In Ukraine, loitering or lost ammunition has become a major issue. These weapons are doing heavy damage to both Russian and Ukrainian military hardware. Warfare is evolving due to stray munitions, and it will continue to do so until air defenses catch up.

As Germany’s air superiority eroded during World War II, the country’s armed forces received more and better self-propelled anti-aircraft defense systems like the Flakpanzer IV “Möbelwagen,” Flakpanzer IV “Wirbelwind,” and Flakpanzer IV “Ostwind.”

The anti-aircraft firepower of the US Navy fleet was severely lacking at the outset of the conflict. As a quick response, the Navy installed more anti-aircraft weapons and replaced their smaller, lighter guns with larger, more powerful ones. 

At the end of the war, a destroyer had 42 guns (3 twins 5″/38; 3 quad 40mm; 2 twin 40mm; 10 twin 20mm), a cruiser had 83 guns (6 twin 5″/38; 12 quad 40mm; 23 single 20mm), and one battleship had 165 guns (10 twin 5″/38; 20 quad 40mm; 49 single 20mm; and 8 twin 20mm) .

By the time of Okinawa, the air defense capability of the US Navy had increased substantially, as had the skills of its gunners. This combination allowed the US Navy to weather the storm of attacks by Japanese kamikaze and conventional aircraft.

Germany deployed increasing numbers of anti-aircraft artillery systems to counter Allied bombers. Flugabwehrkanone is commonly known as flak. During the war, the “flak” arm of the German Luftwaffe came to employ over a million people operating thousands of 88mm, 105mm and 128mm guns deployed near potential targets or on recognized bomber routes.

The UK deployed 1,600 anti-aircraft guns, including 40mm and 3.7-inch guns, to defend against V-1 “flying bomb” attacks. Initially, the defenders only shot down one in six V-1s after spending an average of 2,500 shells. In August 1944, between 60 and 80% of the V-1s were shot down with an average of 100 rounds.

After its capture, the Allies quickly built an air defense network around Antwerp to defend the port city from V-1 attacks, installing mobile 90mm 3.7in anti-aircraft batteries. These guns prevented all but 5% of the V-1s from hitting their targets.

Ukraine is experiencing a similar situation as Russian drones and missiles constantly bombard it. To counter these threats, western partners are arming Ukraine with surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and ground-based air defense artillery, including mobile systems like Germany’s Gepard. 

Little by little, the number of intercepted attack drones and missiles is increasing. It is a battle of attrition. Who will run out of ammunition first: the Ukrainian defenders or the Russian attackers?

Forecast International