Tag Archives: Ukrainian tank poacher

The Cost vs the Cost

Western-supplied Ukraine Stinger MANPADS, M141 BDM (SMAW-D), the NLAW, and the Javelin ATGM, are seen with transit cases.

As seen in this Wednesday’s DOD contract announcements:

Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin JV, Tucson, Arizona, was awarded a $311,171,700 modification (P00074) to contract W31P4Q-19-C-0076 for full-rate production of Javelins. Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona, with an estimated completion date of Nov. 30, 2026. Fiscal 2022 Foreign Military Sales (Jordan and Lithuania) funds and Army procurement appropriations funds in the amount of $311,171,700 were obligated at the time of the award. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Red Stone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity.

Now, $311 million sounds like a lot, right? Well, according to the Pentagon, that only buys around 1,800 Javelins, putting the cost per missile in the $172K range.

The release on Thursday from the Pentagon on what they are billing as the “Javelin Replacement Contract” stressed this would be for replenishing U.S. stocks (some 8,100 have already been withdrawn to fight to Russians, a four-year stockpile at current annual production rates, and about one-sixth of the total ever made), as well as new missiles for Kyiv/Kiev and “international partner missiles”:

The Army awarded a production contract for $311 million on Sep. 13 to the Javelin Joint Venture (JJV) between Raytheon Missiles and Defense and Lockheed Martin for delivery of more than 1,800 Javelins that will serve as replenishment for those rounds from DoD stocks sent to Ukraine in support of their military and security forces.

“This award is a great example of our continued commitment to strengthening our domestic industrial base while supporting our allies and partners,” Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William A. LaPlante said. “As we use various authorities to replenish our own stocks, industry can expect a strong, persistent demand signal.”

This procurement is part of the Ukraine Supplemental appropriation. The contract includes Army Ukraine replenishment, Army FY22 procurement, and international partner missiles.

“This award demonstrates the Army’s ability to use the new authorities given to us by Congress to acquire critical capabilities for our Soldiers, allies, and partners rapidly and responsibly,” said Douglas R. Bush, the Army’s assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics, and technology.

To date, the Javelin Joint Venture has produced more than 50,000 Javelin missiles and more than 12,000 reusable Command Launch Units. Javelin is expected to remain in the U.S. weapon arsenal until 2050 and is subject to continual upgrades to support evolving operational needs.

Current open source data leads to the realization that the Russians have lost some 1,122 tanks in Ukraine since February, with about 670 of those being destroyed. Most of these are T-72 variants. As the Ukrainians have few tanks of their own, these likely kills came from advanced anti-tank weapons such as Javelin mixed in with drone attacks, heavy mines, and lucky hits from 105/122/155mm artillery.

Of course, the cost of a Russian T-72, which first entered service in 1973, is a moving price that has varied widely over the years.

Back in 2016, you could buy a 1980s-vintage export model surplus from the Czech Army for just $50K USD

The T-72 has been around for a minute, as detailed by this mid-1980s DOD Graphic (DAST8512646 via the National Archives) however, it isn’t a cheap tank as fielded these days due to 21st-century upgrades.

On the other end of the spectrum, as recently as 2016, Moscow was paying about $1.1 million a pop just to upgrade older models in reserve to the new T-72B3 (Ob’yekt 184-M3) standard including a better powerpack and reactive armor while the Indians embarked on a similarly-priced program to bring their 30-year old T-72s into the 21st Century with new engines and night vision equipment.

When speaking of the near-newest T-90M (Ob’yekt 188) main battle tank, manufactured by Russia’s Uralvagonzavod plant with the new Shtora-1 countermeasures suite, third generation Kontakt-5 ERA, Kalina FCS and 125mm gun, you are in the $4 million range per hull range, at least in 2021 figures. The Russians have reportedly lost at least 23 T-90s in their Ukrainian summer vacation.

The bottom line is, when it comes to dollar-per-ruble, which side is spending more in the tank vs Javelin race, and is the attrition sustainable?

One thing not taken into account, however, is the life of Russian tankers, a thing that Moscow, at least, seems unconcerned with at the moment.

Ukraine Goes 1973 Yom Kippur

Some of the videos and photos coming back from around Kharkiv/Kharkov, where Ukraine has mounted what seems by all accounts to be a very successful counteroffensive, are stunning. Russian forces have without question abandoned significant amounts of equipment and materiel around the city, with indications pointing to a disorganized rout.

“Russian equipment abandoned. Russian soldiers switching into civilian attire and trying to blend into the population and escape the front. This is not a ‘red badge of courage’ moment for Putin’s army,” noted ADM James Stavridis.

Even the Russians are confirming they have pulled back their lines, which is a rare admission from Moscow in a war that for the past 200 days has been akin to Baghdad Bob.

By some accounts, the military feint to the south around Kherson and detailed intel provided to Kyiv/Kiev by Western sources, set up the Russians for an easy fall.

It is all very reminiscent of the Israeli counter-push in the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

Takeaways as noted from the ISW:

  • Ukrainian forces are continuing to make impactful gains in Kherson Oblast and are steadily degrading the morale and combat capabilities of Russian forces in this area.
  • The Russian military command may be suspending the deployment of newly formed units to Ukraine due to recent Russian losses and overall degraded morale.
  • Russian forces are failing to reinforce the new frontline following Ukrainian gains in eastern Kharkiv Oblast and are actively fleeing the area or redeploying to other axes.
  • Ukrainian forces continued targeting Russian military assets and positions in Kherson Oblast, likely steadily degrading them.
  • The Ukrainian recapture of Izyum has likely degraded Russian forces’ ability to conduct artillery strikes along the Izyum-Slovyansk highway.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced the restoration of the second reserve power transmission line to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).
  • Ukraine’s sweeping counteroffensive is damaging Russian administrative capabilities and driving Russian departures from occupied parts of Ukraine far behind the line of contact.

Of course, the Russians are regrouping and plastering the region to the Northwest of Kharkiv/Kharkov with lots of rockets and air-delivered weapons (often with VDS flying missions that stop at the Russian border then lofting weapons to target down range) and if the Ukrainians outrun their supply lines the tide could turn. However, the first snowfall in the region normally hits in mid-October so the “fighting season” is likely to close in just a few weeks.

One key statistic that I would like to reference is that Oryx, which has been keeping a public running tab of equipment lost by both sides– using photographic reference as confirmation — since the war started on 24 February, has surpassed the 1,000th tank documented lost by the Russians. In comparison, Russia lost only three tanks during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.

The Oryx Russian tank tally as of 13 September stands at 1,087, of which destroyed: 654, damaged: 44, abandoned: 51, and captured: 338. Most are T-72 variants (638) but a lot are newer T-80s (210) and even some T-90s (22) while only a few are ancient models such as the 43 T-64s logged.

As a note on propaganda and “body counts,” the Ukrainian MOD says they have zapped twice as many Russian tanks, which is obviously inflated.

The Ukrainians claim 2,175 Russian tanks have been accounted for, roughly a 100 percent inflation from what has been confirmed with open-sourced imagery.

By comparison, Oryx has Ukraine losing 259 tanks, mostly modified T-64BV models. This points to the massive amount of modern anti-tank weapons sent to the country in recent months.

Just take a look at the latest (8 September) fact sheet from the Pentagon on the $15 billion worth of goodies the U.S. alone has provided– it contains 8,500 Javelins (which will take at least four years to replace, just saying), 1,500 older TOW missiles, and 32,000 “other” mostly one-shot anti-armor systems such as M136/AT-4s, M72s, M151 BDM/Mk 153 SMAWs, etc.

Another interesting development is using cheap drones– even commercial Chinese quad-copters– by Ukrainian “poacher” units to drop grenades and mortar bombs down the hatches of resting Russian tanks behind the lines.

In short, Ukraine is the scariest environment imaginable for a Russian tanker to operate.