While Ukraine’s much-discussed spring offensive didn’t kick off when expected, a number of news outlets around the globe are now reporting the beginning of a massive, 60-mile-wide counter offensive described as an effort to probe, disable, and push back Russian defenses and ultimately push the ongoing stalemate into Ukraine’s favor.
The fervor and tenacity of Ukrainian fighters, coupled with tactical proficiency has caused far more problems for the Russian military than may have been anticipated.
The reasons for this have unfolded for months and captured global imagination as Ukrainian forces defied a massive, much larger aggressor.
The prospects for success for a major Ukrainian offensive seem challenged and complicated, however, because Ukraine may not yet have enough heavy armor. Bradley fighting vehicles have arrived along with British Challenger tanks and other armored fighting vehicles, yet it seems unclear if the Ukrainians can mass a mechanized force large enough to truly reclaim and “hold” large swaths of territory.
It has been seen that a well-executed “move to contact” with Russian defenses can break through a perimeter or achieve initial success gaining “ground,” yet an ability to occupy reclaimed territory would likely need a larger armor presence coupled with a secure supply chain, logistical apparatus, and forward force transport systems.
Despite the fact that Ukraine’s military has clearly proven itself to be tactically adept, motivated, and armed with weapons sufficient to hold off and defeat ongoing Russian advances, Russia still has a numerical advantage in the sheer number of soldiers and equipment.
Russia’s tank force has been decimated and the Russian military was plagued with supply problems, morale deficiencies, and tactical ineptitude during the opening months of the invasion.
Generally, the Russian attackers have shown extremely poor combined arms maneuver ability when first seeking to invade Ukraine, yet the embattled forces continue to make unprecedented incursions into Russian-held territories, and sustain gains. This may still present a difficult new challenge for Ukraine.
Ukraine Forces Strategy
Some may argue that Ukrainian strategic thinking would be better served by maintaining a stalemate with some advances for a period of time until larger amounts of heavy armor and logistical support systems arrive.
By contrast, it may be that the effective employment of unmanned systems, air-ground surveillance, and coordinated attack, coupled with long-range ground fire and tactically effective armored assaults could achieve Ukraine’s sought-after short-term gains.
Prospects for the success of this kind of operation are much more likely to succeed at this time, given that the Pentagon has in recent months been sending tactical trucks, ammunition, and other critical logistical items necessary to supply and sustain advancing forces gaining new ground.
A transportation infrastructure, which has been arriving in recent months in the form of hundreds of tactical trucks; ammunition; and transport equipment, can move troops; weapons; and supplies to newly occupied forward areas taken by advancing Ukrainian forces.
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. 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.