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Wildly off topic #12 – Ukraine has the edge in materiel, weapons, and logistics

Today’s the latest in a three-part update on Russia’s war on Ukraine – we covered military manpower and the motivation to fight before the holidays, today we finish with (a very brief) discussion of losses and supplies of materiel and ammunition, and the overall supply (logistics) situation.


According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, Russia has lost over 2000 artillery systems, 4700 trucks and fuel tanks, 550 planes and helicopters, 3000 tanks and over 6000 armored trucks to date. I’m skeptical; opponents’ claims re the casualties and destroyed materiel and machines suffered by the other side are usually pretty – if not downright wildly – optimistic.

I’d suggest the UK’s figures are more accurate:

4,500 armored vehicles, 63 fixed-wing aircraft, 70 helicopters, 150 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), 12 naval vessels, and over 600 artillery systems.

And yet another source which seems to have pretty specific data…and is summed up neatly in this piece.

The latest analysis shows that in the ongoing war in Ukraine, total Russian equipment losses reach 8,515 as of 21 December. In contrast, Ukraine’s military has lost 2,613 pieces of equipment in combat.

Russia had far more materiel at the outset, but is having a very difficult time replacing losses of their more modern equipment and vehicles.

From Army Technology – Ukraine has received:

the Patriot air defence missile system is on the way – this will help combat Russia’s assault on civilian infrastructure

US has provided or promised to provide more than 11,000 military platforms for the land, sea, and air domains (crewed and uncrewed) and more than 105 million small arms, mortar, and artillery munitions, among an undisclosed number of other high-end missiles.

Platforms provided include Mi-17 helicopters and T-72 tanks, and western equipment such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, 155mm, 122mm, and 105mm artillery, and armoured mobility vehicles such as the M113, M1117, and Mine Resistant Protected Vehicles, also known as MRAPs.

While Russia is getting drones, some armored vehicles and tanks and ammunition from a few allies/suppliers, it doesn’t have near the supply chain enjoyed by Ukraine. The NATO equipment is more modern, more lethal, and harder to locate and destroy than much of the equipment Russia is now using as replacements for lost equipment.

US Javelin rocket – used against armored vehicles

HOWEVER, a rule of thumb is about a third of equipment is out of action at any one time due to maintenance, repair, upgrade, or training.

AND, there are reports that NATO and US supplies of some munitions and equipment are running low, and replacement/restocking will take time. A very detailed study is here.


I wrote a pretty detailed post 10 months ago about logistics, which is simply getting enough supplies to the units that need them – when they need them. Simple enough in concept  – incredibly hard in practice, and while one could certainly think planning is everything, history suggests that pre-war plans are usually based on the wrong assumptions.

Here are key takeaways…

  • Russia’s incredibly corrupt government has enriched a handful of oligarchs. These gazillionaires got huge contracts to supply tires, medical kits, rations, clothing, winter gear and spare parts; build military bases; fabricate tanks, airplanes, helicopters, rockets, ammunition, armored vehicles, airplanes, trucks and artillery; and spent most of those rubles on huge yachts, estates in Switzerland, supercars, Caribbean resorts, designer baubles and personal security staff. As a result, the military is short of pretty much everything, which is why…
  • Russia is running out of ammunition.  Reports indicate it may need to use artillery shells that are years past their use-by dates. turning to Iran and North Korea for ammunition, drones, and other materiel.
    This from

    • Degraded ammunition can injure or kill troops who fire it. “You load the ammunition and you cross your fingers and hope it’s going to fire, or when it lands that it’s going to explode,” the official said.

(a very good discussion of this is Martin van Creveld’s SUPPLYING WAR)

What does this mean?

Ukraine is winning. That does NOT mean it has – or will – win.

That depends on continued support from NATO and all of us. 

2 thoughts on “Wildly off topic #12 – Ukraine has the edge in materiel, weapons, and logistics”

  1. Joe, as a former armor officer in the National Guard, you are right on target concerning the use of old munitions. Use of old munitions that were in bad condition greatly contributed to the damage to the USS Forrestal when it caught fire in 1967, in which a young John McCain was almost killed. Russia will see the same things, and some of this may already have happened. We don’t know what has caused some of the explosions and fires in their ammo depots, both in Ukraine and in the homeland. We tend to think Ukrainian sabotage, but bad munitions could also be partly responsible.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



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