At about 8:30 pm UT, on July 11, 2022, a powerful explosion rocks Novaya Kakhovka, near its hydroelectric power plant on the Dnieper river. Quickly, local authorities report severe damage in nearby residential areas
The military context
On the left bank of the Dnieper river, about 75 km upstream Kherson and farther, the Black sea, Novaya Kakhovka is under Russia control. The front line is about 60 km to the northwest
At such range, the weapon could be a ballistic missile, but the Russian air defense has already shot down many Ukrainian Tochkas in the region. Rather a US-made highly precise M30/31 GMLRS (GPS Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System), also called the 70km sniper round, that a HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) has launched from the rear of the Ukrainian lines.
The US have delivered this modern MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System), that the Ukrainian forces are using since late June, with efficiency against command posts, ammunition and oil depots, maybe several dozens destroyed in two weeks, according to pro Russia sources
On July 6, the Russian defense ministry claimed that the air forces had demilitarized two HIMARS. According to the adviser to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Oleksiy Arestovych, an actor himself and a major propagandist, the Ukrainian forces are still aligning ten systems, which at least on the media front, are now wrecking havoc on the Russian side.
If a precise strike, what was the target ?
At first sight, one worries about the hydroelectric power plant or the dam, but the explosions looks like the combustion of ammunition. The head of the local Russian military-civilian administration reports that warehouses with mineral fertilizers [ammonium nitrate] have caught fire. Its liability is indeed that Ukraine is deliberately shelling civilians for eight years in Donbass, but Russia does not.
I am yet skeptical and Oleksiy Arestovych (cf. supra) claims later that the strike has destroyed forty fuel trucks and nearby ammunition. Sadly for the civilian neighbors of the depot, the target in this case would be legitimate.
As humble conclusion
When I read that the US would deliver such Wundervergeltungswaffen to Ukraine, my belief was that its air superiority would enable Russia to wipe them out
They have not been destroyed and I guess that their operational impact is concrete. Furthermore in a war of attrition, their psychological effect may make them wunder, real game changers, which would enable the West and Zelenskyy to prolong this war indefinitely.
I hope that Vladimir Putin has not curbed their destruction, in order to not increase tension with the US. HIMARS are TOP priority targets, more important than concentrations of Ukrainian cannon fodder. While the New York Times is wondering if the West will be technically able to sustain longer its military support, the annihilation of the systems already on the field will hasten the reasonable conclusion of the war.
On July 12, a Planet Labs satellite picture is shared on social networks. Compared to Google view of the site, it is showing a probable unidentified target, maybe a warehouse, 1,600 m southeast of the hydroelectric power plant, the appalling destruction in the neighborhood to the northeast
Another picture from NASA FIRMS (Fire Information for Resource Management System) is showing the extent of blast and blaze
According to the local military-civilian administration in the evening, the provisional toll is 90 injured and 6 dead people.
More than 500 km to the northeast, around 10:30 pm UT, July 12, according later to the command of the People’s Militia, Lugansk air defense undergoes a massive blow, nine rockets, that HIMARS have launched from Artemovsk (Bakhmut for the Ukrainian administration), about 100 km to the west. No GMLRS, their 84 km range is too short, but ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System). In order to be simultaneous, nine ATACMS require nine HIMARS.
The HIMARS become wunder, are TOP priority targets.