critique of weapons
As the largest military conflict in Europe since the 21st century, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has erupted for nearly a year, and there is no sign of easing up yet. Even if the two sides may eventually return to the negotiating table, if any party wants to win the initiative, it cannot do without exerting greater military pressure on the other party. Although weapons and equipment are not the only factors that determine the outcome of a war, weapons at hand and reasonable use may change the trend of the battlefield to a large extent. After all, weapons of criticism are not as good as criticism of weapons.
What are the gains and losses of the use of these weapons and equipment by both sides, and which ones have played a key role, and even changed the battlefield situation? Which weapons affect or are about to affect the course of the conflict? This has also become an important reference for the military circles of various countries to study modern and future wars.
The trump card of Russian ground equipment
At the beginning of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, since both sides are the successors of the arsenal of the former Soviet Union, the main weapons and equipment are of the same origin. From the beginning of the conflict, Soviet-style classic weapons and their derivative models have all appeared.
The tanks Russia uses in Ukraine are mainly T-72B3 and T-90. The T-72B3 is a modernized version of the T-72 tank produced in the Soviet era. Its main gun has a range of 4 kilometers and is mainly used to strike enemy armor and infantry targets. T-90 is a relatively advanced main battle tank developed by Russia, which is equipped with anti-tank missiles and modern protection systems.
At the same time, some improved and upgraded tank models also appeared in the equipment of the Russian army. For example, the Russian First Guards Tank Army is equipped with T-72M and T-80 series main battle tanks. The US “Forbes” website stated at the time that “the Russian army is continuing to improve the T-72M main battle tank, so some batches of T-72M tanks are more advanced than the early T-90S tanks.”
The video from the battlefield also shows that the Russian army has also dispatched a small number of the latest T-90M Proryv-3 main battle tanks, which largely adopt the technology of the new generation of T-14 main battle tanks. In October last year, foreign media discovered a Russian T14 main battle tank near the village of Midkinskaya in Luhansk, but there are no reports of this latest tank actually participating in battle on the battlefield.
The artillery used in Russia includes the relatively advanced 152mm caliber 2S5 “Hyacinth” and 2S19 “Musta-S” series self-propelled howitzers, as well as the 122mm 2S1 “Carnation” and 152mm 2S3″ developed in the 1960s and 1970s. “Acacia” and 203mm 2S7M “Peony” self-propelled howitzer, BM-30 “Tornado” long-range rocket launcher, etc., in addition to 152mm 2A65 “Musta-B” towed howitzer and 122mm D-30 and other old-fashioned artillery.
In addition, in terms of long-range fire support, the Russian army also dispatched the “Iskander-M” tactical ballistic missile with a range of 300 kilometers and the “Iskander-K” cruise missile with a range of 500 kilometers.
The main equipment is the Ukrainian army with the same origin as the Russian army. The ground equipment is T-64, T-72 and T-80 (T-84) series main battle tanks, 2S7 type 203mm self-propelled howitzer and 2S19 type 152mm self-propelled howitzer , a small number of “tornado” long-range rocket launchers and SS-21 tactical ballistic missiles, etc., but most of them have not been modernized, so they are inferior to similar Russian weapons in terms of main performance.
The Russian BM-27 Hurricane multiple rocket launcher is launched.
From the book point of view, Russia’s ground equipment has played its trump card, and its strength can completely crush Ukraine. However, in the conflict over the past year, the two sides have been very stalemate, and the front is constantly seeing. In addition to the tactical guiding ideology of the use of some equipment, this is closely related to the fact that the West has supported a large number of countermeasure equipment in Ukraine.
Western equipment blocks Russian offensive
The main weapons used by the Ukrainian army to resist the Russian armored forces, in addition to the main battle tanks, are mainly a large number of individual anti-tank missiles. Ukraine itself has thousands of Soviet-made anti-tank missiles, but their performance is backward, they have been in stock for many years, and their reliability is also worrying. Therefore, various advanced anti-tank missiles accounted for a large proportion of the military supplies that the Ukrainian military asked the West for help at the beginning.
For example, the Ukrainian army has obtained hundreds of sets of American-made “Javelin” anti-tank missiles, as well as British-made NLAW anti-tank missiles. These missiles are called “tank killers”. Soldiers can carry them on their shoulders and launch them. The biggest feature is that they all have the ability to ignore after launch and attack the top. They are designed to attack the weakest top armor of tanks and armored vehicles. For this reason, the Russian Army Armored Forces installed top grille armor on the turret of its active T-72B3 main battle tank, trying to resist the attack of advanced anti-tank missiles such as “Javelin”, but the effect does not seem to be satisfactory. These advanced anti-tank individual weapons have caused the Russian army to suffer a lot.
In addition, the recent offensive of the Russian 155th Marine Brigade in Wuhledar, Donetsk Oblast was frustrated, and 31 tanks and armored vehicles were destroyed by the Ukrainian army. On February 12, a video was uploaded on Twitter showing that two Russian T-80BV tanks were continuously blown up by landmines near Wuhledal. According to the analysis of military experts, this kind of landmine should be the latest long-range anti-armor mine RAAM aided by the United States to Ukraine, which can effectively prevent the attack of Russian tanks.
According to statistics from relevant foreign parties, most of the tanks lost by Ukraine so far were destroyed by Russian artillery fire and air strikes, and the armored forces lost by the Russian army were basically lost due to high-speed marches at the beginning of the conflict and discarded due to supplies and failures. All were destroyed by anti-tank weapons.
In the tug-of-war between the Russian and Ukrainian armies, the artillery of both sides played an important role. Since the self-propelled howitzers that the Russian army attacked with the armored assault force suffered large losses in the first phase of the operation, and they were not fully dispatched, they fought back and forth with the Ukrainian artillery for a time, and both sides suffered heavy losses.
Although more and more towed artillery appeared in the Russian artillery units on the Donbass front, making its maneuverability and response capabilities decline rapidly, the overall advantage is still relatively obvious. Under the grim situation faced by the artillery battle, Ukraine urgently asked the West for artillery assistance. Since mid-May last year, the Ukrainian army has successively received a variety of artillery provided by the United States and Europe. For example, there are hundreds of M777 155mm towed howitzers aided by the United States. In addition, there are German PzH2000 self-propelled howitzers, French “Caesar” vehicle-mounted howitzers, M109 series self-propelled howitzers provided by Norway and other countries, Polish AHS Krab self-propelled howitzers, British AS-90 self-propelled howitzers, etc. These European-assisted large-caliber self-propelled artillery have It has the characteristics of maneuverability, quick strike and quick withdrawal.
The Russian army’s large number of “tornado” long-range rockets with an astonishing range once overwhelmed the Ukrainian army. In order to restrain the advantages of the Russian rockets, the artillery provided by the United States to Ukraine also includes the well-known “Hippocampus” rockets. Although the range of the rocket launcher on this wheeled chassis is slightly shorter than that of the “tornado”, it has higher strike accuracy, faster response speed, and stronger battlefield survivability. According to the Ukrainian side, in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian army has repeatedly dispatched “Hippocampus” long-range rockets to carry out precise strikes on the Russian army’s frontline ammunition depots, thus weakening the Russian army’s shelling. In November last year, the Russian army finally announced its withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnieper River near Kherson. The outside world generally believes that the “Hippocampus” rocket launcher cut off the supply line of the Russian army and played a key role in it.
Drones and Missiles Become “Sky Masters”
The outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on February 24 last year began with a large-scale airstrike launched by the Russian Air Force, which is in line with the popular Western military theory that modern warfare usually begins with large-scale airstrikes and missile strikes. The assessment report of the British Royal United Services Institute of Defense Research shows that the Russian military dispatched about 300 fighter sorties and launched more than 100 tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles on the day when the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out on February 24, 2022.
According to the assessment of Western intelligence agencies, before the Russian-Ukrainian conflict broke out, the Ukrainian Air Force only had about 30 MiG-29 and Su-27 fighter jets each, as well as a number of Su-24 fighter-bombers and Su-25 attack aircraft. Compared not only in quantity, but also in quality. Advanced fighter jets such as the Su-57, Su-35, and Su-30SM of the Russian Air Force have advantages in detection capabilities and missile range, and electronic countermeasures against Ukrainian air-to-air missiles are also more effective.
However, the duration and scale of the first wave of strikes launched by the Russian Air Force was quite limited, far below the expected level, and it failed to effectively suppress the Ukrainian air force and air defense system. Since then, the Russian Air Force has organized several large-scale air strikes, but the average number of sorties dispatched per day is still only about 140. According to external analysis, on the one hand, the Russian army believes that it is necessary to control the conflict within a local area and control the intensity of the conflict. Fighters of the Russian Air Force rarely appear in western Ukraine, and mainly rely on “Iskander-M” ballistic missiles and air-launched cruise missiles launched from Russia to strike infrastructure and important targets in western Ukraine.
On July 5, 2022 local time, Ukrainian soldiers installed the “Hippocampus” rocket launcher system provided by the United States.
On February 8, 2023 local time, a drone operated by Ukrainian soldiers appeared in the Donetsk region.
Although Ukraine’s limited air force survived in name only, the dispersed and mobile air defense system quickly moved after firing, preventing Russian fighter jets from taking advantage of air superiority, and failing to allow Russian ground forces to obtain sufficient air power for reconnaissance , support and cover, and suffered considerable losses. On the occasion of the first anniversary of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Israeli intelligence agency made statistics on the battle damage of the Russian Air Force, which mentioned that as of January 2023, the Russian Air Force lost at least 2 Su-35S, 2 Su-30SM, and 19 Su-34s, as for the loss of Su-24 and Su-25, there will only be more.
Missile wreckage appears on the streets of Kharkiv, Ukraine.
The common view in the West is that the pilots of the Russian Air Force have insufficient training, the communication and command link is not smooth, and the fighter planes lack real-time ground strike capabilities. Under such circumstances, the Russian army has changed its tactics since October last year, and instead used missiles and drones to weaken Ukraine’s air defense system, including the KH developed to counter the radars of the US Patriot and Aegis air defense systems. -31P anti-radiation missiles, as well as “Zircon”, “Onyx” and “Dagger” hypersonic missiles and “Bastion” shore-based missile systems.
What deserves the attention of the military circles of various countries is that the unmanned aerial vehicle, which has been proven in several local wars, has become the “master of the sky” in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The US media believes that “the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is the world’s first aerial war of attrition based on missiles and drones.”
In the early stage of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the “standard bearer” TB-2 armed drones imported by the Ukrainian army from Turkey were very active, and they made repeated gains in the battle against the Russian army. Although its performance is not advanced, TB-2 still destroyed a large number of tanks, artillery and other heavy equipment in the face of the Russian army’s powerful air defense system, and even destroyed the “Dorr” that accompanied the Russian army’s mechanized troops and provided air cover. “Beech” series of field air defense systems, in addition to sinking several “Raptor” class high-speed speedboats of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the waters near Snake Island, and guiding Ukrainian artillery to accurately strike Russian targets. In addition, the “Phoenix Ghost” and “Switch Knife” drones from the United States also made the Russian armored forces and artillery suffer. The Ukrainian army has also modified a large number of civilian drones for reconnaissance and bombing, and even used them to throw mortar shells at Russian soldiers in the trenches. Ukraine is currently asking the United States to provide more advanced “Grey Eagle” armed drones, but the U.S. government has not let go.
Compared with the impressiveness of the Ukrainian army in the innovative use of UAVs, the Russian army, which ignored the development of UAVs, was very passive in the early stages of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and had to use various soft and hard defense methods such as electronic interference and laser weapons to deal with the Ukrainian army’s useless defenses. man-machine. However, since October last year, the Russian military has launched a series of large-scale air strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure using the “Geranium-2” suicide drone with a minimum cost of only a few thousand dollars. An anti-aircraft missile for one dollar.
Weapons are not the deciding factor
As the war progressed, Ukraine felt more and more strenuous, eager to obtain more and more advanced heavy weapons from Western countries to reverse the somewhat passive battlefield situation, such as tanks and fighter jets.
On January 25, under the pressure of the United States and other allies, the German government announced that it would provide Ukraine with “Leopard 2” main battle tanks and set up two tank battalions for Ukraine. The first batch will be 14 “Leopard 2 A6” from the German inventory type tank. Germany also agreed with its allies to provide Ukraine with German-made “Leopard 2” tanks, and Denmark and the Netherlands also expressed their intention to provide Ukraine with “Leopard 2” main battle tanks. On the same day, U.S. President Joe Biden also announced to provide Ukraine with 31 “Abrams” main battle tanks.
On February 7, the defense ministries of Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark also issued a joint statement stating that they will spend money to refurbish at least 100 “Leopard 1” tanks in the inventory of military enterprises and deliver them to Ukraine within a few months as part of the supply of “Leopard 2” tanks. “Supplement” to the main battle tank.
However, according to a report by the German newspaper Die Welt on February 14, the Danish and Dutch governments changed their positions and stated that they would not participate in the delivery of the “Leopard 2” main battle tank to Ukraine.
At the same time, the F-16 and Mirage-2000 fighter jets of the United States and France requested by Ukraine are still only verbal commitments of the two countries.
Right now, the urgent need facing the Ukrainian army may be the shortage of ammunition. On the other hand, based on its huge inventory and relatively complete military production system, Russia’s situation is much better than that of Ukraine, and its ability to withstand losses is stronger. At the same time, the Russian army still has some “big killer weapons” at the bottom of the box that have not yet been revealed. Of course, it is better not to have nuclear weapons, otherwise it will be a disaster for mankind.
How useful are American and European weapons from the West, and is it a panacea to change the course of this conflict? David Ochmanek, a senior researcher at the RAND Corporation of the United States, does not think so. He bluntly said: “As analysts, we can use professional methods to determine the decisive weapon that can help a certain party win a certain battle. The factors that determine the outcome of a war are much more complex, involving strategic depth, national will, economy, and so on.”