Ukrainian forces are moving into southern Ukraine. On June 4 and 5, the army’s 23rd and 31st mechanized brigades, with their T-64BV tanks, reportedly pushed back the Russian defenders, which could include the 71st Motor Rifle Regiment and the 37th Motor Rifle Brigade of the Russian Army. Guard, in and around Novodonetske, in the south of Donetsk Oblast, just east of Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
It is not clear how big and determined the Ukrainian attack is; in other words, whether it is a small-scale raid or probe or the start of a larger, nationwide counter-offensive.
If it is the latter, expect Ukrainian reinforcements to arrive at Novodonetske to take advantage of the gap that the 23rd and 31st Mechanized Brigades are driving in the Russian line.
There may already be a reinforcement unit: the 37th Marine Brigade of the Ukrainian Navy. It turns out that the brigade is specially equipped for the kind of quick exploitation operation that should follow an initial mechanized breach of enemy defenses.
That’s because the 37th Marine Brigade operates some of the 40 AMX-10RC reconnaissance vehicles that France donated to Ukraine this spring. On Monday, a Russian drone appears to have spotted a pair of AMX-10RCs hiding in the trees somewhere in Zaporizhzhia.
It is not clear if the Russians followed up the drone reconnaissance with a missile or artillery attack on the reconnaissance vehicles.
To be clear, the Ukrainians would not want to expose the four-man AMX-10RCs to heavy Russian fire. The speedy AMX-10RC on wheels, with its 105mm main gun and day/night optics, is a “sniper rifle on… fast wheels”, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said after testing one of the vehicles in April.
The French company GIAT specifically designed the 15-ton aluminum AMX-10RC exactly for the attributes highlighted by the Defense Minister combat range. Knowledge of the situation. Speed.
But not protection. The AMX-10RC has just enough armor to withstand machine gun fire and shell fragments. An autocannon, not to mention tank fire, a mine, or a close artillery hit, would tear it apart.
If the Ukrainians have launched a major attack in the south, perhaps with the aim of landing a left hook from Zaporizhzhia into Russian-held Crimea, the AMX-10RCs of the 37th Marine Brigade could find themselves in their element.
The simplicity, reliability and fuel efficiency of these vehicles – 500 miles on a single tank of diesel for their 280 horsepower engines – could help the 37th Marine Brigade cover long distances quickly.
The lightly equipped brigade would need help, of course. It is the task of the army’s heaviest formations to break through the Russian defenses so that the Marines can break into the sparsely fortified Russian rear and make a mad dash for Mariupol, Kherson, the Crimea or any other target inside Russia. Russian-occupied Ukraine.
We may already be observing this sequence of operations in southern Ukraine. Or not. The fog of war is thick in Ukraine right now, as both sides launch claims and counterclaims amid conflicting evidence of what Ukrainian forces are trying to do and whether Russian forces are responding effectively.