Weapons: Russia Running Out of Antique Weapons


April 16, 2024: Russia may lose its ability to carry out offensive operations in Ukraine by 2025 because of a shortage of armored vehicles. Russia lost thousands of its most modern tanks during the first few months of fighting in Ukraine. Since then, Russia has relied on older tanks stored in pre-1991 arms storage facilities. These elderly tanks are one of the primary sources of tanks that allow Russian troops to continue fighting despite massive combat losses. Russia has been withdrawing tanks, other armored vehicles, and artillery from these storage sites since late 2022. These weapons were produced from the late 1940s through the 1970s. Most of these armored vehicles and artillery were withdrawn from service decades ago. Now these weapons are being refurbished so they can return to battlefield operations. Weapons that are too decrepit to return to combat are cannibalized for spare parts for use by weapons factories as well as army weapons repair facilities close to the combat zone.

These storage facilities are being stripped of all usable combat vehicles, including those only used for spare parts. These stockpiles cannot be replenished because of the demands for combat vehicles to fight in Ukraine and the inability of the Russian weapons industries to produce enough new or reconditioned armored vehicles. If the fighting in Ukraine maintains its high level of combat intensity and heavy Russian losses continue in 2024, it will be much harder for the Russian army to maintain its military power for offensive operations in 2025. That means the conventional Russian military threat to other nations in the region is much more limited.

The shortage of Russian weapons reserves plus new weapons production means as long as Ukraine continues to receive military assistance from NATO countries, Russia will soon have fewer weapons than the Ukrainians. Most Russian forces in Ukraine are already on the defensive and Russia has been able to carry out fewer and fewer offensive operations. Russian losses in Ukraine were higher than expected because Ukraine innovated and produced thousands of relatively cheap UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and USV (Unmanned Surface Vessels) to dominate the battlefield on land and sea. Half the Russian Black Sea Fleet has been disabled or destroyed by USVs and the surviving ships have moved to distant ports to avoid destruction.

UAVs, many of them armed, have dominated the fighting on land by providing Ukrainian forces with constant surveillance of the battlefield and the ability to quickly attack any Russian forces detected. The Russians have to equip their trucks and armored vehicles with an overhead screen to provide some protection from UAV attacks. Russia has deployed several generations of electronic jammers to disrupt the Ukrainian UAV operations. The Ukrainians quickly responded by changing control frequencies or other aspects of equipment being jammed. Ukrainian use of UAVs is constant despite Russian countermeasures. Most of the Ukrainian UAVs are manufactured in Ukraine by local firms. That means one of the most useful Ukrainian weapons is produced locally, not brought in as part of a NATO aid effort.

Russia has no similar internal or external sources of military aid involving significant numbers of UAVs or anything else. Unless the Russians can conjure up some more weapons and munitions, they will soon be unable to continue combat operations in Ukraine.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close