The Russian military is increasingly unable to acquire the technology needed to replenish its stockpile of precision weapons critical to its continued progress in eastern Ukraine.
For months, reports have indicated that Russia’s arsenal of precision weapons is running out. At the same time, the Russian military has also been willing to fire unguided munitions indiscriminately into civilian areas, killing families, children and non-combatants.
Nonetheless, any type of sustained offensive will certainly require precision weapons to attack defensive positions, command and control nodes, and troop locations. Previously, Russian forces would have been reduced due to the amount of ammunition, rockets and missiles they fired. Yet Pentagon leaders now say the sanctions are increasingly hampering Russia’s ability to replenish its stockpile of precision weapons. Many of them rely on advanced technologies such as GPS signals, inertial measurement units, and other types of guidance systems.
“[T]The other important fact to consider is that in addition to the crippling sanctions that have been imposed on Russia, there are these export controls that limit certain critical technologies, particularly components like microchips that are essential for Russia is recapitalizing its PGMs and ranged ammo. So it’s not just that their inventory has drastically diminished because of everything they’ve spent during the conflict,” Colin Kahl, undersecretary for defense policy, told reporters this week during a briefing. briefing. “[I]It will just be much more difficult for them to rebuild their high-end parts of their army because of the international export controls that the United States has defended, so I think that’s important.
This is likely good news for Ukrainian defenders, especially as Russian weapon shortages will likely hamper the effectiveness of offensive combat operations. Without air superiority, which Pentagon officials say has yet to be won, the Russian military will lack the ability to attack Ukrainian defensive positions and fortifications from afar. With rockets and precision-guided missiles, the Russian military can locate Ukrainian command and control nodes, force positions and even armored vehicles if they have the necessary aerial surveillance and targeting data. An inability to attack these targets from 100 to 200 miles away means that attacking Russian forces will have to strike from closer and more vulnerable positions. Additionally, the Ukrainians dispersed their formations and decentralized command and control to make it difficult for Russian satellites and surveillance assets to identify high-value targets.
These types of targets, whether small groups of armored vehicles or force formations, would be extremely difficult to hit without precision munitions, and the Ukrainians are probably quite deliberate with efforts to disaggregate and minimize the amount of high value recognizable targets. As for less accurate or supposedly “dumb” ammunition, Kahl made it clear that the Pentagon and its allies may not know exactly how many Russia has in its arsenal.
“As for other ammo types, I feel like they have a lot of dumb artillery rounds and other ammo like that. I don’t think we have an assessment suggesting that they’re hitting an inflection point where they’re about to run out of it,” Kahl said.
This type of development reinforces the idea that the United States and its Western allies are becoming increasingly optimistic about Ukraine’s long-term prospects. Over time, Russia’s ability to conduct offensive operations may decline more and more. This may be one of the many reasons why the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine continues to provide large amounts of arms, supplies and aid.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the national interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a highly trained expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air military anchor and specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military pundit on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.