NewsUkraine's strategic edge: Western tech outmatches Russian artillery

Ukraine's strategic edge: Western tech outmatches Russian artillery

Russians lost 10 times more artillery positions than Ukraine.
Russians lost 10 times more artillery positions than Ukraine.
Images source: © Ministry of Defence of Russia
8:00 AM EST, March 3, 2024

As reported by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, by February 27, Russia had lost over 10,000 pieces of various kinds of artillery systems. These losses are substantial, and the Kremlin is scrambling to replace them with older systems from warehouses. Nonetheless, the quality gap continues to widen. Despite this, Russia compensates with a much larger inventory.

Effective preparation of artillery brigades has become crucial for both armies after the front lines stabilized. This was highlighted during last year’s major battles – in Bakhmut, Vuhledar, Zaporizhzhia, and near Avdiivka, where artillery was responsible for over 60% of the casualties on both sides.

Initially, both sides relied heavily on Soviet-era equipment, with characteristic calibers of 122 mm and 152 mm, typical of armies from the former Warsaw Pact. The organizational structure of brigades also remained unchanged. Over time, Ukraine began incorporating Western equipment, significantly altering the dynamics on the battlefield.

The artillery war

"Destroying a target with artillery involves several steps. It requires detecting the target, determining its coordinates, and then relaying this information to the command center. From there, orders are issued for a battery to fire. This process can be time-consuming, leading to volleys missing moving targets," explains Jakub Link-Lenczowski, publisher of Military Magazine MILMAG.

Before the advent of modern systems, Russians were less concerned about counter-battery fire. Ukrainian towed barrel artillery, which formed the bulk of their brigade artillery groups and independent artillery brigades, had a shorter range. Furthermore, Ukraine lacked effective artillery radar, communication systems, and battlefield management systems.

The Ukrainians now use the GIS Art system, often likened to a taxi ordering app in media comparisons. This system, functioning within an integrated communication system, enables updates of battlefield situations in real time. The Polish Integrated Battlefield Management System operates similarly, centered around a command vehicle built on a light tracked chassis by Huta Stalowa Wola.

These systems facilitate the coordination of fire from disparate positions, ensuring that despite different firing trajectories and flight times, shells hit the target simultaneously. This coordination significantly reduces the time to execute a volley, thus narrowing the window for Russians to locate a howitzer or missile launcher.

Technological backwardness

Detecting the origin of incoming shells is crucial in artillery warfare. To this end, radars are used to detect the shells' flight paths and calculate their launch positions. The Russian 1L219 Zoopark system, for instance, can detect tactical missiles up to 25 miles away and artillery projectiles from 6-7.5 miles.

The scarcity of these radars has revealed a critical issue: Russian prisoners of war have reported a lack of effective communication between artillery and infantry units in need of support. Often relying on civilian walkie-talkies, by the time a target's coordinates are sent to the battery, the target has usually moved.

For Russia to enhance its military capabilities, it requires not just new artillery systems but also an overhaul of its entire battlefield management system. This effort is stalling. In August 2023, nearly a year behind schedule, Russia finished testing the new self-propelled howitzer 2S43 Malva, hoping it would be deployed by the start of the year. However, it has yet to be seen even in training exercises.

Hence, Russia's current opposition to Ukraine relies on a vast quantity of outdated equipment that has only seen minimal modernization. This was pointed out by Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov, who was relieved from his position after his assessment became public. The Kremlin is determined to conceal the full extent of the military's issues from both the public and the international community.

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