“It is so perplexing, and no one is quite sure what went wrong,” said Samuel Bendett, an expert on the Russian military at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based research group. “Russia has a large number of drones, and the assumption was they would be using them for strikes,” he said. “That assumption has been completely undone.”
The Russian forces seemed to be using drones very little so far, Mr. Bendett said, perhaps because they are afraid the drones will be shot down with Ukraine’s air space still contested.
In the first days of the invasion, the Russian military appeared to hold back much of its air power, perhaps assuming that the Ukrainian military would not put up much of a fight. Instead, Russian forces met stiff resistance; when they tried to move in mobile missile launchers and electronic warfare vehicles to control the airspace, the convoys were ambushed by Ukrainians before they could reach the fight.
“It’s certainly not the way we would prosecute an air campaign,” said Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at C.N.A., a defense research institute in Arlington, Va.
“But then again, this war didn’t start the way the Russian military organizes and trains to fight, either,” he said. “It was a bungled regime-change operation that became a war they didn’t really plan for.”
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