The destruction of a major dam near Kherson could be a game-changer for Ukraine’s special operators

The destruction of a major dam near Kherson could be a game-changer for Ukraine’s special operators

By: Posted: June 23, 2023

The Nova Kakhovka Dam in Kherson on June 5.
The Nova Kakhovka Dam on June 5.

  • In early June, the destruction of a dam caused flooding along the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine.
  • Russia is suspected of destroying the dam to disrupt Ukrainian military operations in the area.
  • But the flooding altered nearby shorelines and waterways, which may end up aiding Ukrainian forces.

In early June, explosions ruptured the Nova Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric station, unleashing a reservoir containing several billion gallons of water and flooding cities and towns along the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine.

The destruction of the Soviet-designed dam appears to have been orchestrated by Russian forces, likely in an effort to deny Ukrainian troops access to territory nearby as their long-awaited counteroffensive kicked off.

But the torrent of water flowing down the Dnieper toward the important city of Kherson has reshaped the surrounding waterways and forced the Russian military to pull back from certain places.

An altered shoreline, a larger maritime area, and fewer Russian troops could benefit Ukraine. Indeed, the destruction of the dam could be a game-changer for Ukraine’s special-operations forces.

A special-operations ‘playground’

Ukraine Kherson flooding Kakhovka dam
Ukrainian troops look over a flooded area in Kherson on June 8.

The rapid emptying of the reservoir has revealed the remnants of past battles, including a human skull that appeared to be wearing a World War II-era German helmet. Downstream, there are now tens of thousands of hectares of new maritime battlespace.

The Russian military has already had to relocate troops from the area in response to Ukrainian attacks elsewhere, and patrolling and protecting the new coastline will create another challenge for Russian forces — and a potential opening for Ukraine.

“While Russia may now see the terrain south of Kherson as safe, Ukrainian special operators should see opportunity. With new coastline and fewer opposing forces, the southern Kherson oblast could become a special operations playground,” Timothy Heck and Zachary Griffiths, both US military officers, wrote in an article for the Modern War Institute at West Point.

Ukraine Kherson flooding Kakhovka dam
A flooded residential area in Kherson on June 8.

New and larger waterways will make it easier for Ukrainian special operators to move men and equipment around by boat. With easier access, Ukrainian commandos operating from around Kherson could use drones and missiles to threaten Russian communications and supply lines to Crimea, according to Heck and Griffiths.

Ukrainian troops in the area could also use shoulder-fired missiles to threaten Russian aircraft flying to and from Crimea, potentially forcing them to use longer routes instead.

“As Russia draws significant sustainment from Crimea, disrupting lines of communications with increased special operations in southern Kherson could certainly support the Ukrainian counteroffensive,” Heck and Griffiths write.

Ukraine Kherson flooding Kakhovka dam
Ukrainian troops and volunteers evacuate a flooded area in Kherson on June 8.

Ukrainian special operators have been very active in Kyiv’s ongoing counteroffensive in the Donbas region and southern Ukraine.

A recent video appears to show commandos from Ukraine’s 73rd Naval Center of Special Operations, a secretive Navy SEAL-like unit, clearing a Russian trench and killing several Russian troops during fighting in southern Ukraine.

In addition to direct-action missions, Ukrainian special operators have been using one-way attack drones to disrupt and degrade Russian forces by destroying heavy weapons, including main battle tanks, artillery pieces, and armored personnel vehicles.

But Ukrainian commandos could soon find themselves supporting an amphibious operation in southern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s commandos and amphibious operations

Antonovskiy Bridge Kherson Ukraine
The collapsed Antonovskiy Bridge over Dnieper River in Kherson City, seen after Russian troops withdrew in November.

Ukrainian military leaders have certainly thought about a major amphibious operation across the Dnieper River. Recent security assistance shows that Ukraine’s NATO partners have had similar thoughts.

In March, the White House approved a package of military aid that included armored vehicle-launched bridges, heavy-duty systems that travel with armored columns and allow them to cross rivers, streams, ditches, and trenches.

What makes the armored vehicle-launched bridges particularly useful is their ability to disengage and redeploy across another obstacle.

M60 Armored vehicle-launched bridge
An M60 Armored vehicle-launched bridge is deployed across Germany’s Lahn River during an exercise in January 1985.

Germany has also committed 23 Beaver bridge-laying tanks and 20 heavy and medium bridge systems. In addition, the UK put out an “urgent bidding round” to industry for medium Girder bridges, bridge launchers, and reusable bridges that can support Ukraine’s new M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and Challenger 2 and Leopard 2 tanks.

Should the Ukrainian military go ahead with an amphibious operation in Kherson or Crimea, naval commandos will play a key role in scouting, surveying, and clearing potential beaches. They could also be used to distract Russian forces by launching diversionary raids elsewhere on the battlefield.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive is still in the early stages, but judging from what has already been seen, special-operations forces will be a vital part of Kyiv’s push to liberate its land and people.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. He is working toward a master’s degree in strategy and cybersecurity at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Provided by:



Moderator and Editor