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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Putin’s Ukraine Disaster: Could Russia Run Out of Missiles?

Russian Artillery Firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Russian Artillery Firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

A missile shortage for Russia? Nine months into the war and the Russian military is running out of cruise missiles and manpower as it prepares to stand its ground in Kherson in the south.

On day 244 of the war in Ukraine, the Ukrainian forces continue to hold the strategic initiative and push the Russian military all across Ukraine besides Bakhmut in the Donbas where the Ukrainians are playing defense.

The Russian Casualties

Meanwhile, the Russian military continues to suffer very heavy losses in Ukraine. Despite the partial mobilization of 300,000 troops (that is the official number; reports indicate that through covert mobilization efforts, the Kremlin has mobilized about 1 million Russians), the Russian military is still facing manpower shortages on the front lines.

Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Tuesday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 68,420 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 271 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 248 attack and transport helicopters, 2,611 tanks, 1,674 artillery pieces, 5,321 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 377 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 16 boats and cutters, 4,054 vehicles and fuel tanks, 190 anti-aircraft batteries, 1,372 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 149 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 350 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.

Running Out of Missiles 

After nine months of war, the Russian military is running out of precision-guided long-range missiles. According to the Ukrainian Military Intelligence (GUR), the Russian military has used almost all of its pre-war ballistic and cruise missile stockpiles to target Ukrainian urban centers and critical infrastructure.

The Ukrainian military intelligence chief, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, stated that the fewer Russian strikes against Ukrainian urban centers and critical infrastructure are a sign of a quickly depleting arsenal of cruise missiles. According to Budanov, the Russian forces have used almost all of their cruise missile arsenal, with just 13 percent of their pre-war Iskander, 43 percent of Kaliber, and 45 percent of Kh-101 and Kh-555 pre-war stockpiles still left.

Indeed, the Russian missile shortages are getting so dire that for a while now, Russian commanders have had to rely on using anti-aircraft, such as the S-300 weapon system, and anti-ship missiles against ground targets, with the concomitant loss in accuracy and effectiveness.

Usually, what happens during wartime is that militaries will start by using their older missiles first in order to ensure that they don’t go past their end date.

The heavy sanctions imposed on the Russian defense and aerospace industry further intensify the problem for the Russian military, which can expect to receive about a handful of cruise missiles from the Russian industry every month.


Russian ICBMs. Image Credit: Creative Commons.


Iskander Missiles. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

With no end in sight for the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin advisers are likely to turn to foreign allies and partners, such as Iran and North Korea, for help to replenish their quickly-depleting missile stockpiles. However, such a move would further alienate Russia from the international community and precipitate Moscow’s entrance to the unenviable club of pariah states to which Tehran and Pyongyang belong.

Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.