A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Apr 2, 2024

Ukraine "Massacres" Largest Russian Tank Assault of War Near Avdiivka

Ukrainian forces near Avdiivka turned the largest Russian tank attack of the war into the largest massacre of Russian armor of the war. 

The result reveals that, two years into the war, Ukraine's combined drone and artillery defenses are better informed, better led and more lethal than are Russia's new supplies or armor and recruits. JL 

David Axe reports in Forbes:

On Saturday, the Russian army launched the largest-scale tank assault of the war. It ended in one of the largest-scale tank massacres of the war. When the smoke cleared, the Russians had left behind - on a road west of the ruins of Avdiivka - a third of their tanks. That the Ukrainians could defeat such a large, heavily-armed Russian force despite inadequate munitions, (shows) Ukrainian brigades are capable of fierce defense. The Ukrainian 25th Brigade spotted the 48-vehicle column—and hit it hard. “Twelve tanks and eight BMPs were taken out.” Artillery scatters the Russian vehicles. The survivors then become easy targets for FPV drones. Mines and anti-tank missiles add to the carnage.

On Saturday, the Russian army launched what may have been one of the largest-scale tank assaults of Russia’s 25-month wider war on Ukraine.

It ended in one of the largest-scale tank massacres of Russia’s 25-month wider war on Ukraine. When the smoke cleared, the Russians had left behind—on a road west of the ruins of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine—a third of their tanks.

The costly assault underscores two clashing trends as Russia’s war of choice grinds into its third year. For weeks prior to the Saturday assault, Russian regiments and brigades—apparently short on vehicle after losing hundreds of them capturing Avdiivka back in mid-February—mostly deployed foot-borne infantry to attack west of the city.

That changed in the recent days. “On the Avdiivka direction, the enemy has reintroduced the employment of armored vehicles, including tanks,” the Ukrainian Center for Defense Strategies noted on Friday, the day before a battalion or two of those vehicles rolled into a bloodbath near Tonen’ke.

That the Ukrainians could defeat such a large and heavily-armed Russian force points to the other trend. Despite struggling with inadequate supplies of key munitions, Ukrainian brigades still are capable of mounting a fierce defense—often with a combination of mines, artillery, anti-tank missiles and explosive first-person-view drones.

“Sometimes it is amazing the amount of stupid, mindless ... meat that dies in bundles due to the ambitions of a small [man],” the Ukrainian air-assault forces’ 25th Brigade mused in a social-media post following the Saturday battle west of Tonen’ke on Avdiivka’s western outskirts. That small man is, of course, Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Thirty-six tanks and 12 BMP fighting vehicles from the Russian army’s 6th Tank Regiment—part of the 90th Tank Division—attacked along a road threading from Russian-occupied Tonen’ke toward the free village of Uman’ske, two miles to the west.

 

The Ukrainian 25th Brigade spotted the 48-vehicle column—and hit it hard. “Twelve tanks and eight BMPs were taken out,” wrote “Kriegsforscher,” a drone-operator with the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade. “Pure madness.”

If the Russians actually gained any ground at the cost of those 20 vehicles—and potentially scores of troops—the gains were modest. The day after the assault, the Center for Defense Strategies described the fighting around Tonen’ke as “positional,” meaning neither side significantly was advancing.

How the 25th Brigade eliminated that record-large Russian tank column isn’t totally clear from the visual evidence of the battle’s aftermath. But it’s not hard to guess. Ukrainian forces’ standard defensive tactic is to locate, with drones, a Russian assault group and disrupt it with a well-aimed artillery barrage.

The artillery scatters the Russian vehicles. The disorganized survivors then become easy targets for FPV drones that pluck at individual soldiers and vehicles. Mines and anti-tank missiles might add to the carnage.

This tactic was born of necessity after Russia-friendly Republicans in the U.S. Congress cut off aid to Ukraine starting in October—depriving Ukrainian forces of the majority of their heavy munitions and ultimately compelling the ammunition-starved garrison in Avdiivka to retreat in mid-February.

It took Ukraine’s European allies a few months to regroup following the Republicans’ shocking betrayal. In a heady six weeks starting in mid-February, a Czech-led consortium pooled more than a billion dollars to buy at least a million artillery shells for Ukraine.

 

The first of the shells should arrive in the coming weeks, partially restoring Ukraine’s artillery firepower. But that months-long ammo-gap motivated Ukraine massively to expand production of FPV drones. A network of small workshops now produces more than 50,000 drones a month.

Where before a Ukrainian artillery battery might fire 10 shells to defeat a Russian assault group, now it fires just five shells—and coordinates with nearby FPV-operators to finish off the Russians.

Expect this tactic to continue shaping the battlefield even as fresh ammo arrives in Ukraine. In the coming weeks and months, the Ukrainians likely will continue defending against Russian assault groups mostly by coordinating their howitzers and drones. Only now, there might be more artillery in the mix than there was in recent months.

That’s a blessing for friends of a free Ukraine, as Russian assault groups might be getting bigger and heavier. Meaning it takes more firepower to stop them.

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