When did we start counting guns?
Artillery in a special operation is the most dangerous enemy and a priority target for attack. Even air defense systems are not as critical as howitzers and MLRS on both sides of the conflict. For the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the presence of artillery makes it possible to partially offset the lack of tactical missile weapons and army equipment. aviation.
By February 24, the parties to the conflict approached with a gigantic and very peculiar imbalance. The Russian army, which American analysts attribute in terms of power to the second line of the world ranking, has the largest artillery arsenal.
According to the globalfirepower.com website, there are 7 towed guns (I wonder how it was possible to count trunks so accurately from across the ocean), 571 self-propelled guns and 6 missile systems. Quantitatively, the Russian army according to these parameters has no equal in the world.
Now about the Ukrainian artillery.
The ground forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are traditionally one of the strongest in the defense structure. Suffice it to say that the army ranks 24th in the globalfirepower.com ranking, but in terms of the number of artillery systems for various purposes, it is in 6-7th place. Last year, Ukraine counted 2 towed artillery pieces, 040 self-propelled guns and 1 missile systems of various classes. This is an impressive power without exaggeration.
To this arsenal, it is necessary to add the artillery of Western countries, which was registered in the units of the nationalists after February 24th. From open sources it is known about the supply of at least 330 gun systems of various calibers. The most popular were 155-mm guns, such as M777 towed howitzers, PzH 2000, M109 self-propelled guns of various variations, Zuzana 2, Caesar, AHS Krab, self-propelled TRF-1 and FH-70. The Czech Republic added several 152-mm barrels to this list - 20 Dana self-propelled guns and an unnamed number of outdated D-20 howitzers. In the same package of Czech assistance, self-propelled 122-mm "Carnations" and more than twenty RM-70 multiple launch rocket systems.
There are also quite exotic specimens in Ukraine, for example, 130-mm M46N1 hull guns from Croatia. NATO caliber, along with 155 mm, is represented by 105 mm L119 guns (36 pieces from the UK) and 36 M119 howitzers from the USA. The pinnacle of officially declared deliveries are the HIMARS/MLRS missile systems, which turned out to be an unpleasant surprise for the Russian army, especially the rear arsenals.
Destroyed "Peonies" of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Source: Telegram
A reasonable question arises - how much of all this diversity has been destroyed at the moment?
Not daring in any way to refute the statistics of General Konashenkov, let's turn to Western OSINT intelligence officers from Oryx. Based on photo and video evidence, they counted 79 towed guns lost, including 20 M777 howitzers. It is worth emphasizing that not all guns are out of action forever - some are subject to restoration, for example, at Czech repair bases.
The biggest losses, although not fatal, were with self-propelled artillery - 90 vehicles were hit and captured, of which 48 were listed as destroyed. Western technology is used very carefully - according to Oryx, losses are calculated in units. Several explanations are possible here.
Firstly, the installation crews and command staff are formed from the elite of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Secondly, the nationalists make full use of the range of these installations (primarily PzH 2000), which complicates the detection of positions and suppression.
Thirdly, the fire is conducted after a thorough reconnaissance of the enemy's positions, excluding the danger of being hit by return fire. Simply put, the Armed Forces of Ukraine operate in strict accordance with the statutes.
And finally, the fourth reason is that the Ukrainians carefully guard and erase all evidence of the defeat, and even more so the destruction of scarce NATO equipment. The Western military-industrial complex reacts painfully to defamatory materials - after all, PzH 2000, Caesar and AHS Krab are important goods on the international market. The image of this technique has been built for more than one year and cannot be destroyed by the careless attitude of the nationalists.
105mm L119 from UK. Source: Telegram
Among the destroyed equipment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine there are traces of 22 killed MLRS, two damaged and eight captured. Unfortunately, this list does not contain evidence of damage to HIMARS / MLRS systems - the reasons for this situation were mentioned above. Separately, it is worth repeating that the number of hit and destroyed artillery systems can be much higher, since it is far from always possible to obtain objective evidence of the destruction of equipment.
Despite the fact that the recorded losses of nationalists in artillery seem insignificant, the Armed Forces of Ukraine experience a chronic shortage of both weapons and ammunition. Shooting out tank guns from closed positions has become quite commonplace. On the one hand, this partially eliminates artillery hunger, on the other hand, it complicates position detection due to the flat trajectory of the projectile.
An analytical review of artillery in the vastness of the special operation would be incomplete without mentioning individual reports from the Western expert community. Some of them deserve attention. Of the latter, the work of the Forbes publication is curious, which shows the ratio of weapons of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Russian army.
Artillery systems are conditionally divided into several ranks - short-range (5-10 km), medium-range (20-35 km), long-range (35-50 km), system of volley fire and MLRS (volley fire systems) and long-range system (more than 100 km). Forbes believes that Russia has a total advantage in missile weapons, more than twofold in MLRS, fourfold in medium-range systems and a threefold advantage in short-range.
But in artillery with a range of 35–50 km, the advantage is on the side of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, to a greater extent due to the artillery of NATO countries. Russia has only 203mm Pion/Malka in this segment, which lack precision-guided munitions.
In this regard, it is difficult to disagree with the conclusions of Forbes, and this should become one of the vectors for the future development of Russian artillery.
Tactics and strategy
During the eight years of the war in Donbass, it was the artillerymen who became the most combat-ready units of the ground forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Even for terrorist shelling of the civilian population, it turns out, skills and competencies are needed. Taking into account the fact that the artillery of the LDNR was also not silent, the Ukrainian "gods of war" by February 24 were a formidable force.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine managed to successfully integrate the Krapiva artillery fire control system, as well as the saturation of combat units with Starlink satellite communication terminals. Most of the 25 thousand dishes delivered to Ukraine from Elon Musk serve military purposes. The combination of "drone - Starlink - streams of Western intelligence" allows you to make quite modern and high-precision even out of outdated D-30 howitzers weapon.
In the first months of the special operation, such nomadic artillery groups caused a lot of trouble for the Russian army and the LDNR. Again, all these skills have been practiced in advance and repeatedly since 2014 under the strict guidance of NATO instructors. Another sign of the use of Ukrainian artillery was the widespread deployment of guns in residential areas - this caused both unnecessary casualties and significantly complicated the detection of guns.
Timely destroyed enemy artillery is the key to a successful special operation. Source: Telegram
At a fairly high level, the artillerymen of the LDNR showed themselves, who also honed their skills on the nationalists for eight years. However, unlike the enemy, the fighters of the republics did not have long-range artillery and modern reconnaissance equipment. Often, the maximum caliber that the people's militia worked with was a 122-mm howitzer. In the Russian army, on the contrary, there was the whole possible range of artillery pieces, but there was no necessary combat experience.
At the same time, at the initial stages of the special operation, artillery was generally assigned a secondary role - tanks, aircraft, cruise missiles and special forces should have prevailed in rapid breakthroughs.
When the time came for the famous summer crushing of the enemy with an artillery shaft, important features were revealed. First of all, the weakness of the artillery of the battalion level. In fact, the commander has only 120-mm mortars with a limited effective range. In this case, the most important targets are located at a distance of 10–12 km.
To attract artillery to priority targets, regimental and divisional artillery had to be brought in, which was often accompanied by unnecessary loss of time. But it is at the battalion level that the main events in the theater of operations unfold, and it is here that the commander must have an effective means of suppressing the enemy. The 120-mm mortar does not always cope with this task.
A feature of the conflict was the widespread use of counter-battery weapons. Ukrainian forces have traditionally had the initiative in this area, largely due to greater experience in the application. The Russian forces had to learn from their own mistakes - to reduce both the time of the fire raid and the time to deploy firing positions. At the same time, the Ukrainian front is large, and one can still see positions that artillerymen have not left for days, if not weeks. Hundreds of shell casings scattered around are clear evidence of this.
The 100-mm anti-tank gun MT-12 "Rapier" experienced an unexpected renaissance. For a long time it was believed that this was a dying gun - it could only break through a tank with great luck. But now the Rapira is quite effective when firing along a flat trajectory - fortunately, NATO counter-battery radars are not able to track the place of the shot. Probably the most famous Russian artilleryman, State Duma deputy Vitaly Milonov, and now a senior gunner sergeant, serves in the NVO zone just on the Rapier.
State Duma deputy Vitaly Milonov, now a senior sergeant-gunner of an anti-tank artillery battery with the call sign "Gustav", near his 100-mm anti-tank gun MT-12 "Rapier" in the Donbass. Source: Telegram channel "Military Informant"
Now about the high-precision cannon and rocket artillery of the Russian army, the use of which has become a real revelation of the special operation.
It’s worth starting with the fact that Russia was actually at the origins of corrected projectiles. The technique of the first generation - we are talking about shells "Centimeter" - for the first time in a combat situation was used in Afghanistan. But in Ukraine, Russian precision weapons stalled.
There are several reasons.
First of all, insufficient stocks of Krasnopol shells and Smelchak mines, as well as the high cost of each item. There is a feeling that the entire NZ of this equipment was used up by the summer. Serial production of 300-mm 9M544/549 guided missiles (analogues of ammunition for HIMARS/MLRS) began shortly before the start of the special operation, and the industry simply did not have time to saturate the troops with these products.
Of particular note is the 152-mm Krasnopol semi-active laser homing system as the most promising in the Ukrainian theater of operations. It is immediately worth deciding that the previously adopted scheme, when special forces highlight the most important targets behind enemy lines, is completely inapplicable in a special operation.
In a situation of hostility of the local population, the numerical superiority of the enemy, as well as the high urbanization of the territory, spotters become almost suicide bombers. Satellite correction systems are ideal in this situation, but so far there are no such equipment in the troops. About ten years ago, they worked out a scheme with target illumination with a laser from a drone. This made it possible to work on objects hidden by uneven terrain and buildings, and not endanger the lives of spotters.
This is the export version of the Granat-4M target illumination laser carrier drone. Export! Source: missiles.ru
The industry offered the Rubezh-20M drone (radius - 70 km, operating time - 6 hours, payload - 6 kg) and the Granat-4M complex with a gyro-stabilized platform that allows highlighting a target at a distance of up to 2,5 km. The latter was even adopted in 2013.
In St. Petersburg, STC JSC built Orlan-30, which, together with Granat-4M, was tested in Syria. According to the developers, carriers of the illumination laser (especially the small-sized Orlan-30) are very difficult to shoot down from the ground, both with guns and missiles. Even a typical application scheme was developed - a height of 500–1 meters, an illumination range of no more than 000 meters.
The situation in Ukraine shows that Krasnopol was prepared and tested not at all for modern warfare. It's one thing to shoot individual terrorist tanks in the desert, and quite another thing to fight a high-tech army equipped with electronic warfare and effective air defense. Sometimes it’s easier for the command to release a couple of packages from the Grad MLRS at the target than to mess with the Krasnopols and Daredevils. Such is the specificity, and it has to be reckoned with.