Russian military forces are reportedly planning to station a total of five heavy artillery brigades. These brigades will be equipped with high-powered artillery guns, namely the 2S4 Tyulpan and 2S7 Pion. They will be integrated into army corps and combined arms, as per local news sources, both Ukrainian and Russian.
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The Russian media reports indicate that the commencement of these plans is already underway, with the first of these brigades—the 17th—operational within the 3rd Army Corps. Their current activities are reportedly concentrated in the Zaporizhian area of Ukraine.
As per speculations from various sources, specific roles will be assigned to these heavy artillery brigades. The 2S4 Tyulpan divisions are expected to launch assaults on Ukrainian troops’ defense structure. The 2S7 Pion divisions, on the other hand, are speculated to engage in counter-battery operations against Ukrainian 155-mm artillery. An advancement in warfare technology will be witnessed with the inclusion of drone units to augment precision in shooting.
A monstrous plan
It’s noteworthy that the Russian media has for the second time flagged up specific information. Such details came to light first in September of this year when plans to establish 5 heavy artillery brigades were brought to the public’s notice. It’s crucial to pay attention to these sorts of details.
Come the end of 2022, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation released plans to form 5 new artillery divisions within the year. This ambitious project raises eyebrows, with the main concern not merely about sourcing enough artillery pieces for these new formations.
The real puzzle here is how they will meet the ammunition needs for such extensive artillery resources. Just to put this into perspective, a single artillery division requires no less than 25,000 shells per day. Multiply that by five divisions, and factor in the ammunition demands of the rest of the Russian artillery – it’s not hard to see the enormous logistical challenge they face.
Is ammunition a problem?
At the moment, only the Russian Federation has an answer to this question. Despite claims for over a year and a half that the army was running out of ammunition, no such thing has been observed. That is why we must actively monitor the fighting and not rely primarily on political statements.
First, the Russian military-industrial complex is busy. Produces ammunition despite sanctions and restrictions. Second, according to foreign intelligence, Russia has stockpiled 4 million artillery ammunition. However, this figure is only from satellite observations of warehouses that are in the open. It is not clear how much ammunition is in the indoor storage. Third, North Korea will clearly become a “quiet” supplier of artillery ammunition. Foreign intelligence already says that the first 350,000 munitions from Pyongyang to Moscow have arrived.
Moreover, there are issues with the artillery units’ material conditions within the Russian army. One could surmise such a situation, given the Ukrainian assertions that throughout their summer counterattack, Ukraine’s Defense Forces were disabling up to 1,000 enemy artillery systems monthly.
Given these obstacles, it appears that the Russian military command has struck some sort of “compromise” between their ambitions and the realities of their resources. Instead of launching artillery divisions, they opted to roll out an alternative power in the form of heavy artillery brigades.
Before the widespread incursion into Ukraine, the Russian military boasted just a single heavy artillery brigade – the 45th, based in the Western Military District. This brigade was directed by the Armed Forces Command and was exclusively equipped with 2S4 Tyulpan and 2S7 Pion self-propelled artillery.
As per the military balance sheet of 2021, at this time, the Russian military had 40 pieces of 2S4 Tyulpan and 60 of 2S7 Pion [or 2S7M Malka] in their arsenal. It appears these specifically constituted the armament configuration for the 45th Heavy Artillery Brigade.
Shifting the focus to the 2023 directory data, it shows the Russian army’s stockpile held up to 200 units of 2S7 Pion and a similar count of 2S4 Tyulpan. Even after accounting for possible attrition, this substantial quantity could potentially be seen as the basis for developing additional heavy artillery brigades by the Russians.
The introduction of these units into Russian forces undeniably bolsters their firepower. This heightened threat necessitates that Ukraine’s Defense Forces amplify their counter-battery efforts.
However, this battle doesn’t hinge solely on artillery – long-range kamikaze drones also play a pivotal role. Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Zaluzhny, may well have been hinting at this in his column for The Economist when he stressed the importance of kamikaze drones.
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