Another day, not much happening in Ukraine. (As I write this, Sunday night. Things might always change, even though if not much has.) Ukraine continues to harass Russian forces, as this twitter account tracking video of losses on both sides shows. (This single attack destroyed 16 Russian vehicles!) But with no real new news on the battlefield, let’s do something else. Let’s analyze the one video we have showing the big picture overview of a Ukrainian ambush, and what it says about the state of Russia’s forces. Warning, the video shows the killing or injuring of multiple Russian soldiers, but from up above. So not graphic, but … still disturbing.
The video opens up with a convoy of Russian vehicles coming down a four-lane boulevard in a remote region. Ukrainian forces are hidden behind a tree line. They allow a few vehicles to pass, before two anti-tank rockets fire. One has no reaction, maybe hit the tree line, or was a dud. The other, likely a British NLAW, hits a tank, which has its top blown off, but continuous rolling decapitated down the road.
Incredibly, two soldiers seem to jump out of the stricken tank, one running toward the ambush site, where he falls to the ground and stays down, likely hit by small arms fire. The other books it away from the ambush and finds refuge on the other side.
Immediately, convoy vehicles disperse (at 0:13). Most turn tail and head for the opposite side of the road. An armored personnel carrier (APC) stops right behind the stricken tank and six soldiers ridding on its roof jump or fall off, one is immediately immobile on the road. The other five all try to run away from the ambush, desperate for that cover on the other side of the road. Two more don’t make it. They’re seen slowly trying to crawl to safety. By the end of the video, they’re immobile on the road. One more goes down on the opposite lane, but crawls to safety by the end. A second APC behind that first APC also comes under small-arms fire, seven soldiers dismount, three are immediately gunned down. There’s a bit of a wrenching moment at 0:18 where one fleeing solider slows down by one of his fallen comrades, hesitates a bit, likely deciding whether to help, but then decides to save his own skin and books it, refusing to slow for another injured comrade trying to crawl to safety. At 0:49, yet another Russian on the median strip goes down.
The bulk of the convoy behind the ambush site stops. The vehicles ahead of the ambush book it out. Finally, the two closest tanks face the ambush site, start firing rounds into the tree line. At 0:50, the most amazing thing happens. One of the tank fires a round, you can see where it hits here:
Just a split-second letter, no more than 10 meters away, a Ukrainian ambusher fires back, despite being deafened by the explosion, feeling heat and shrapnel from the near-miss. With a supernatural steady hand ...
… he hits!
The front of the tank is the thickest armor, but white smoke follows the black smoke, suggesting it penetrated. End result, three vehicles destroyed, and eight Russians down on the road, whether dead or injured impossible to tell.
So what would you do if trapped in a similar ambush? Maybe you think it’s perfectly reasonable to run the hell away from the “kill zone” as fast as your legs can take you. It’s human nature to run away from danger, after all. But as counterintuitive as it may sound, the best chance to survive an ambush is to attack it. This is how the US Army teaches it:
a. Soldiers in the kill zone immediately return fire, take up covered positions, and throw fragmentation grenades or concussion and smoke grenades. Immediately after the grenades detonate, soldiers in the kill zone assault through the ambush using fire and movement.
b. Soldiers not in the kill zone locate and place suppressive fire on the enemy, take up covered positions and shift fire as the assault begins.
a. Soldiers in the kill zone immediately return fire and take up covered positions. The leader identifies the enemy’s location and soldiers place accurate suppressive fire on the enemy’s position.
b. Soldiers not in the kill zone begin fire and movement to destroy the enemy.
c. The unit moves out of the kill zone, forces the enemy to withdraw, or destroys the ambush.
In both cases, standard operating procedure is to face the ambush head on, suppress the enemy with fire (forcing them to keep their heads down), and move to flank the ambushers by moving to their sides. With all that armor present, all those Russian vehicles (including the chickenshit ones in the back of the convoy) should’ve rushed into the ambush zone and laid down heavy fire, while the infantry could then work their way to the sides and try to trap the Ukrainians. Only two Russian tanks got it right, and they may have very well gotten some of the ambushers. Had more joined the battle, the ambush wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. The ambushers would’ve had to book it after taking out the one tank. But it takes a great deal of training and trust in your unit to pull this off, while your brain is screaming RUN!
In this case, with no (initial) suppressive fire from the convoy, the ambushers were left unchallenged, easily shooting those Russian in the back as they ran away panicked. Most vehicles turned away, exposing their weaker flanks (lucky for them, there weren’t enough ambushers to cause even more damage.) Tactics and training matter, and Russia clearly has neither, to disastrous consequences.
The United States lost a total 7,075 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, in over 20 years. Russia has already lost at least that much in less than three weeks. In those 20 years, American forces were so effective at repelling ambushes, that the enemy resorted to roadside IEDs and suicide bombers to inflict casualties. Yet no Russian general thought it helpful to study that film and adopt those tactics? Sure confirms analysis stating that Russia keeps its general stupid in order to prevent any real challenge to Vladimir Putin’s power. Clearly, it’s working, Just not for Russia or the hapless souls trapped in its army.