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It was believed that Russia’s high-tech artillery system would win the war in Ukraine. But the soldiers did not know how to use it.

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Ukrainian soldiers capture a Russian howitzer 2S19 in March 2022.

through social media

The Russian military has spent decades and billions of dollars building the world’s most formidable artillery fire control system. By combining drones, radar and thousands of modern howitzers and rocket launchers, the fire control system could theoretically direct a target, relay coordinates and shoot the shells in just 10 seconds.

In practice, in the chaos of Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine, the system barely works — and the artillerymen themselves are to blame, according to Maxim Fomin, a militia fighter for the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic and a pro-Russian blogger. “Most gunners before February 24 did not know how to fight in modern conditions,” Fomin wrote on Saturday under his pseudonym “Vladlen Tatarsky.”

Fomin was referring to the gunners of the Northern Military District of the Russian Army, but the same criticism could apply to other military districts – even the entire army. An advanced artillery fire control system is useless if soldiers don’t know how to operate it. Of course they can fire a lot of grenades. Just don’t count on them hitting the right things – and certainly not anytime soon.

As the Russian Army moves tube and rocket artillery up and down front-line units – from battalion to brigade to division to army – it is the battalion-level guns closest to the front and perhaps most vulnerable to enemy forces . are dangerous. ,

Colonel Liam Collins and Captain Harrison Morgan wrote in an article for the Association of the US Army, “The effect of artillery in BTGs is to provide” maximum responsiveness when small opportunities arise. In each BTG there are usually 18 tracked howitzers. Fomin called them “the gods of war.”

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that’s unusual. For example, the U.S. military usually ranks its weapons at the brigade level. The benefit to Americans is concentration and central control. A brigade can move artillery to support the battalions and companies that need it most.

The advantage is for the Russians paceA Russian battalion commander does not have to ask the brigade for fire support. He has his own. And it’s right there, right behind the ranks of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. In addition, the BTG must have access to high-speed targeting data from drones and a single PRP-4A radar vehicle that travels with the battalion and scans for enemy forces.

In addition to the radar vehicle, the brigade has the radar vehicles SNAR-10 and Zoopark-1 and can also deploy its own Orlan-10 or Orlan-30 drones. The brigade passes the target coordinates to the battalion, which passes them – along with any targets – through the battery commanders to the non-commissioned officers with the guns.

the key is that the battalion benefits of the brigade but not need This one. And the battalion certainly doesn’t need an echelon above brigade to fire. The battalion is only a few miles from the enemy. The brigade is far away. Division and army level guns and missiles would be even further away.

The close integration of tanks, infantry and artillery should have enabled the guns to fire rapidly at enemy forces who could take cover for less than a minute at a time. In theory, well-trained Russian gunners would always be needed. “Cycling Today” [from reconnaissance to engagement] It literally takes 10 seconds,” said Major General Vadim Marusin, Deputy Chief of Staff of Russia’s Ground Forces.

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The fire control system worked reasonably well on a small scale during the first phase of Russia’s war against Ukraine in the eastern region of Donbass in 2014 and 2015. Russian batteries often disrupted Ukrainian attempts at mass attacks.

But between 2015 and 2022, most of the Russian military’s operations took place in Syria, where fighting was brief and the enemy artless. According to Fomin, artillery skills were weakening. “The Syrian experience does not suit Ukraine at all,” he wrote.

In addition, the military became complacent – and received too few Orlan drones to support a large-scale fire control system. “On February 24, most of the artillery went into battle with compasses and binoculars in hand,” Fomin wrote. “The spotter had to climb a tree or somewhere else to get the fire under control – that wasn’t enough [unmanned aerial vehicles] and in most cases it was no UAV.

Radar vehicles were present but could not compensate for the lack of drones. “For the most part, nobody knows how to use them, or maybe they’re ineffective,” Fomin wrote of radars. “I can say one thing for sure: I never heard at the command post that they received a target designation from radar equipment.”

With very few drones and broken radar links, and relying on spotters with binoculars stuck in trees, the Russian artillery batteries entering Ukraine were sketchy at best. At least they were blind.

The lack of drones has also prevented the Russian batteries from making good use of their Krasnopol laser-guided grenades. According to Fomin, the Orlan-30 drone equipped with a laser designator is the best means of guidance in Krasnopol. Without a sufficient number of Orlans to determine the targets, the high-tech shells go unused.

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Fomin claimed that the situation had improved since February. Many batteries are now in Chinese-made DJI quadcopter drones. A quadcopter may not have a laser designator, but it does is doing There’s a video camera – and it’s a huge improvement over a spotter in a tree. The units have also started exchanging messages through the social media app Telegram.

Fomin claimed that as Russia’s wider war against Ukraine enters its ninth month, Russian artillery fire control systems are still not working as designed. But it’s never too late, he stressed. “Russian god of war will easily solve this problem with Ukraine if troops get more Orlan-30s to house Krasnopol,” he claimed.

The problem is that Russia is struggling to acquire drones. Domestic manufacturers are being pressured by foreign sanctions, forcing the Kremlin to make deals with Iranian industry. But Iranian drones also contain many foreign parts. Iran may be a drone manufacturer At Being sensitive to limitations.

Even worse, the training standards of the Russian army are met lowerno High, As more and more experienced soldiers die or die in hospitals – and conscripts with no more than two weeks of cursory instruction take their place. If Russian gunners with months or years of training cannot operate an advanced fire control system, what chance do untrained conscripts have?

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