How Much is U.S. Intelligence helping Ukraine?

The Ukrainians have conducted a helicopter strike using missiles at a fuel depot near Belgorod, inside of Russia. This is a town I have been to a couple of times researching the Battle of Kursk. I don’t recognize the area (1:25): They had previously hit an ammo dump near Krasny Oktyabr around 30 March. See (1:15):

The strike at Belgorod brings out a point that I have not discussed yet in this blog. It does appear that Ukraine is getting significant help from the U.S. intelligence assets. I have not evidence of this and am not aware of any other reporting on this. Still, I find it hard to believe that Ukraine flew two or more helicopters dozens of miles across enemy territory, dodging radar, dodging their air force, and dodging their extensive SAM capability, to strike at a depot in Russia, if they did not know the path was clear. It is possible that a couple of guys took a high risk operation figuring they could get in and out of there by flying low, but most likely, the Ukrainians knew exactly what the radar coverage and SAM coverage was and flew between or around it. Ukraine probably does not have that intel capability. The U.S. does. 

There have been several other incidents in the war that point to Ukraine having good intelligence. This includes 1) the picking off of six Russian generals, 2) the preplanned ambush that halted the Russian armored column at Brovary, and 3) the attack on the airbase near Kherson that took out at least ten Russian helicopters. Each of these may have been caused by Ukrainian planning and acumen, but they are easier to explain if Ukraine has considerable help from U.S. intelligence assets. It is pretty hard to conceive that Ukraine flew two+ helicopter into Russia to strike near Belgorod without knowing what was in the area.

So, I hate to be conspiratorial, but it does appear that U.S. intelligence is providing considerable help and assistance to the Ukrainian Army. It does appear that Ukraine holds an intelligence advantage in this war.

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About Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience. Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation. His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) and The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019) Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

13 thoughts on “How Much is U.S. Intelligence helping Ukraine?

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  4. So you think US intelligence is helping Ukraine! How right I think you are!

    Three or four days before the invasion, President Biden was describing Russian troop dispositions and orders in surprising detail. One could wonder then whether he was notifying the Russians, “We’re reading your orders via our SIGINT. Chill, fellas.”
    Clearly the surprising accuracy of Ukrainian artillery and drone strikes and the surprising inaccuracy and poor coordination of Russian attacks reflect C4ISR superiority by the US and Ukraine, working together.

    The most logical explanation for the surprisingly light Russian air activity is that they’re afraid of very accurate SAMs, possibly directed by joint US-Ukrainian C4ISR. Ukrainian surface m missile attacks on tank columns have been conspicuously accurate and well-timed, as well.

    Of course the most effective cyber and C4ISR actions are most likely to remain unreported for quite a while. They’re like the wind: you can’t see it, you can only partly feel it, but in time you see the effects and realize what probably caused them.

    Of course, thoroughly inept logistics by the Russians has played a large role, too. Even when the USSR looked most imposing, in the mid-1980s, many knowledgeable people were skeptical about how long the Soviets could sustain an offensive.

    And of course some of the most closely kept American secrets were how much we knew about the Soviets’ weaknesses. If they knew how much we knew, they might start making some accurate inferences about our sources and methods. For example, one of THE most secret pieces of information the US had was that we knew Soviet ICBMs couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. CEP greater than 1 km (half a mile!), as later came out.

    The senior Russian leaders must have enjoyed, pardon the pun, some hollow laughs over US politicians’ hand-wringing about the possibility that the US military was turning into a hollow force. You know what a Potemkin village is? It seems the Russians have about fifty of ’em on tank treads now. And now the secret is coming out. The PRC leaders must be watching this and salivating.

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