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The Ukrainian Offensive

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

A Ukrainian T-84  cruises down a dirt road on a sunny day.  Two tank crew lean out of upper turret hatches as the tank drives.
7th Ukrainian Army T-84, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It's clear to both Russian and western observers that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are formulating a counter-offensive with three brigades comprising 90,000 troops. These brigades will be backed by light vehicles, much like the ones the UAF used in the October thunder run offensive. They will also undoubtedly be supported by drone-assisted artillery, mortars, and T-72s–Ukraine's most prevalent main battle tank.

The Ukrainians used the thunder run tactic with these vehicles to pierce dug-in Russian positions and circumvent them in the fall offensive last year. The attacks routed enemy frontline forces exposing logistical support vehicles behind the lines.

Thunder runs are designed to break defensive warfare by utilizing small avenues of attack pre-cleared of mines and heavy emplacements. These attacks essentially cut swathes in enemy lines using armoured vehicles that are able to move quickly and lay down a debilitating amount of fire. The Americans did this in Iraq with Abrams and Bradleys, causing whole cities to capitulate. Some consider thunder runs mini blitzkriegs, however, they are more of an evolved localized blitzkrieg.

Regardless, it's a horrifying thing to unleash on troops who have been embroiled in methodical trench warfare for five months. The speed and veracity of thunder runs can overrun, encircle and quickly isolate pockets of resistance. This isolation often forces the victims' capitulation.

Imagine being a Russian infantryman, you have little to no training, a rusty AK, and there are armoured fast-moving vehicles accosting your trenches with machine guns, auto-cannons, and belt-fed grenade launchers. You are lucky if you have an RPG, and larger anti-tank weapons are just too cumbersome to use against fast attack vehicles swarming your hastily dug positions. It’s a terrifying position to be in. Even sticking your head up to take a look could mean instant death. If you have an RPG, you first have to summon the courage to use it, and the truth of the matter is it takes time, luck, skills, and training to hit one of these vehicles in the heat of combat. Much of which the average Russian defender is lacking.

The war lately has been modern trench warfare. The Ukrainians drew some clever lines in the mud around hills, tree lines, and anywhere they had a good view of kill zones. While the Russians, for lack of better options or tactics, are using infantry wave tactics to take these positions. This is in no small part due to the Ukrainian's clever artillery-launched minefields, which are plaguing any armoured support the Russian invaders hope to muster.

100 kilometre around Bakhmut, the Russians are dying by the platoon. Leaked Russian reports recently claimed out of 3 attacks–100 men strong each–30 survived. So that's ten percent of 300 men returned after attacking Ukrainian dug-in positions.

Imagine the moral in these Russian rally points. They know they are going to die. They know they are attacking positions watched by drones, ranged by mortars, and guarded by cornered UAF–ready to riddle them with small arms.

These Russian troops are fatigued by failed attacks, which means they’re poised to route at the first whiff of a UAF assault. They’re not ready for an attack of any magnitude, let alone 90,000 well-trained troops in fast attack vehicles.

This isn’t even half of the knife-twisting news for the invaders. The Ukrainians are receiving JDAM packages which convert their dumb bombs to a gravity-powered missiles. These guided bombs can hit targets 50 miles away from the initial drop point.

The main advantage of a guided bomb over a missile is all that room in a missile you occupy with propellent you can fill with explosives instead. This means anyone within 220 metres of a 500-pound bomb will be in no mood to breathe, let alone fight.

Ukraine is also receiving 32 mig-29s from Poland and Slovakia. These have the electronic gear required to drop NATO payloads like the aforementioned JDAM. More evidence that Ukrainian allies are giving them complimentary equipment in the midst of something big.

The last offensive Ukraine mustered gained them ammo, equipment and weaponry. Assaults like these cause massive panic, which leaves anti-aircraft systems, artillery, and logistics exposed to line-of-sight weaponry. Artillery and AA systems are not designed to engage close-range line-of-sight weapons like tanks, light vehicles, and infantry, which is why the crew often runs and leaves these systems.

The Ukrainian offensive of spring 2023 may not start for 2 months. It’s highly possible it will commence in May when the mud will dry slightly to allow their new toys free rein. But it will start with every single Russian hard point along the thunder run vector erupting via JDAM and HIMARS, and will more than likely end with a mass route of regional Russian forces and large swaths of liberated land back in UAF hands.


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