Despite its widely observed and much discussed setbacks, logistical failure, tactical inefficiencies and morale problems, the Russian military remains a massive force in terms of sheer size soldiers, hardware, vehicles and weapons systems.
However, Pentagon observers say Ukrainian fighter are overcoming this deficit with effective logistics, tactics, unit more and sheer will to fight.
“They are performing very, very well on the battlefield, their unit cohesion is not an issue, their command and control is not an issue, their logistics and sustainment has been nothing short of historic,” a senior DoD official told reporters, according to a Pentagon transcript.
Despite their heavy losses, visible setbacks and inability to seize and hold territory, the Russian military is still known to be massive in size and scope with more than 12,000 tanks and four times as many active duty soldiers, according to Globalfirepower.com. The 2022 assessment on Global Firepower reports that Russia operates 850,000 active duty forces, compared with Ukraine’s 250,000.
There are also enormous discrepancies in other key areas such as attack helicopters, armored vehicles, fighter jets and artillery. For instance, Russia operates nearly six times as many Self-Propelled Howitzers, three times the amount of towed artillery and a massive advantage when it comes to Mobile Rocket Projectors.
The Russians have 3,391 Mobile Rocket Projectors, compared to 490 Ukrainian systems, according to Global Firepower. This numerical imbalance might help explain why the Russians continue to fire so many missiles into Ukraine and underscore the importance of why Ukraine has needed the US artillery systems they now have.
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“The Russians still have available to them a significant amount of their amassed combat capability from back in the fall. They still have a numerical advantage, they still have a lot more military capability available to them. I mean, we just need to bear in mind that the Russians do have a significant amount of their combat capability left to them.
Video Above: With a Seemingly Massive Fighter Jet Advantage, Russia Can't Achieve Air Superiority over Ukraine
The senior DoD official was also clear to emphasize that there are of course a wide range of intangibles quite difficult to assess when it comes to what determines the outcome in war. Having more force or firepower alone, if not matched but the necessary morale, sustainment, supplies and tactics, might not yield the hoped for results.
“Combat capability itself doesn't win wars, you've got to have the will to fight, you have to have good leadership, you have to have command and control, and they're suffering from that. But all of that combined with the fact that we're talking about an area of Ukraine that these two sides have been fighting over for eight years we just continue to believe that this could be a prolonged fight,” the official said.
The developments in this war also point to another interesting observable dynamic related to the fact that sheer force size may not be sufficient to prevail without proper tactics. A much smaller, decentralized, yet highly motivated Ukrainian force has been able to destroy an overwhelmingly large mechanized Russian force using anti-armor weapons, ambush tactics and dispersed, yet networked formations.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.