How An Artillery Paradox Is Crippling Putin’s Invasion

19FortyFive reports that leaked Pentagon documents estimate that 189,500-223,000 Russians have been killed or injured. The number for Ukraine is between124,500-131,000.

The artillery is the leading cause of death in Ukraine, responsible for 80% of all casualties. Russia has a substantial artillery edge over Ukraine, with twice as many guns, MRLs, and large ammo stocks.

Russia utilizes massed area fire, but Ukraine uses artillery fire as a long-range sniper weapon to take off individual targets, which is the key to victory. The use of small drones for artillery spotting and cheap tablet computers running software like the Nettle system to direct fire has revolutionized the Ukrainian military.

Kropyva (“Nettle”) proprietary intelligence mapping software was developed in 2014 by the Ukrainian volunteer organization Army-SOS and is compatible with any Android tablet. Nettle draws battle plans, pinpoints enemy positions, and plans artillery strikes. 

The Ukrainian armed forces use thousands of DJ consumer quadcopters alongside locally built military-grade drones such as the Leleka-100 and Spectator-M. 

Drone-guided fire reduced the number of artillery rounds needed to destroy a standard platoon defensive position from 60 to 90 to just 9, suggesting an improvement of 7-10 times. Ukrainian drone footage demonstrates how individual firearms can effectively replace large-scale artillery.

Ukrainian BMPs and tanks fire 73mm guns, assisted by drones and Nettle. These are just two examples of how this strategy is used in the field. Precision indirect fire is being conducted with older weaponry such as the T-12 Rapira anti-tank from 1961, the 73mm SPG-9 recoilless rifles, and the AGS-17 Plamya 30mm automatic grenade launchers. 

Ukraine and Russia are deploying drone-guided indirect fire, but Russia has a paucity of drones and lacks backing from senior commanders. While Russia uses costly military drones and software, Ukraine rapidly adopts commercial drones, consumer gadgets, and software from Ukrainian start-ups. Russia has been able to successfully jam Ukrainian consumer drones, reducing their accuracy in targeting, but alternatives that are resistant to such interference are becoming more widely accessible.

This could lead to more advanced networked communications, small and autonomous drones, and faster and more precise firing. The power of big data may exceed that of big weapons.