Original written by Ukrainian/Russian blogger Yurasumy and published by Politrussia.com; translated for SouthFront.org by J.Hawk
The summer campaign is heating up. We have seen more than three months of continuous engagements of small or medium magnitude which allow us to draw conclusions concerning the strategic tasks facing both sides and the tactics they will use to achieve them.
But for starters let’s examine how both sides’ combat abilities have changed.
The painful losses suffered by Kiev in winter of 2015 have left their mark. But even that is not the Junta’s main problem. The biggest discovery by the Ukrainian society, the junta command, and the war’s main contractor (the US) was the UAF’s inability to conduct not only active offensive operations but even to offer stubborn resistance. It became obvious that the situation cannot be fixed in the foreseeable future. Rather, to the contrary, Ukraine’s internal problems will continue to undermine junta’s soldiers’ morale to an even greater extent.
A soldier, attempting to evade frontline service even before the summons to the military commissariat, was seized, given the most inadequate equipment, and thrown under constant fire without working equipment. A soldier like that is not going to fight. That’s why we are constantly receiving information from the front about junta’s forces retreating by 200-500 meters from their “defensive positions” (often near medical facilities or civilian housing) following severe bombardment, and only Novorossia’s army’s unwillingness to go on the offense allows the front line to remain unchanged. The battle at Maryinka on June 3 was a clear example of Junta forces “resilience”.
Ukraine’s mobilization potential so far has delivered only 10% of its table strength. The remainder has not been activated, for one reason or another, in any of the SIX waves of mobilization.
The mobilization of technical equipment over the last 18 months has shown the country’s complete incapability to wage a protracted war. Repair facilities have still not been rebuilt.
Although there are certain successes. For example, Ukraine is gradually re-establishing gun barrel production.
Equipment repairs are of low quality (up to a THIRD of equipment after a capital overhaul is unserviceable, as indicated by reports from the front and training facilities) and of insufficient volume. After only two short intensive engagements (July-August 2014 and January-February 2015), Kiev’s army has suffered equipment losses of a magnitude that its military-industrial complex has still not been able to mitigate.
The quantity of combat-ready tanks has not increased (if anything, it decreased), there are slightly more AFVs though largely due to the import of old NATO wheeled equipment [Saxons] or domestic armored cars unsuited for combat operations. Artillery experienced significant growth, mainly large-caliber towed.
UAF reforms and its current condition
The Junta’s army has undergone several reforms during the civil war. The first “reform” was of forced nature and consisted of forming several dozen territorial defense battalions. These battalions were formed for the following reasons:
–UAF’s inability to absorb all the mobilizees. The formation and equipping of the new units fell to local governments (with various political forces undertaking the task of financing for their own parochial reasons).
–The lack of equipment needed to form fully capable combat units. The problem has not been resolved throughout the time of territorial units’ existence, which resulted in their heavy personnel losses and inability to hold terrain during the defensive operations of August 2014-February 2015.
The Kiev regime hurriedly prepared reserves for the escalating war and, one has to admit, these reserves saved the regime’s army which was annihilated in the summer campaign.
The second phase of reform began in the fall of 2014 and consisted of reforming the remnants of the army into more or less battle-reading units with a certain degree of organizational uniformity. This entailed fleshing out old cadre units, and the remaining battalions and new recruits were used to form new units. That’s how Ukraine got the old-forgotten motorized infantry units.
The losses suffered by airmobile units during the previous campaigns meant their structure and equipment suffered major changes. Junta’s leadership realized these formations were airmobile in name only but tried to preserve their mobility while at the same time improving their punch. In the event, these reforms lead to UAF getting several light brigades (which are still called airmobile) which received heavy upgrades.
According to their order of battle, each brigade includes three reduced-strength battalions of 300-320 soldiers, a tank company (10 T-80 tanks), THREE artillery battalions (2S1, D-30, BM-21). And support units.
In other words, the light brigades underwent a complete reorganization. They can no longer perform airdrops. Organic artillery was tripled. A tank company was added.
Overall, the UAF currently has FIVE airmobile brigades:
25th (Gvardeyskoye, Dnepropetrovsk District), 79th (Nikolayev, Bolgrad), 80th (Lvov, Chernovtsy), 81st (Konstantinovka, Donetsk District), 95th (Zhitomir).
One new brigade appeared since the beginning of the war, the 81st, created from 25th and 95th brigades and territorial battalions. The 79th and 80th Brigades each have a fourth separate airmobile battalion (88th and 87th, respectively).
The light brigades are mainly equipped with new armored cars received from NATO or built in Ukraine: Saxons, Spartans, transferred to the airmobile brigades together with MT-LBs. They still have some BTR-80s, BTR-70s, BMD-1, BMD-2, BTR-D. They started receiving tanks in July (the first batch of 8 tanks went to the 95th Brigade). Each month 7-8 more tanks are delivered. The second batch was transferred on August 22 in Chuguyev.
1st Naval Infantry Brigade. Formed in Nikolayev. Sent to the front in the summer of 2015.Composition: three motorized naval assault reduced battalions of 300-320 troops (BTR-80, BTR-70, Humvee). One tank company (T-64), THREE artillery battalions (2S1, D-30, BM-21).
It’s a yet another light brigade, though part of the Navy.
Thus overall the UAF has six identical mobile brigades and the ability to deploy a seventh (with the 28th training airmobile battalion). Total of 21 light battalions, 6 tank companies, and 12,000 troops.
Once fully equipped, mobile forces will have 50 T-80s and 10 T-64s. Artillery organization is still nto clear: 4 or 6 gun batteries (my information suggests 6-gun batteries), with 108 2S1, 108 D-30, 108 BM-21. Up to 700 AFVs of various types. At the moment they have about 50% of their tanks, 80-90% of AFVs and artillery.
UAF airmobile units are considered the elite of the army. They are assigned an important role in the new strategy which is why they have priority for new equipment.
Two brigades, as before the war:
1st (Goncharovskoye, Chernigov District), 17th (Krivoy Rog, Dnepropetrovsk District).
They have not been touched by reforms. Their composition has remained unchanged, apart from changes in types of equipment. The 17th finally received its third battalion.
Overall: six tank battalions and two motorized rifle battalions, 8 artillery battalions. Total of 190 tanks, up to 100 AFVs and with 36 2S1, 2S3, and BM-21 each. 4500 troops per brigade.
However, in actuality these units are severely under-strength, with only 20-30% of authorized equipment.
Like the mobile units, tank brigades are mainly used as mobile reserve which means they have suffered comparatively light losses.
The Kiev regime started the war with EIGHT mechanized brigades. Right now it has TEN. The cadre brigades (14th, 24th, 28th, 30th, 72nd, 92nd, 93rd, 128th) were expanded by two more at the end of 2014: 53rd and 54th. Their organization suffered some changes since the start of fighting.
The 40-tank battalion was transformed into a standard 31-tank one. However, shortages and losses mean that brigades usually have no more than 20-25 tanks each.
The artillery order of battle officially remained the same: 18 BM-21, 18 2S3, 18 2S1, and 18 anti-tank guns, though all units have serious shortages for reasons described in earlier articles.
Mechanized brigades have low strength because they are always at the front line and are therefore suffering most of the losses. They are lucky to have 60-70% of authorized equipment. There is no data on armored vehicle strength of the new 53rd and 54th brigades, though judging by everything they have major shortfalls.
In toto: 30 mechanized battalions, 10 tank battalions, 40 artillery battalions. Up to 30,000 troops. Up to 1500 AFVs, 300 tanks, 540 artillery pieces, 180 MRLs. Given the equipment shortage, their actual strength is closer to 1000 AFVs, 200 tanks, 300 guns (200 self-propelled), and 120 MRLs. Or even lower than that.
Motorized BrigadesFour such brigades were ordered formed. So far only ONE appeared at the front (the 57th). The 59th took up positions opposite of Crimea. Each has three motorized battalions (former territorial battalions).
These brigades have no tanks and almost no AFVs. Only infantry in trucks and towed artillery in reduced strength, no more than one battalion. These are de-facto reserve units awaiting equipment. If suddenly the equipment became available in sufficient numbers they would become normal mechanized brigades. But that’s unlikely.
Six poorly armed motorized battalions are ready for combat.
Artillery BrigadesThey also underwent significant reorganization. The UAF started the war with TWO artillery brigades of heavy howitzers: 28th self propelled and 55th towed.
Since the war started, two more tube artillery were deployed: 40th and 44th.
The 44th was formed in the summer of 2014 using the “inheritance” from the 11th Artillery Brigade disbanded in 2013, the 40th was formed by splitting the 55th. Thus by the beginning of the summer campaign the two brigades could deploy 4 howitzer battalions, and two more should be ready by the end of the summer campaign (in all likelihood they are already prepared).
The oft-mentioned 43rd brigade still has not appeared anywhere.
The 26th brigade (heavy self-propelled) has deployed 1-2 2S19 batteries and one reduced 2S5 battery, two 2S7 203mm batteries, giving a total of 25-30 heavy self-propelled howitzers.
Each of the howitzer brigades has three towed howitzer battalions with 2A65 152mm cannon and one anti-tank artillery battalion, giving a total of 9 battalions of heavy towed howitzers: 162 howitzers and 54 AT guns. Up to 3000 troops.
Separate rocket artillery units
Before the war there were three regiments each with three MRL battalions, the 15th (Grad, Uragan, Smerch), 27th (Grad, Uragan, Uragan), 107th (Grad, Uragan, Smerch), giving a total of 54 Grad, 72 Uragan, and 36 Smerch.
A fourth battalion with Uragan MRLs was formed in Sumy and the regiment was transformed into a four-battalion rocket artillery brigade.
However, the junta’s rocket artillery has two problems: shortage of BM-21 Grad (which means individual batteries have reduced strength) and of ammunition (leading to their less frequent combat use). If the losses continue, then soon the BM-21s will be transferred to mechanized units and all the rocket regiments will have only heavy MRLs (Uragan and Smerch).
Overall UAF strength (including still-forming units):
The strength of the field army ready for active combat operations (not include rear support units): up to 55,000 troops.
Tanks: 16 tank battalions and 6 separate tank companies. Authorized strength of 556 tanks, with up to 450 tanks available, of which only 300-350 are operational.
Infantry: 21 “light” mechanized battalions, 35 mechanized battalions, 6 motorized battalions. Authorized strength of 2500 AFVs, with 1500-1700 AFVs actually available, of which no more than 1200 are operational. Of those many are light wheeled vehicles.
Heavy artillery: 9 battalions of towed howitzers and up to 5 batteries of self propelled howitzers. Up to 200 weapons, of which no more than 150 are operational at any one time.
Army artillery: 38 howitzer battalions (26 self-propelled), 18 anti-tank gun battalions, 28 rocket battalions. Up to 700 howitzers (500 self-propelled), more than 300 AT guns, about 500 MRLs. But artillery also has major shortages, especially in MRLs, and in reality it has only 500 howitzers (350 self-propelled), 250 AT guns, up to 300 MRLs. Their availability is much higher than for armored equipment (80-90%).
A few words about the National Guard. Even though they are heavily propagandized, in terms of their combat ability they are greatly inferior to the UAF. They are not kept at the front (they’ve all been withdrawn lately). The following formations have participated in frontline operations:
–1st (Rapid Reaction) Brigade (Maidan activists)
–Kulchitskiy battalion (the remnants of the 1st and 2nd reserve battalions formed from Maidan sotnyas).
–Azov Regiment with three battalions and a tank company.
Overall, the NG is the MVD’s separate army with its own command and missions. The 1st Brigade and Azov are as well equipped as UAF mobile brigades and are almost equivalent in strength. Other “special” battalions have about up to 300 troops each and are de-facto light motorized battalions. Moreover, checkpoints are staffed by NG composite units from MVD units, with a total strength of up to 3-4 battalions. Their combat effectiveness is on a par with territorial battalions.
The total strength of the MVD’s army in the ATO zone is 6 mechanized battalions, 6 motorized battalions, up to 2 reduced tank companies, up to 6 artillery battalions. 5000 troops, up to 20 tanks, 200 AFVs, 100 artillery.
Border Troops on the Donbass
No tactical units have been formed. Border Troops man checkpoints including behind the front lines. Their main task concerns fighting smuggling and preventing “undesirables” from crossing onto junta-controlled territory.
To be continued…