Stormbreak: Fighting through Russian defences in Ukraine’s 2023 offensive

Think tank: RUSI

Author(s): Jack Watling; Nick Reynolds

September 4, 2023

This report from UK think tank RUSI looks at the tactics employed and training provided during the Ukrainian offensive.

Irrespective of the progress made during Ukraine’s counteroffensive, subsequent offensives will be necessary to achieve the liberation of Ukrainian territory. It is therefore important to assess the tactics employed and training provided during the Ukrainian offensive to inform force generation over the coming months.

This report scrutinises tactical actions to identify challenges that need solving. The prerequisite condition for any offensive action is fires dominance. This has been achieved through blinding the counterbattery capability of Russian guns and the availability of precise and long-range artillery systems. Ensuring the sustainability of this advantage by properly resourcing ammunition production and spares for a consolidated artillery park is critical.

Russian forces have continued to adapt their methods. Some of these adaptations are context specific, such as the increased density of minefields, from a doctrinal assumption of 120 metres to a practical aim to make them 500 metres deep. Other adaptations are systemic and will likely have a sustained impact on Russian doctrine and capability development.

The foremost of these is the dispersal of electronic warfare systems rather than their concentration on major platforms, a shift to application-based command and control tools that are agnostic of bearer, and a transition to a dependence on more precise fires owing to the recognised inability to achieve the previously doctrinally mandated weight of imprecise fire given the threat to the logistics sustaining Russian guns. It is vital that Ukraine’s partners assist the country’s preparations for winter fighting, and subsequent campaign seasons now, if initiative is to be retained into 2024.