Ukrainian forces have begun “shaping” operations in advance of a highly-anticipated counteroffensive against Russian forces, a senior US military official and senior Western official tell CNN.
Shaping involves striking targets such as weapons depots, command centers and armor and artillery systems to prepare the battlefield for advancing forces. It's a standard tactic made prior to major combined operations.
When Ukraine launched a counteroffensive late last summer in the southern and northeastern parts of the country, it was similarly preceded by air attacks to shape the battlefield. These shaping operations could continue for many days before the bulk of any planned Ukrainian offensive, according to the senior US military official.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country still needs “a bit more time” before it launches the counteroffensive, in order to allow some more of the promised Western military aid to arrive in the country.
“With [what we have] we can go forward and be successful,” Zelensky told European public service broadcasters in an interview published on Thursday. “But we’d lose a lot of people. I think that’s unacceptable.”
“So we need to wait. We still need a bit more time,” he said.
Among the supplies Ukraine is still waiting for are armored vehicles — including tanks —which Zelensky said were “arriving in batches.”
Shaping operations can also be designed to confuse the enemy.
Last summer, Kharkiv had very little in the way of softening up; it was a lightning ground offensive. Most of the shaping came in Kherson, through long-range attacks on bridges, ammo stores and command centers. Most of these were carried out by HIMARS. There were some, but not many, airstrikes.
CNN's Tim Lister contributed reporting.