off missiles.

There have been a number of reports of Ukraine using modified S-200 systems in ground-attack roles. The S-200 is less effective in AD than the S-300, and Ukraine presumably has stocks of the older missiles. Their range makes them preferable to the BUK for adapting to ground-attack roles.

Searches for such information will turn up a number of references to Russia’s purported use of S-300s in ground-attack. These are dubious. Russia still deploys S-300 systems in AD roles in Donbas, and Ukrainian drone operators are constantly hunting for them. But Ukraine fires S-300s at incoming Russian missiles, a considerable proportion of which evade the S-300s, and we have the memorable example of the AD miss which killed the Polish farmers.

What such searches do not turn up are references to the use of BUK systems in ground-attack.

The missile that struck the Kostiantynivka market carried an anti-personnel warhead. The missile was fired from North-West of the city. Ukraine regularly attacks civilian areas in Donetsk city with artillery and missiles, sometimes carrying clusters of small anti-personnel mines known as Petals, but Donetsk city is pretty much south of Kostiantynivka. Horlivka, a city under Russian control, is more or less to the south-east, as is the town of Niu (or New) York, around which fighting is taking place. On the front lines, Russian positions are being accurately peppered with cluster munitions from nearby artillery. A 152mm anti-personnel round would be more precisely targeted and have greater effect against Russian troops, one might reasonably suppose.

So, which “personnel” were being targeted? Was it a terror attack against Donbas civilians in, say, Horlivka, one which would have gone unreported in the West? One which turned into a “tragic mishap”? Or was it a terror attack that was precisely on target?

This story popped up in searches for information about flechettes. Many of the bodies found in graves outside Bucha had been killed by flechettes. Someone was using such rounds at that early stages of the conflict. Despite the loud protestations of The Week, bodies with flechette wounds do not testify as to who fired them. The only ones now known to have employed them are the Ukrainians.


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September 22, 2023 8:31 am

It wouldn’t be impossible to confuse the effects of a flechette round
with those of an expanding rod anti-aircraft warhead.
Particularly if you didn’t want to admit one of your SAMs
failed to self-destruct once it was out of kinematic parameters.

September 22, 2023 11:26 am

Many of the bodies found in graves outside Bucha had been killed by flechettes.

Given that Russia occupied these areas in late February to late March, makes little sense to think they were shelling themselves while there. Seems to me that the more likely scenario is that Ukrainians used them against the Russians in these areas despite the close proximity of their civilian population.

September 22, 2023 1:02 pm

The term, “Flechette” means, literally, “little arrow”.

Various attempts were made back in the “project Salvo” days of the early 1960s, to replace conventional small-arms bullets with flechettes fired in short “bursts”. The concept seems to have been: “It’s not the one with your name on it that is the worry. It is the one labeled, “To whom it may concern”.

“Beehive” rounds are basically a bundle of somewhat bigger “darts” fired from artillery and armoured vehicles as “close protection”. The concept has been around for centuries. The old term was “”canister”, from the naval projectile designed to shred the rigging of opposing sailing vessels. Impressive on crew-members above deck, as well.

BUK fragments are somewhat less aerodynamically sophisticated. They merely need to be in the same space as an aircraft to do mischief. A cloud of small steel fragments will seriously disrupt the integrity of airframe and crew of ANY aircraft encountering it at pretty much any speed.

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