Despite the presence of hi-tech drones, modern tanks, aircraft and other up-to-date equipment on the battlefield, current combat between Ukraine and Russia largely relies on the extensive use of artillery to batter away at the enemy; a tactic that is centuries old.

 

Both sides are firing incredible numbers of projectiles on a daily basis, none more so than the Russians who, U.S. officials estimated and at one-point last year, was firing up to 20,000 every day.

 

As the war drags on, an assessment by Ukrainian military analysts suggests that Russia’s  industrial production is struggling to keep pace with its rates of usage.

 

What does the report say?

 

In its daily report on Mar. 9, the General Staff of the Ukraine Armed Forces (GSUAF) said Russia has “almost used up the entire stock of artillery ammunition kept in storage in the central part of Russia (sic).”

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“We are now observing movement of ammunition from depots located in other regions of Russia (sic) to the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.”

 

The report notes that a defining characteristic of this ammo being shipped in from the outer reaches of Russia’s territory is RUST. The report says that “Almost 50% of them have visible signs of rust damage.”

 

“These new batches of ammunition are in an unsatisfactory state and their quality is further reduced due to improper storage and violation of service rules and regulations,” the report says.

ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 21, 2024
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ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 21, 2024

Latest from the Institute for the Study of War.

 

Does the report draw any conclusions concerning its meaning?

 

It does – they are potentially far-reaching. The GSUAF says that “in these conditions of intense hostilities” it is foreseen that the Russian army will experience critical shortages “within the next 2-3 months”.

 

Does Russia face problems with any other equipment?

 

Absolutely. The Kremlin’s forces have already lost as many as 1,700 tanks in Ukraine, including their most up-to-date versions of the T90 and T-14 Armata tanks. The UK’s Ministry of Defense say that even so called elite armored divisions, such as the 1st Guards Tank Army are now being equipped with 60-year-old T-62 tanks.

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In recent days it has also been reported that Russian BTR-50 armored personnel carriers, which first entered into service in 1954, have also been deployed to Ukraine.

There are also reports that Russia is resorting to the deployment of “Frankenstein” tanks, bizarre, crudely-engineered vehicles to Ukraine. For example, images have appeared, on social media, of 1950s-era naval anti-aircraft turrets fitted to a Soviet-era MT-LB amphibious fighting vehicles.

 

Moscow likely turned to a naval turret because its navy has been far less depleted than its battle-stricken land forces, according to Justin Crump, of Sibylline, an intelligence and geopolitical risk firm: “I suspect it was improvised from naval turrets as they had access to them and the relevant ammunition,” he said.

 

And in October of last year, a New York Times report said Russia has been using "outdated, unguided and imprecise missiles,” including some dating back to the Soviet era.

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What about Ukraine’s own artillery situation?

 

While Ukraine is firing much less artillery than the enemy, because it relies on better target intelligence rather than the “blanket” tactic of the Russians they are now also facing a looming shortage of artillery rounds. Ukrainian gunners fire fast, and in a week of hard fighting can shoot off about twice the 155mm shells America currently manufactures in a year.

 

Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, said this week that more 155mm shells were essential if Ukraine was to halt Russian aggression and liberate the occupied territories.

 

Speaking on Wednesday in Stockholm ahead of the meeting of EU defense ministers which he was attending, he said Ukraine needed "munitions, munitions, and more munitions".

 

He was supported in his plea by the Estonian Defense Minister, Hanno Pevkur, who has tabled an initiative to provide one million artillery rounds.

 

Soldiers on the frontlines around the besieged city of Bakhmut have also told Kyiv Post that they need more artillery to fight back the Russian forces.

 

 “We are currently engaged in heavy fighting, repelling numerous attacks by the enemy, who outnumber us 10 or 12 to 1, a soldier known by the call sign “Stone” said.

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“We still have resources. However, we are still waiting for heavy weapons and shells.”

 

Belatedly, Ukraine’s partners are becoming alert to the issue. It is reported that the U.S. has ramped up 155 mm artillery production from 10,000 to 15,000 rounds per month and intends to increase to 90,000 per month by 2024. Similarly, Ukraine’s European partners are implementing a Covid-style push to collectively produce ammunition for Ukraine.

 

The question remains will enough arrive in time to swing success in the war even further towards Ukraine. 

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