Contemplations: Russian Ukrainian War
By Col Pramod Ninan (Retd)
Russia is the second most powerful Armed forces with the world’s largest tank unit and has a large inventory of ballistic missiles. They are structured as the Army, Navy and Aerospace forces. There are two independent fighting entities, the strategic rocket forces (SRF) and the Airborne troops.The SRF controls the land based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). With such a mighty Army, the Russian forces found stumbling blocks in their invasion of Kyiy and Kharkiv. Russian rocket Artillery holds the most lethal rocket systems which could have been used to shape the battle field before the invasion. However, there could have been valid reasons in restrained use of standoff attacks.
The Russian Artillery holds a plethora of rocket and multi-barrel rocket launcher (MBRL) systems, listed below, which are potent to cause considerable damage to Ukrainian cities from standoff distances:-
TOS1 is a 220 mm 30-barrel multi barrel thermobaric weapon system mounted on a T-72 tank chassis. It is an area weapon and most suited against fortified defences, mechanized columns and vehicle convoys.
Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). Russia has a variety of MLRS like Smerch, Urgan and Grad systems in addition to conventional Artillery weapons. These weapons are not pin point targeting systems and cause extensive damage at the target end. Using these in the current war scenario would cause huge collateral damages and civilian casualties.
Katyusha multiple rocket system is of the Second World War vintage which can deliver a large tonnage of explosives in short time creating a shock effect and huge damage. These are truck based and are mobile and can be employed with flexibility.
Ukrainian Armed Forces
The Ukrainian Armed Forces(UAF) was inherited from the Soviet Union. Ukraine's armed forces are composed of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, the Ukrainian Air Force, the Ukrainian Navy, the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces and the Special Operations Forces. The territorial defence forces are volunteer units under the Government and they hold a large number of reserves highly motivated to fight for the nation. An intangible advantage of UAF is the high motivation of its troops and also the civilian population and their patriotism.
Ukraine has more than 30 Artillery Brigades comprising of missiles, rocket artillery, guns and Howitzers. After independence from the Soviet Union, Ukraine retained vintage military equipment. The Ukrainian ground forces metamorphosed gradually forced by the war in Donbas. They have moved from dependence of military hardware from Russia and other former Soviet states to own production. Some of Ukrainian Artillery equipment are listed.
It has an ambitious missile program with Sapsan, Korshun and Grom. It also has the tactical mobile missile systems, Tochka and Luna M in service.
Ukraine also holds MLRS like Smerch, Urgan and Grad systems in addition to Artillery guns and howitzers.
As per Russian doctrine, artillery is used extensively and is considered the winning factor in any war. Stand-off attacks by missiles and heavy rocket salvo are precursors to move of tanks and infantry column as is followed in most war doctrines. Ukraine also follows the doctrine of heavy artillery fire. However, this has not been followed in the current war scenario. There is certainly a fog swept over the realities of war by Russia and Ukraine with effective Information warfare. Yet, as per available media footage, it is evident that gross devastation has not been carried out as was in the second battle at Donetsk airport. This aspect needs analysis.
The battlefield in Eastern Ukraine is so much different from a conventional one. There is evidently a deviation from the conventional warfare. It leads to understanding the implications of employing heavy artillery and missile fire over populated cities as also evolving war specialized tactics such battlefields.
This war is also a classic example of use of perception, information and cyber (PIC) warfare.The war is drawn into heavily populated cities of Ukraine, which were possibly not prepared for this onslaught. In case, the built up areas are used for defensive warfare, the invader has no other option than to destroy such defense positions. Yet, as per the media there has been a restraint in the initial stages of the war and damages increasing day after day as the battle escalates.
As per some media reports, Russia has at a later stage used heavy rocket fire against Ukraine.There has been casualties to civilians and their property damaged. But this type of damage may be considered as a consequence of war. Directing fire intentionally on to civilian properties is unethical and not militarily accepted code of conduct, unless forced upon by a military operation or safety concerns of own troops. Use of rocket artillery and missiles is a source of collateral damage due to its dispersion.Even if there are no direct hits, the consequences of war is high suffering for the civilian population due to constraints in supplies and shutting down of essential services. Imagine living without food, water, medicines, electricity and in a state of constant fear.
Following certain war analyst data, Russia has lost more military hardware than Ukraine, especially mechanized fighting vehicles. A three times loss to the invading forces should be an acceptable norm, provided there is military power and technological parity. Aging and vintage equipment with shortage in ammunition may also be one of the causes of a one sided war. In this war there is a parity in the type of equipment and no logical assessment of the outcome. This can lead to a sense of desperation, augmented by doubts of external military support to the adversary. The perceived support of Ukraine by the United States and United Nations can lead to harsh military actions by Russia.
As of the status of 16 March, Russia has not yet progressed into Kyiy. There has been a delay due to terrain and stiff resistance from UAF. In such a scenario, there is a deadlock without a compromise from either sides. Talks and negotiations have not been conclusive. The world therefore now should watch and monitor the trigger of a conflagration point. This war is gradually shifting into a global one in the backdrop of potential escalation to a NBC war. There has been already a global economic impact caused by this war. The only solution to further deterioration is a “Cease fire”. It is a bold and clear writing on the wall “End this War”.
*Author is an Indian army veteran. Views expressed here are personal.