Equipment Losses In Russia’s War On Ukraine Are Increasing

The International Crisis Science Institute (IISS) evaluates how long Moscow can maintain its present pace of equipment attrition as its losses in the conflict in Ukraine mount.

There are few indications that Russia’s full-scale, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which began nearly two years ago, would put a stop to the combat anytime soon, despite the country suffering heavy casualties in armored vehicles. It is projected that since February 2022, about 8,800 armored battle vehicles have been lost, including over 3,000 in the last year alone.

Given its losses over the last 24 months, Moscow must decide how long it can continue to lose equipment at this rate.

Russia’s assault on Avdiivka, which started in the fall of 2023, is only one instance of how the attacking army has experienced significant losses in resources and soldiers. Despite this, Russian forces gained ground there thanks to artillery superiority.

Defogging The Conflict

It is an imperfect science to track the operational fleets of main battle tanks (MBTs), infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), armored personnel carriers (APCs), and other equipment for either side in the conflict in Ukraine. There are many more factors involved in the inventory evolution in the land domain than in the high-profile losses of the Black Sea Fleet or Russia’s aerospace assets. 

The degree of losses can differ significantly, as can the rates of manufacturing and refurbishment.

Although the IISS has continued to update its statistics, the figures for changes in Ukrainian and Russian equipment are based on several inputs, including visually verified losses derived from many sources, most of which are photographs from the battlefield, particularly those gathered by uncrewed aerial vehicles. 

The impact of tactical skirmishes is typically reflected in these inputs, which tend to underestimate the extent of losses. Long-range engagements and the destruction of equipment, especially weapon systems like artillery and air defenses that operate farther behind enemy lines than tanks and infantry-fighting vehicles, are also often only partially captured.

Ukrainian Stocktake

The state of Ukraine’s ground force equipment progression is similarly unclear, sometimes even more so because of a bias on the Russian side in open-source photos of fighting losses. 

Assessment of Ukraine’s present inventory is backed by a thorough documentation of the information currently available on losses and the delivery of new equipment by Western partners of Kyiv. We chose not to give precise statistics in several situations when vehicle information has been unavailable for months due to the unpredictability of their operating state.

However, the Ukrainians’ efforts to field more combat components have surpassed the delivery of equipment, so several units still need to be fully equipped.

In Summary

Russia has managed to maintain a steady number of operational inventory units even if it loses hundreds of armored vehicles and artillery pieces every month. 

Russia brought back into service between 1,180 and 1,280 MBTs and about 2,470 IFVs and APCs from storage in 2023. Furthermore, Moscow was able to produce additional tanks and other armored vehicles, albeit even from satellite photographs, it is difficult to determine exact quantities.

However, commercial overhead photography does reveal Russian weaponry that may be stored and later activated or refurbished to make up for more losses on the battlefield. 

Russia has ten Central Tank Reserve sites, thirty-seven mixed weaponry and equipment storage sites, and twelve or more artillery storage stations. According to a thorough evaluation conducted by the IISS last year, equipment replacements were keeping up with wartime attrition.

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