Ukraine may be at virtual parity with Russia in terms of soldiers under arms, but it has a larger problem in relation to scope for setting up new units and a greater reserve, the head of the Estonian National Defense College (Kaitseväe akadeemia) says.
The present figures could be around 600,000 ranged against each other on each side, possibly slightly lower in Ukraine's case, though since the latter is mainly on the defensive, this makes for a better conservation of personnel, he said.
Appearing on ETV show "Ukraina stuudio," Brig. Gen. Vahur Karus said that: "It is certainly, and perhaps the offensive last summer is evidence of this, an issue for Ukraine in creating reserves and new units. They obviously cannot do this on their territory, as the enemy has the ability to identify all such points and attack them," referring to occupied Ukrainian territory."
"Perhaps a question is to what extent the West can support the creation of such new units for Ukraine, meaning Ukraine needs the people it is currently mobilizing to get proper training before these units are sent to the front. From that point, you will start to get that synergy whereby you can switch out units in the normal way. Those who are relieved will be given new training, get upgraded and go on to fulfill their role," he continued.
Kyiv says it is currently at a phase in the war which involved holding the front line while building up military equipment, ammunition and personnel.
"This derives from an article by [Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander, General Valerii]) Zaluzhnyi in which he stated that the need now is to amass ammunition, to create reserve echelons which can be drawn upon at all times," he went on.
"In the case of new units, we should also properly teach them up-to-date tactics coming from the West. Seeing that the level of people's training is such that battalions, brigades and divisions are combat capable, and not only [focussing on] individual combatant training. It is very important here that their brigades, divisions and corps start to engage in the fight."
Increasingly messages have been coming from Ukraine to the effect that they are running out of ammunition. Karus said he saw the problem as mainly stemming from the fact that most Central and Eastern European nations which have given weaponry to Ukraine had donated Soviet-era equipment, for which ammunition is no longer made.
At the same time, ramping up the production of modern weaponry and ammunition will take time.
"Looking historically, take World War One and World War Two for instance, it takes approximately two years for nations to get their economies up and running on a war footing," Karus said.
The current war will reach its second anniversary in less than a month's time.
"In this respect, we are currently entering a somewhat perilous period where Russia is already two years into this regime of very deliberately and consciously setting up its arms industry. Europe is only now starting to catch up, so it's just a question of when this 'full' capacity will be reached, and then how much we can provide to the Ukrainians," the brigadier general continued.
"What do they lack? Without a doubt this would include artillery ammunition, and we are also talking about air defense equipment, as any attack by Russia using precision weapons presents quite a major headache, first and foremost, from the point of view of defending the civil populace," he continued.
Karus noted that, at the same time, Ukraine is making giant steps to kick-start its own ammunition output. Issues there may relate to supply chains, and to the availability of input and raw materials, he added.
Karus said: "The Ukrainians have plenty of engineering know-how with regard to these things, while one thing that perhaps shouldn't be underestimated is that when we think of air defense, we often think of missiles."
"However, the standard 7.62mm caliber machine guns they have are more than capable of bringing down slow-flying drones effectively. This layering and this use of different weapons which the Ukrainians have been utilizing is certainly one of those things that can help them to be successful," he went on.
Drone tech at the front progressing month by month.
Also appearing on "Ukraina stuudio" was Aivar Hanniotti, coordinator of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit).
As many as 80,000 drone flights may be taking place per month on the front-line at present, he said.
The bulk of drones are of the FPV multi-rotor variety, which deliver an explosive charge to the target, Hanniotti said.
These could be produced locally and rapidly in Ukraine. Their short shelf-life means they get used up quickly also.
They are used by both sides, though there are differences in quantity between the two sides.
"It's just that the Russian military industry has no got itself going to the extent that when the Ukrainians have 300 of them at the front line, the Russians can use 800 similar drones, in the same sector," he said.
Drone technology is changing very quickly, he added. "The greatest difference relates to communication and GPS. These capabilities are used by both sides. If they understand and develop countermeasures to it, then one has to change ones actions, meaning the tech. Usually this cycle takes about a month, by which time both sides on the front will have completely switched out half out of their drone tech."
"In other words, everything will change in the span of a month. There are certain 'smart' units in the background, both on the Ukrainian side and on the Russian side, somewhere in the rear, who are always working on this and considering what they are going to do next."
Hanniotti also said that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is currently not massively useful so far as drones go, though this may change.
"AI, i.e. artificial intelligence, is already common on the front in prototypes, but it simply helps operators to make better choices. The genuine article AI has likely not reached the front yet, though thanks to the fact that these computer programs which support the operator help with aiming, collecting data from the sensors inside the drone, and giving a better picture to the operator, so they can say now make this last põks. In other words, the operator hits the fire-and-forget method. Things like this have already been done at the front," he explained.
This makes done operators themselves also targets for both sides in this war, but according to Hanniott, it isn't viable to relocate them further from the front any time soon. This topic could be revisited with further developments to AI, he added.
"Instead, the AI aspects helps in that if an enemy develops new jamming methods, the AI helps the drone to reach the target without operator communication. In other words, if your enemy takes away your communication, your GPS, and all your sensors are knocked out, and then the camera and with the computer, the drone can still fly to its target destination, and fulfill its mission and essentially destroy a Russian tank," Hanniotti added.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael
Source: 'Ukraina stuudio,' interviewer Reimo Sildvee.