As of Thursday night:
Remember, these are only visually confirmed kills, so they are most definitely an undercount. Yet even that number presents a bleak picture for Russia. There were around 120 Russian BTGs at the start of the invasion around Ukraine, and reportedly 160 BTGs army wide. We’ve already looked at the problems with Russia’s BTGs, but for now, let’s just look at how it’s constructed:
Each BTG has approximately 600–800 officers and soldiers, of whom roughly 200 are infantrymen, equipped with vehicles typically including roughly 10 tanks and 40 infantry fighting vehicles [...]
That means there were around 1,200 tanks in Ukraine, and around 1,600 in the entire Russian army. Of course, Russia likely has potentially tens of thousands of Soviet-era tanks in storage, but good luck getting that stuff working mechanically. Not to mention, they don’t seemingly have the crews for them anyway. Conscripts don’t learn to drive tanks. They are given 1950s-era rifles and thrown into the meat grinder.
Oryx counts 240 Russian tanks destroyed, captured, or abandoned. That is a very neat, nicely rounded 20% of Russia’s in-theater supply. Gone. Of the 4,800 infantry fighting vehicles, Russia has lost at least 449, approaching 10% of the total. And again, this is the floor, as not every battle, every loss, is video recorded, and not everything recorded makes it online.
Furthermore, remember that destroying a BTG doesn’t mean killing everyone in it.
[D]estruction of 60 [of its 600-800 soldiers] and 15 [of its 50 vehicles] will force a BTG to withdraw and reconstitute.
A few days ago, Ukrainian general staff had claimed over 30 Russian BTGs had been forced to withdraw to reconstitute, which is 100% plausible, given that nearly 700 tanks and APCs have been confirmed destroyed.
Russia’s saving grace has been its artillery, which by virtue of sitting behind the front lines, has suffered fewer confirmed losses than those spearhead infantry and tank units. Oryx counts just around 100 destroyed pieces of artillery. Ukraine just hasn’t had the capabilities to strike behind enemy lines, and it has given Russia free reign to conduct its heinous campaign of terror against urban civilians. And no, a no-fly-zone or Mig-29s wouldn’t be of any use dealing with this critical task. But you know what are? Those Switchblade killer suicide drones on their way from the United States to Ukraine. As Mark Sumner wrote yesterday, Ukraine will now have 1,000 new killer drones to deploy against the scourge of Russian artillery. It’s certainly what the Pentagon is expecting, as last night’s background briefing confirms:
Given how effective anti-tank missiles have proven against Russian armor and mechanized infantry, Ukraine is free to use the drones against artillery positions and their command-and-control and supply lines. If the steady supply of Javelins is any indication, those first 1,000 Switchblades are just the start, as replenishments get put on auto-delivery.
Take Russia’s artillery away, and what’s left? Two dozen cruise missiles fired daily from across the border, of which they’re likely running low anyway? Russia will always have the tools to murder, but take away their artillery, and there goes about 95% of that capability, while Javelins, NLAWs, and brave Ukrainian defenders take care of the rest of Russia’s war machine.