125+ days of Russian invasion of Ukraine on ten charts

On the 28th of June, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its 125th day, four months since the conflict broke out on the 24th of February and ‘The return of history’, as Time Magazine announced on its cover a week after the invasion began.

These are undoubtedly history-shaping times, probably even more so than it may have seemed at first. Back in the early 90s, for the first time, people all over the world were able to watch Operation Desert Storm live on TV — events broadcasted by the main American TV networks. Now, three decades later, the Russian invasion of Ukraine can be followed on online platforms, with information posted by the stakeholders themselves at a pace that follows that of the war itself.

In fact, the traditional and social media coverage of the invasion has turned the internet into a digital battlefield, where live coverage of the events can be followed in unprecedented detail, and the data flow can be monitored, commented on or even further analysed to better understand the situation. This is citizen science and open-source intelligence at their best.

The following project intends to add to the existing data scraping and analytical work of IT experts. Moreover, it aims to demonstrate the potential of citizen science and open-source intelligence by broadening the scope and putting the available data into context. It covers four main topics: (1) total and daily equipment losses, (2) total equipment losses by category and type, (3) the current stage of the conflict in light of the lost and remaining equipment and (4) forecasts and projections for the future.

Project design and methodology

The project uses data collected from Oryx’s site (the list contains destroyed vehicles and equipment of which photo or video evidence is available). The data is scraped using an R script developed by Daniel Scarnecchia and his team. The auto-updating datasets can be found in a Google Sheets repo (automatically updated daily at 22:30 EDT/EST), while information related to the armies’ sizes is gathered from the IISS’ Military Balance report. From these, the necessary calculations and forecasting are done in separate secondary Google Sheets. The output is in CSV format and fed into the Datawrapper data visualisation tool. In sync with the original repo, the separate secondary Google Sheets and all the graphs — except the forecasting ones — update automatically.

The article covers a wide range of theory, academic literature and practical examples from other real-world military conflicts. The list of references and suggested readings can be found at the end of the post.

Limitations of the work

First and foremost, this is a real war, meaning that all parties tend to lie in order to hide their losses or exaggerate victories. Therefore, it is important to take the data with a pinch of salt, and it is very likely that the real losses are much higher than the reported ones.

Second, the data can be distorted by the fact that the same equipment can appear many times in the list, first as captured, then as a damaged or lost. Moreover, it can happen — albeit rarely — that the same military hardware is captured several times.

Third, while the amount of pre-invasion equipment is a known, the Western military aid to Ukraine is not included in the charts for two main reasons. First, there are lots of unfulfilled promises made by suppliers. Furthermore, just because new equipment arrives, it does not necessarily mean that the soldiers are properly trained to use it to its full potential. In other words, regarding military aid, there are unknown factors that make it difficult to even guess its real utilisable quantities. However, as the military conflict evolves over time, it is likely that more information will be available and therefore become processable.

Fourth, because of the fact that we have no rock-solid numbers when it comes to losses, it is important to note that the trends that deserve more attention are those from which more conclusions can be drawn.

Fifth, the same applies to the limitations when it comes to using Google Sheets’ FORECAST function. Since it is linear regression analysis, the results can only be considered as a very rough estimate. This issue is detailed in the ‘Forecasts and projections for the future’ section of the analysis.

It is also noteworthy that there are some obvious, very visible errors (or corrections) in the data. In the original Google Sheets document, a separate tab is dedicated to these problematic values where they are — like negative change — marked for error-checking purposes. This is a very useful section for further research.

Total and daily equipment losses

Probably the most eye-catching information about the stage of a military conflict is the total loss of equipment. In reality, however — as will be seen later in the analysis — the outcome of the events — in other words, who wins the conflict — depends on many other factors than just the raw numbers of lost equipment.

During the first phase, the Russian warfare in Ukraine was very much like a Soviet doctrine attack. And although, as a post-Soviet Republic, Ukraine’s defence organisational culture is rather legacy⁴ — and not Western in type at all⁵ — due to the many improvements in the past few years, the 3:1 ratio theory on the Russian invasion of Ukraine is more or less applicable. Therefore, the original figure of roughly 175,000–190,000 military personnel on the Russian side attacking⁶ the almost 200,000 defending military personnel on the Ukrainian side⁷ seems not enough. This is more or less one-third of the military personnel required.

Second, what academic literature says about the military requirements for stability operations is also notable because if we take the recommendation of 20 to 25 counterinsurgents per 1,000 residents,⁸ then the original number of Russian forces used to invade the home of 40 million Ukrainians seems insufficient at around one-fifth of what would have been necessary.

Third, it must be pointed out that the direct military conflict between the two nations started with the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Therefore, the Ukrainian forces had eight years to build defence lines, reinforce them, fortify themselves and prepare for the further escalation of the conflict, which in practice not only meant that new equipment arrived but that military personnel received proper training, too. In fact, since Kiev rotated its soldiers through the frozen conflict’s frontlines in the past years, most of the Ukrainian forces got first-hand experience of the nature of a low-intensity war.

If we consider all the above factors and the conclusions drawn from the graphs, then it is obvious that, despite the ambitious objectives, in the beginning, the Russian’s military force was simply not enough to occupy the whole territory of Ukraine. This is probably the main reason why the Kremlin changed both the military leadership and the nature of the invasion⁹ and in the second phase started to focus on the much smaller and, therefore, more realistic objective: invading the south-eastern part of the country.

Total equipment losses by category and type

If we accept the theory of the 3:1 ratio and the recommendation of 20 to 25 counterinsurgents per 1,000 residents, then the high losses of the Russians are not surprising. What is surprising, however, is the high number of abandoned and captured vehicles, which can be rooted back to poor planning, logistics or even low morale.

Taking a look at the graph, it is shocking how much Russian equipment has been captured, and therefore, it can be stated that Ukrainian President Zelensky’s sarcastic comment that the Russian troops were supplying arms to Ukraine¹⁰ is not far from the reality at all.

Digging deeper in the datasets, yet another interesting observation can be made, namely, the huge amount of tank, armoured and infantry fighting vehicle losses that have occurred on the Russian side. However, if we take into consideration the Soviet doctrine type of attack, the ageing equipment of the Russian army and the Western weaponry of the Ukrainian forces (such as the Javelin and NLAW), then it is already clear what has caused the losses. This is especially true if we add to the picture that the Soviet- and Russian-made equipment is designed to be used in a way that emphasises its strengths in firepower and mobility in open terrain but is less effective in urban warfare, where the light and portable Western systems can perform best.

There are also well-known design flaws of some Soviet equipment, such as the ‘Jack in the box’ problem of the T-72 tanks,¹¹ the poor armour on the armoured personnel carriers (APCs)/infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) (both of which the mostly Soviet military hardware user, Ukraine, also suffers) or the tactical problems, such as the lack of air patrols over the ground forces,¹² some of which have been resolved by the Russians in the second phase of the invasion.

Although the Russian losses are significantly higher in almost all categories, it does not necessarily mean that the Ukrainian positions are any better, especially since the Russian army has much more equipment in total and a huge stockpile from which further reinforcements can be utilised.

Based on experiences from previous military conflicts, it is noteworthy that the US lost (damaged or destroyed) only 23 M1A1 tanks¹³ in little over six months in the Gulf War,¹⁴ while the Iraqi forces lost hundreds of armoured vehicles. In fact, although there are no officially confirmed numbers about the human casualties, it tells a lot about the intensity of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that the Russian and allied forces lost more than 10,000 personnel (even the Kremlin admits significant losses )¹⁵ in little more than 100 days, while during the almost ten-year-long Soviet war in Afghanistan, 14,500 Soviet soldiers have died.¹⁶

And, just for the comparison, the US-led coalition forces lost 292 military personnel in the Gulf War,¹⁷ around 5,000 in almost nine years in the Iraq War¹⁸ and less than 4,000 during the nearly 20-year-long war in Afghanistan.¹⁹ These are telling numbers, especially if we consider that the Iraqi forces had around half a million military personnel, and the Taliban in Afghanistan had little more than 60,000.²⁰

Although the Ukrainian army has exceeded all expectations in the past few months, their numbers are also devastating. Even if they try to win the military conflict in cities where the attackers have less advantage, they cannot use their full potential, it is never pleasant to fight urban warfare and turn cities into smaller-scale Stalingrads.²¹

Current stage of the conflict in light of the lost and remaining equipment

Considering the current stage of the conflict, it is crucial to put Oryx’s data into context and calculate the losses derived from the amount of military equipment pre-invasion. The IISS Military Balance is the gold standard and an essential resource for those who are interested in the capabilities of armed forces and defence economics of 171 countries around the globe.²² The calculations are based on their information, and since losing the same amount of military hardware does not mean the same thing for the Ukraine or the Russian forces, the data is presented in percentages.

If we compare the data about the lost equipment to the amount of military hardware pre-invasion, it is shocking to see how intense this military conflict has been.

(The calculations are based on the active military hardware; therefore, it is important to note that the Russian army has a huge amount of equipment, including 10,000 tanks in reserve, which is not counted in the graph.)

Due to the known limitations of this project, the results of the calculations can only be considered an estimation. However, it is notable that the numbers are very much in line with the estimation by Gen. Mark Milley, the Chief of Staff of the US Army’s briefing, who estimates that the Russians lost 20%–30% of their armoured forces,²³ and with the interview by Deputy Defence Minister Vladimir Karpenko, in which he admits to 30%–40% and sometimes 50% of equipment losses on the Ukrainian side.²⁴

One of the purest indicators of Gen. Milley’s statement about Moscow’s shrinking inventory is that fact that Russia deployed T-62 tanks during the second phase of the offensive,²⁵ which are their reserve units for a possible secondary mobilisation. Moreover, it has to be considered that even if the total amount of tanks on the Russian side is around 3,000 units (plus the 10,000 in stockpiles), Moscow has to keep lots of them in other regions of the country and cannot move all of them to Ukraine.

Same conclusions can be drawn from the fact that Ukrainian weaponised pickups — the so-called technical or non-standard tactical vehicles (NSTVs)²⁶ — are being deployed on the battlefield, which could mean that the Ukrainian armed forces are also about to run out of military hardware — especially IFVs and APCs. Therefore, it can be stated that the deployment of the Cold War-era tanks by the Russians and the NSTVs by the Ukrainians can be considered a sign of the heavy vehicle losses on both sides.

In fact, in an interview, Deputy Defence Minister Vladimir Karpenko stated that Ukraine has lost around 1,300 infantry fighting vehicles, 400 tanks and 700 artillery systems,²⁷ which confirms the earlier assumptions; in some cases, the Ukrainian losses are much more severe than those in the Oryx datasets, from which the calculations and graphs are made. Therefore, without Western military aid, the country is going to run out of its inventory pretty fast.

Moreover, it is important to note that even if an army has tons of equipment, it does not mean that all of it can be utilised. Readiness and mobilisation are critical issues in every military organisation, and it is already outstanding if an army can mobilise 80%–90% of its armament, especially because the more complex a system is, the more likely it is to require frequent maintenance and periodic overhauls, which all reduce the hardware’s combat readiness significantly.

Forecasts and projections for the future

As can be seen from the current stage of the conflict, the losses are high on both sides, and it is only a question of time as to when one party will run out of military hardware. By knowing the daily losses, trends and amount of military equipment pre-invasion, with linear regression analysis, projections for the future can be made, and it is possible to calculate when this event (total collapse) will occur.

(The data error — or correction — is marked in the graph.)

As can be seen from the graphs, the increase of the losses follows a parabolic path; therefore, the FORECAST function — which is linear regression analysis — is far from perfect when it comes to projections. However, even if the results have to be taken critically, it can be seen that the moment when the opposing parties simply run out military equipment in some cases is not far away, especially, when it comes to tanks or other ground vehicles.

In fact, since losing around 50% of military equipment can already be fatal, the collapse is even closer than the forecast function would show and could happen around late summer or early autumn, simply because of the nature of attrition warfare: there will not be enough military equipment to continue. This is especially true in the case of the Ukrainian forces, where the losses of heavy weaponry (for instance, tanks) and aircrafts are already at a critical level.

Therefore, it is likely that Moscow’s new main objective is to bleed out the Ukrainians. This strategy — in contrast to the first phase’s big ambitions — is not unrealistic at all since Ukraine is losing a huge amount from a much smaller inventory.

Moreover, while Russia can utilise equipment from its reserves, the Ukrainian forces have a limited number of tanks, armoured vehicles and aircraft. Therefore, if the losses continue at the same pace on both sides, a drastic shift in the opposing force’s military power can easily be a game changer and turn the Ukrainian military’s resistance down. In other words, a momentum-gaining, dynamic Russian force that simply outnumbers the Ukrainian forces in the critical frontlines can lead to heavy, irreplaceable losses, especially if the Ukrainian side is left without foreign military aid.

It is also notable that the opposing countries face different challenges when it comes to resupplying. While Ukraine can get both Soviet-made — systems known by its armed forces — and Western equipment, Russia has to rely on its own production and stockpiles. Currently, this production is slowed — and, in many cases, halted — by the sanctions, and if Moscow turns to external sources to replace its losses, then it will further decrease its reputation as a global power.

Therefore, it can happen that despite all the ambitions and efforts, in the end, Russia will demilitarise not only Ukraine but also itself. The prolongation of the war and the need to replace the large amount of lost equipment could open a new era of industrial warfare, where the arms race is going to be one of the determining factors.

We will see if the forecasting is accurate, the opposing parties really run out of military equipment and/or what other factors will force them to end the conflict. However, it is already foreseeable that the invasion is very likely to demilitarise both parties pretty quickly, and for both Russia and Ukraine, it will presumably be a decade-long procedure to rebuild their lost military hardware.

Conclusions

It is likely that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed not only the face of warfare but also the world as we know it. Compared to the first assumptions that Russia was going to occupy Ukraine in days, the fact that Ukrainian forces are still resisting is already a big achievement. The legend of the undefeatable Russian force is over. At least for now.

Considering only the raw data of losses, it is still the million-dollar question as to who will win the war. Although it is hard to predict who will win — and it very much depends on how we define victory — two things are for sure: Ukraine’s success relies on Western military aid, while Russia’s depends on its own capability to replace its lost equipment and on the pace of its military hardware production. It is the return of attrition and industrial warfare, we could say.

If the forecasts about the heavy losses and demilitarisation of both parties are correct, then, based on the analysis, a ceasefire agreement — that will transform the military conflict into a low-intensity war — is likely before winter, while if, due to the lack of the proper amount of military equipment, none of the parties can dominate the battlefields, then a real peace treaty is only in the far future.

Despite the obvious limitations of a project such as this, the analysis demonstrates how far citizen science and open-source intelligence can go when evidence-based data collection from the field is paired with reliable information from experts and analytical tools. Therefore, I would like to inspire everyone to dive deep into the data and the graphs. And feel free to analyse, discuss and interpret the findings further. Moreover, do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

The article will be updated with any changes as the situation develops until August. Then a new analysis will come around the 250th day (eight month) of the invasion.

Update #1 (10–08–2022): Because of the high number of views, instead of August, the charts get the daily automatic updates until September.

Update #2 (23–08–2022): Data correction was made to insure the lost / remaining equipment pie charts include all the IFV / APC / REECE vehicles in the other armoured vehicles category.

References

1. Allen, Patrick D. 1992. “RAND Corporation.” Situational Force — Scoring Accounting for Combined Arms Effects in Aggregate Combat Models. https://www.rand.org/pubs/notes/N3423.html.

2. Headquarters Department of the Army. 1984. “Federation of American Scientists.” The Soviet Army — Operations and tactics. July 16. https://irp.fas.org/doddir/army/fm100-2-1.pdf.

3. Lawrence, Christopher A. 2018. Comparing the RAND Version of the 3:1 Rule to Real-World Data. March 5. http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/blog/2018/03/05/comparing-the-rand-version-of-the-31-rule-to-real-world-data/.

4. Young, Thomas-Durell. 2018. Anatomy of Post-Communist European Defense Institutions — The Mirage of Military Modernity. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

5. Grant, Glen, and Vladimir Milenski. 2018. “Identifying the challenges to defence reform in Central and Eastern Europe: observations from the field.” Defense & Security Analysis 1475–1801.

6. The New York Times. 2022. Citing U.S. Intelligence, Biden Says Putin Has Decided to Invade Ukraine. February 18. https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/02/18/world/ukraine-russia-news.

7. International Institute for Strategic Studies. 2022. The Military Balance. London: Routledge.

8. Quinlivan, James T. 1996. “RAND Corporation.” Force Requirements in Stability Operations. https://www.rand.org/pubs/reprints/RP479.html.

9. The Wall Street Journal. 2022. Putin Taps the Butcher of Syria to Subdue Ukraine . April 13. https://www.wsj.com/articles/putin-taps-the-butcher-of-syria-to-subdue-ukraine-russia-war-command-aleksandr-dvornikov-donbas-chemical-weapons-mariupol-siege-artillery-civilian-death-massacre-11649881134.

10. Business Insider. 2022. Zelenskyy jokes that Russian troops are supplying arms to Ukraine because so much of their equipment has been captured or abandoned. March 15. https://www.businessinsider.com/zelenskyy-jokes-captured-russian-equipment-helping-arm-ukraine-2022-3.

11. CNN. 2022. Russia’s tanks in Ukraine have a ‘jack-in-the-box’ design flaw. And the West has known about it since the Gulf war. April 27. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/27/europe/russia-tanks-blown-turrets-intl-hnk-ml/index.html.

12. BBC. 2022. Ukraine conflict: Why is Russia losing so many tanks? April 11. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-61021388.

13. From the nine destroyed ones, seven were lost to friendly fire.

14. United States General Accounting Office. 1992. “United States General Accounting Office.” OPERATION DESERT STORM — Early Performance Assessment of Bradley and Abrams. https://www.gao.gov/assets/nsiad-92-94.pdf.

15. Reuters. 2022. Kremlin says Russia has suffered ‘significant losses’ in Ukraine. April 7. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/kremlin-says-russia-has-suffered-significant-losses-ukraine-2022-04-07/.

16. The Atlantic. 2014. The Soviet War in Afghanistan, 1979–1989 . August 4. https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2014/08/the-soviet-war-in-afghanistan-1979-1989/100786/.

17. National Geographic. 2021. The untold story of the world’s fiercest tank battle. February 14. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/untold-story-worlds-fiercest-tank-battle-gulf-war.

18. U.S. Department of Defense. 2022. CASUALTY STATUS. June 27. https://www.defense.gov/casualty.pdf.

19. AP News. 2021. Costs of the Afghanistan war, in lives and dollars. August 17. https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-business-afghanistan-43d8f53b35e80ec18c130cd683e1a38f.

20. VOA News. 2014. Despite Massive Taliban Death Toll No Drop in Insurgency. March 6. https://www.voanews.com/a/despite-massive-taliban-death-toll-no-drop-in-insurgency/1866009.html.

21. Fabian, Sandor. 2020. “Are the Baltics Really Undefendable?” RUSI 1–3.

22. International Institute for Strategic Studies. 2022. The Military Balance. London: Routledge.

23. U.S. Department of Defense. 2022. Secretary of Defense Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Milley Hold a Press Briefing After the Ukraine Defense Contact Group Meeting at NATO Headquarters. June 15. https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/3064692/secretary-of-defense-austin-and-chairman-of-the-joint-chiefs-of-staff-gen-mille/.

24. Ukraine Today. 2022. The Ministry of Defense for the first time reported the losses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in equipment during the war. June 17. https://ukrainetoday.org/2022/06/17/the-ministry-of-defense-for-the-first-time-reported-the-losses-of-the-armed-forces-of-ukraine-in-equipment-during-the-war/.

25. Forbes. 2022. Russia’s Ancient T-62 Tanks Are On The Move In Ukraine. June 6. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2022/06/06/russias-ancient-t-62-tanks-are-on-the-move-in-ukraine.

26. More information and historical background of this type of weaponry can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Technicals-Non-Standard-Tactical-Vehicles-Vanguard/dp/147282251X

27. Ukraine Today. 2022. The Ministry of Defense for the first time reported the losses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in equipment during the war. June 17. https://ukrainetoday.org/2022/06/17/the-ministry-of-defense-for-the-first-time-reported-the-losses-of-the-armed-forces-of-ukraine-in-equipment-during-the-war/

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