“Why Ukraine struggles to combat Russia’s artillery superiority” – TTG

A Ukrainian crew fires a round with an M777 howitzer on May 27, 2022. (ArmyInform)

Russian heavy artillery — the Kremlin’s deadliest weapon against Ukraine — is still a superior force that has no mercy. Almost six months into the full-scale invasion, Russian advances remain generally stalled. But despite much effort with Western-provided advanced weaponry, Russia’s artillery force is still inflicting heavy losses on Ukraine and goes unanswered much too often. Counter-battery fire, the tactic of hunting for and firing at the enemy’s artillery pieces, remains a weak spot in Ukraine’s military.

The Russian military indeed enjoys very strong numerical superiority. But Ukraine, in turn, often lacks proper organization of counter-battery activities on the battlefield. It also falls short of qualified top-level specialists. As a result, Russian artillery continues to devastate Ukrainian lines, causing Ukrainian infantry to pay an inflating price in blood. 

A lot has changed since Ukraine ran out of its old Soviet-standard munitions stock as early as June. It had to essentially switch to NATO-standard munitions of foreign supplies and acquire dozens of Western-provided artillery pieces — and it had to do it fast. Fortunately, this transitional period, one of the war’s most dramatic moments, was quick. If it weren’t for scores of Western artillery pieces like U.S.-provided M777s and extensive munition supplies, Kyiv would have been beyond hopeless at this point.

Russia’s numerical superiority, and its endless munitions stock, the result of decades of Soviet production, have had a devastating effect on the course of the war. Russian tactics of rolling artillery barrage, simple but brutal and overwhelming, have paved the way for Russian infantry through charred Ukrainian ruins. It has left many cities in ashes. The disproportion between the number of Russian and Ukrainian pieces deployed to a particular front line area can go as far as 10 to 1. 

But the acquisition of Western artillery, which is technologically superior to older Soviet pieces used by Russia, has saved Ukraine’s defensive campaign. Of even more significant effect was the ongoing campaign to destroy dozens of Russian munition and fuel depots across the occupied territories of Ukraine with U.S.-provided HIMARS rocket systems. The HIMARS campaign expectedly did not cause total munitions hunger in the Russian military. But it made Russia’s problematic logistics even more complicated and greatly reduced its ready-to-go munition stocks. According to estimates by Ukrainian artillery commanders polled by the Kyiv Independent, daily Russian munition expenditure in Ukraine’s east has been reduced from nearly 12,000-15,000 rounds to nearly 5,000-6,000, quite a relief to Ukraine’s military.

The fight between the two nations’ artillery forces has been beyond brutal. According to Oryx, an investigation project documenting war losses in Ukraine, Russia has lost at least 75 towed artillery pieces (including 32 152-millimeter 2A65 Msta-B howitzers) and at least 152 self-propelled pieces (including 46 152-millimeter 2S3 Akatsiya and 58 152-millimeter 2S19 Msta-S heavy pieces). Ukraine’s losses are also significant: Oryx has documented at least 50 towed and 51 self-propelled artillery pieces being destroyed, damaged, or abandoned. Oryx also knows of eight M777A2 pieces destroyed or damaged, formerly part of over 100 pieces sent to Ukraine by the U.S., Australia, and Canada. 


Comment: Illia Ponomarenko writes further to offer a critical appraisal of the Ukrainian force’s continued weakness in the artillery war, notably in counter-battery fire.  While Ukrainian artillery has a good integrated system in its Kropyva artillery application, the counter-battery radars don’t appear to be well integrated into this system, if at all. 

Beyond this, Ponomarenko points out “remains largely problematic, mainly due to the lack of effective top-level organization.” There are no artillery commands in the Army or at any of the operational fronts. He feels there should be an artillery brigade of four battalions at each front dedicated to the counter-battery mission. These brigades, and all Ukrainian artillery, needs improved communications and a separate field of artillery intelligence encompassing the counter-battery radars, more and better forward observer teams and “high-flying drone[s] flying back from the enemy lines 50-100 kilometers with sideways-looking sensors to identify artillery positions and movement.” I don’t know if the Ukrainian Army will move towards what Ponomarenko suggests, but the pieces are certainly there to make improvements. 

As a young Infantry lieutenant, I went through one of these artillery support transitions. When I got to the 25th Infantry Division, we had organic forward observers (FOs) for our mortar section. We would then be augmented by FOs for every different artillery or air fire support available. Then we lost our organic mortar FOs to the artillery battalions and were assigned fire support teams (FST) trained in calling for any type of fire support available. These teams were directed at the battalion level by a dedicated staff fire support officer. It was a great improvement, especially since our former mortar section FOs were part of our dedicated FST. We lost nothing and gained much. Imagine if we had reconnaissance drones back then.



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12 Responses to “Why Ukraine struggles to combat Russia’s artillery superiority” – TTG

  1. walrus says:

    “ Russian tactics of rolling artillery barrage, simple but brutal and overwhelming, have paved the way for Russian infantry through charred Ukrainian ruins. It has left many cities in ashes.”

    This is bullshit.

  2. Fred says:

    Sounds like the much touted Ukrainian counter offensive to reclaim territory is off the table for 2022. It also sounds like the much touted collapse of the Russian economy hasn’t damaged artillery ammunition production.

    • TTG says:


      Ukrainian consensus is that they will take back all of Kherson by the end of the year. Russian artillery ammunition is largely from massive Soviet-era stockpiles. That’s why they’re emptying out Belarusian ammo dumps. It does show that, even though the rounds fired is greatly reduced, the Russian are still able to supply their front lines with sufficient artillery tubes and ammo to remain quite lethal.

      • Fred says:


        So the Russians and moving this ammo out of whereever in Belarus and going 1,000 plus miles with various stops to stockpile dumps that then get funneled across pontoon bridges etc our host just wrote of? The remainder finally reaching the single rail line running out of Crimea and terminating in getting across whatever bridge, currently full of holes, to get to the Kherson area? Ok. Sounds like an assinine way to run a supply chain.

        • TTG says:


          The ammo from Belarus is probably going to the Donbas front. Ammo and equipment stocks from Siberia are headed to Ukraine as well. You do what you gotta do.

  3. Worth Pointing Out says:

    ….”and its endless munitions stock, the result of decades of Soviet production”….

    Am I to take it that this author is of the opinion that Russia’s munition industries shut up shop and ceased production in 1991?

  4. Klapper says:

    “…Western artillery, which is technologically superior to older Soviet pieces used by Russia…”

    There are new videos every day of extremely accurate Russian artillery single shot hits on Ukranian armour or artillery. I’m guessing they are using laser-guided shells, which somewhat negates the inferior technology comment.

  5. Jake says:

    Allow me to state that all these intelligence estimates which predicted the Russians would run out of everything any day now, proved that these intelligence services were utterly useless, or lying deliberately, in which case they are useless as well. Especially for people like us, with no access to more accurate reports. While Russian reports appear to be more convincing, despite the fact that we should assume that figures listed are most likely exaggerated, because they usually are. Still, this claim of massive losses on the Ukrainian side, almost slipped in unnoticed, is bound to reveal a most sobering truth in the not too distant future.

    This ‘stockpile’-thesis is interesting, since Ukraine sure receive a huge chunk of Soviet weaponry when it divorced itself from the former Soviet Union, which included factories. Russia itself, not being a ‘frontline state’ at the time, received comparatively less, if my sources are correct. But it retained the nuclear weapons, the long-range bombers, almost the entire navy-fleet, and everything ‘space’. However, Ukraine apparently lost around 210.000 tons of ammunition due to sabotage, according to Wiki. Which is likely ‘black market’ related, with certain interested parties selling stocked ammunition, simulating sabotage to cover their tracks in that ‘bottom of the pit’ corrupt nation, and to a lesser extent to ‘operatives’ blowing things up, but who knows?

    What is striking though, is that this entire story confirms what so many ‘Russian trolls’ stated about a crucial mistake in NATO’s strategy, where they took eight years to fortify defensive lines, anticipating on a major infantry offensive which never came. This agonizingly slow progress of DPR/LPR forces, backed by Russian artillery and precision missiles, has been analyzed by a ranking US Marine writing under the pen-name of Marinus, apparently, as ‘Maneuverist Paper 22’, although I only saw copy’s, and not the original. He isn’t impressed by claims that Ukraine is bound to win. And neither am I.

    NATO gave up on a quick decisive conflict, and all their statements are about supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes. My guess is that they still pray for sanctions and the occasional terrorist (partisan) strike, while wrecking efforts to rebuild the Donbas and Russian occupied territories with recently delivered western weapons to sour the mood in Russia itself. Yet, I get this feeling that the changing mood in Ukraine, and Europe, will cause NATO plenty of headaches, while in the US and the UK support for this war among the population is said to be waning, even though ‘Washington’ and ‘London’ insist on throwing billions of public money at it. This could end badly.

    • TTG says:


      Ukraine was selling off their stocks of Soviet-era ammo and equipment as fast as they could until 2014. And what they still retained was in terrible condition due to neglect, probably worse than a lot of Russian stockpiles. They damned near started from scratch since then.

  6. Leith says:

    Interesting that Pomarenko states Ukraine lacks “proper organization of counter-battery activities”.

    Yet Ben Hodges, former Commanding General of US Army Europe seems to thinksdifferently. He claims Ukrainian Soldiers have used ingenuity and innovation in using counter-fire radars.


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