NewsRussian logistics falter as Ukrainian forces target supply chain

Russian logistics falter as Ukrainian forces target supply chain

28 February 2022. A Russian convoy heading towards Kyiv. Only in the early days of the war did the invaders not have logistical problems.
28 February 2022. A Russian convoy heading towards Kyiv. Only in the early days of the war did the invaders not have logistical problems.
Images source: © Getty Images | Maxar

7 July 2024 18:38

Since the beginning of the full-scale war, Russians have lost nearly 20,000 trucks and tankers in Ukraine. This constitutes over 25 percent of their total equipment losses. This is linked to the Ukrainian tactics - it is easiest to neutralise the aggressor's advantage by destroying his logistics.

Napoleon Bonaparte made logistics an important part of his strategy. He proved that efficiently functioning logistics is the foundation of waging war. As long as it functioned, he achieved victory after victory. In 1812, he struck at Russia, logistics began to fail, and almost nothing was left of the Grande Armée.

During the Second World War - among other reasons due to the lengthening supply chain - the German blitzkrieg in the east collapsed.

Proportions say it all

A simple comparison speaks volumes about how hard it is to maintain an efficient supply chain. The ratio of soldiers serving in the rear to those on the front lines is 25-30 to 70-75, in favour of logistics personnel. Supplying frontline units, ensuring they have everything needed to conduct combat, is, as you can see, an incredible effort.

For the Russians, up to 27,000 metric tonnes of ammunition, lubricants, fuel, and food need to be delivered to the front every day. All supplies first arrive by rail to main depots in the rear of the front, and then they are sent to stage points under the corps, followed by divisions and brigades, until finally reaching the end user on the front.

From the division level, the army uses only trucks. They move from the corps depots through the division depots to the front. They operate close enough to the front lines that hunting them down is not a major problem. Especially since they are unarmoured, even a drone with a suspended grenade can destroy them.

Ukrainians reported that they have destroyed 19,713 trucks and tankers, which accounts for 25.41 percent of the total number of equipment lost by the Russians. This causes a lot of problems, especially in terms of food deliveries.

Fighting "on an empty stomach"

Napoleon is credited with the saying that "an army marches on its stomachs," which is why he paid great attention to feeding his Grande Armée. This cannot be said about Putin. Russian soldiers have been complaining about supply shortages and irregular deliveries since the beginning of the war. Scenes of looted grocery stores have repeatedly circulated worldwide.

The main culprit is the organisation of meal delivery, entirely different from Western patterns, which are also being adopted by the Ukrainians. NATO armies mainly provide soldiers with freeze-dried meals, which, after adding liquid and heating, become a complete meal. The Russians also use them, but they are more like iron rations to be consumed only when logistics doesn't deliver cooked meals from the rear.

Anyone who has watched "Four Tank-Men and a Dog" remembers how Gustlik ran through no man's land with a thermos full of krupnik soup. The situation is quite similar for the Russians, whose food was initially delivered by catering companies to the rear, from where it sometimes, but more often not, reached the front.

The decision to reinstate field kitchens in logistics units was quickly made in April 2022. This came after the defeat near Kyiv and the retreat when it became clear that the few days of operation would take a bit longer. Then, old field kitchens began to be repaired, and the army sent orders for more. Systematic logistical failures led to the dismissal of General Dmitry Bulgakov, who was responsible for logistic support for the operation as Deputy Minister of Defence.

Saving fuels

Tankers have become such a coveted and frequent target that the Russians began to camouflage them in various ways. Starting from mounting ordinary tarpaulins to covering tanks with wood to make them look like they were transporting lumber from the forest.

December 2023 and January 2024 were record-breaking in terms of losses. The Ukrainians reported that they destroyed 931 and 937 fuel trucks, respectively, during those months. These results stem from the fact that the Russians were forced to change how they transport fuels on the southern front. Fuel was long delivered by trains across the Crimean Bridge, but due to frequent attacks, they began to deliver it via the M14 highway through Mariupol, Berdyansk, and Melitopol. The solution proved far from ideal because almost the entire route is within the range of Ukrainian drones. The Kremlin traded one problem for another.

Communication lines

The problem is very stretched communication lines. After experiences from the battles on the western bank of the Dnieper and frequent attacks on depots and stage points, the Russians moved their depots further from the front. The further they are, the more forces and resources they have to engage in transport, burn more fuel, and remain within the range of Ukrainian systems for longer.

Losses are so severe that the Russians were forced to buy more vehicles in China. They are receiving 8x8 Shacman Shaanxi SX2300 trucks, capable of carrying up to 17 metric tonnes of goods, and smaller 6x6 Shaanxi SX2190 trucks, many of which were delivered in fuel transport configurations.

It is important for the Ukrainians that they can paralyse communication lines, most often using drones with suspended mortar grenades. This way, they achieve quite good results at a relatively low cost.

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