Russian missile strikes against Ukraine on December 29 reveal a worrying new pattern

On December 29, Ukraine suffered strikes massive of Russian missiles in a coordinated action led by Russian air and rocket forces, revealing a tactical pattern that had not, until now, been employed by Moscow against Kyiv. If the objectives of these strikes and the results obtained are still difficult to assess, this shift towards massive strikes coordinated between complementary vectors poses a most worrying threat for Ukraine at the start of this winter.

On the night of December 28 to 29, 2023, the Russian air forces carried out an attack of unprecedented scale against Ukrainian infrastructure. Russian strategic bombers Tu-95 and perhaps Tu-160 launched, during this assault, a hundred, perhaps more, Kh-101 and Kh-555 cruise missiles towards their Ukrainian targets, supported by around thirty , again perhaps more, of Geranium long-range attack drones, Russian version of the Iranian Shahed-136.

As has been the case for many months, the Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense claims the destruction of the majority, around 90%, of these missiles and drones, using its missiles and anti-aircraft guns.

On the other hand, it has not announced any interceptions regarding the dozen Iskander-M and Kinzhal ballistic missiles, and the few Kh-35 and Kh-31P anti-radar missiles launched jointly. However, it was the latter who really carried out the attack against Ukrainian infrastructure.

A tactic of deception and saturation known for a long time in the West in the face of the Soviet threat

The tactics used by Russian forces on the night of December 18 to 29, while representing a first in Ukraine, are in no way unknown to NATO analysts. Already, in 1986, Tom Clancy and Larry Bond had traced a worrying scenario in the novel Red Storm (Red Storm Rising), recounting, among other things, the attack on an Allied carrier group by Soviet Navy long-range bombers.

Soviet long-range Tu-22M Backfire bombers and their supersonic anti-ship missiles were particularly feared by NATO Marines during the Cold War

In the novel, a first wave of old Tu-16 Badger and Tu-22 Blinder bombers carried out a massive attack against an American carrier strike group made up of two aircraft carriers, including the French Foch, using old anti-ship missiles making function as decoys, to exhaust the adversary's anti-aircraft defenses.

It was followed, a few minutes later, by a decisive attack carried out by several flotillas of Tu-22M Backfires armed with modern missiles, catching the Allied fleet off guard, and leading to the loss of several large ships, including the sunken Foch, against a handful of Soviet bombers shot down.

In Tempête Rouge, it was Foch's F-8N Crusader which recorded the only victories against the Soviet Tu-22M Backfire

This scenario, tested multiple times by the two authors using the Harpoon naval simulation (designed by the same Larry Bond), was subsequently taken very seriously by the NATO admiralties, just like a second scenario at the heart of the novel, the capture of Iceland by paratrooper forces and Soviet marine troops, to threaten the Reforger reinforcement line.

The massive Russian missile attack against Ukraine on December 29, also in two phases

If the Russian attack of December 29 did not target the fleet, but Ukrainian infrastructure and cities, it seems that it was designed around a tactic close to that developed in the 1986 novel. is, in fact, carried out in two successive phases.

The first phase consisted only of KH-101 and Kh-555 cruise missiles, and Geranium long-range attack drones. In this, it did not differ much from the attacks recorded in recent months, when KH-101, Kh-555 and 3M54 Kalibr cruise missiles were launched simultaneously against Ukraine, alongside Geranium drones.

Russian missiles against Ukraine Kh-101
The Kh-101 cruise missile is an evolution of the Kh-55, with a new fairing and improved performance. Each missile would cost around $1,5 million.

As previously, the Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense proved particularly effective against these vectors, claiming, and there is no reason to doubt it, the destruction of 87 cruise missiles, and 27 drones, in both cases, around 90% of the arsenal launched against their targets.

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  1. Hello Fabrice,

    Last spring, the PAC3 certainly intercepted most, if not all, of the missiles sent for the simple reason that it was the target.
    In trajectory calculation to intercept mach 5 and non-maneuvering missiles (the kinzhal only maneuvers in its final approach and must have its speed reduced very significantly), being the target considerably simplifies the task.

    For the rest it's as usual, Russia says it sent 100 missiles and Ukraine says it didn't see any or intercepted any. We are clearly in military propaganda on both sides.
    Those who hit often fell on civilians and the others if destroyed we remain very evasive: it's the fog of war.
    One thing is certain, there is not enough air defense in Ukraine to protect everything. So you have to make choices. kyiv is one to the detriment of certain other cities.
    To finish on the F16, we haven't really seen what an aim 120 gives in real life (it's talking about 150/160 km from what I could find). At the European level, we have quite a few tests and feedback on the Meteor but few on this American missile. If it is like the usual equipment, it will make it very difficult to set up this type of operation.

    Happy New Year 🙂


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