5 Weapons Russia Would Likely Use to Attack Ukraine

  • Russia has massed troops near Ukraine’s border in what is suspected to be preparation for an invasion.
  • Russia’s intentions remain unclear, but if it does take military action it has many potent weapons to use.
  • These are the top five weapons the Russians could employ in ground warfare against Ukrainian forces.

5 Weapons Russia Could Use to Attack Ukraine: As the Russian military masses on the border of Ukraine and spoils for a fight, a potential invasion could see Moscow use an assortment of different weapons systems.

You may be curious about the top hardware that Russia could put to use. The following analysis will focus on ground warfare. Obviously, there would be actions by warplanes and helicopters too, but I will concentrate on land combat. These are the top five weapons the Russians could employ in an attack on Ukraine.

5 weapons Russia could use to attack Ukraine — T-90 tank

Russian servicemen drive T-90 tanks during a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Red Square in central Moscow

Russian T-90 tanks at a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square.

REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

The T-90 main battle tank is arguably the best and most battle-tested tank, although some would back the upgraded T-72B3s. The T-90 has seen combat in Dagestan, Ukraine, and Syria. It has witnessed numerous variants and upgrades over the years. There are approximately 750 to 1,000 T-90s in this family of tanks.

The armor is the top-selling point when it comes to this tank. The Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armor is made for resisting enemy penetrating sabot rounds. More protection is offered by the modern Relikt armor.

The Shtora-1 countermeasures system is used to confuse enemy anti-tank missiles. This puts out infrared signals that jam inbound bogeys. If the tank is lazed as a target from another tank, the Shtora-1 automatically transmits a warning and distributes smoke grenades to hide movement.

It should be pointed out that the T-90s had difficulty in the Syrian Civil War when militants destroyed five with anti-tank missiles. The Ukrainians will depend on Javelin missiles to counteract the T-90. But there likely won’t be enough Javelins to battle all the Russian armor.

5 weapons Russia could use to attack Ukraine — Koaltsiya self-propelled howitzer

Russian servicemen drive self-propelled howitzers Koalitsiya-SV during a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Red Square in central Moscow

Russian Koalitsiya-SV self-propelled howitzers at a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square.

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

The Russians also have a new and lethal self-propelled tracked-howitzer called the Koalitsiya-SV that is similar to the American M109A7 Paladin.

Self-propelled howitzers are able to shoot a fire mission and scoot away to do it all over again.

The 155 mm Koaltsiya can reportedly put 16 rounds down-range per minute with an auto-loader, which is hard to believe, but I confirmed this rate of fire from two sources. That auto-loader must be effective to shoot so fast.

The Koaltsiya fires a wide gamut of rounds from high-explosive fragmentary to precision-guided shells and cluster rounds.

5 weapons Russia could use to attack Ukraine – Rakushka armored personnel carrier

Russian BTR-MDM Rakushka armored personnel carrier

A BTR-MDM Rakushka armored personnel carrier heads to Red Square for a rehearsal of the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, May 4, 2021.

Sergei KarpukhinTASS via Getty Images

A Ukraine attack would likely use airborne forces to land behind enemy lines and cause havoc. But how do the paras move into position quickly when they hit the ground? Enter the BTR-MD Rakushka tracked armored personnel carrier that is airborne-ready.

The standard model that carries 13 troops is lightly armed with a remote-controlled 7.62 mm and probably a 30 mm grenade launcher as well.

But there are more muscular variants that would give the Ukrainian fits if attacked from behind or flanked. There’s an anti-tank version that is equipped with Kornet guided missiles. There are also radar-equipped models and a command and control variant.

An interesting tactical wrinkle is that these airborne soldiers can jump out of the Rakushka and fire Verba man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs). The Rakushka would provide targeting data directly to the weapon’s sights. This would be dangerous for Ukrainian helicopters and airplanes.

5 weapons Russia could use to attack Ukraine – Uragan multiple-launch rocket system

Russian Uragan-M rocket artillery truck

An Uragan-M truck-mounted artillery unit in a Victory Day military parade in Minsk, Belarus, May 9, 2020.

Natalia FedosenkoTASS via Getty Images

The Uragan-1M is a truck-mounted multiple-launch rocket system that could cause much damage to Ukrainian troops if deployed.

It has two pods with 12 quick-firing launch tubes. The 300 mm rockets are equipped with 617-pound warheads.

The Uragan-1M has a top range of 55 miles. There is a wide assortment of rockets for many types of targets. The standard warhead is high-explosive fragmentary. There are anti-personnel, anti-tank rockets, cluster, and incendiary warheads.

5 weapons Russia could use to attack Ukraine – Iskander surface-to-surface missile

Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile

A Russian Iskander-M short-range missile.

Russian Defense Ministry

Russia is known for its surface-to-surface missiles and the Iskander doesn’t disappoint.

This is a road-mobile system that fires a short-range missile. The Russians reportedly have 136 Iskander systems. Those are impressive numbers that could threaten Ukraine.

There are two missiles per truck, and they can be launched in 16 minutes. The Iskander also has a bevy of missile options to choose from. The warheads can be anything from standard high-explosive to cluster to bunker-busting.

Ukrainian air-defense systems would have a difficult time defending against the Iskander. It has supersonic speed with evasive features. The missiles can even deploy decoys to spoof missile defenders.

Russia’s tactics would be straight-forward

Russia navy Crimea

Russian navy ships and helicopters during a landing drills on Crimea’s Black Sea coast, September 9, 2016.

Pavel Golovkin/AP

So, as you can see, Russia has quite the assortment of weapons platforms to strike Ukraine on the ground. And this does not even include air combat from attack helicopters, fighters, and bombers.

To be clear, I don’t see the Russians doing anything tricky or revolutionary if they did attack Kyiv or invade. Their tactics would be fairly straightforward. They would use overwhelming mass and numbers. They would prep the battlefield with a shock-and-awe artillery attack.

The road-mobile and self-propelled features would enable them to stage artillery systems along the border. Then the airborne attack could start. The Russians would likely land near Ukrainian airfields and take these over. The tanks and armored personnel carriers would stream in.

Russia Crimea tanks soldiers

A Russian tank crew waits for their T-72B tank to be unloaded at a train station in Gvardeiskoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol, March 31, 2014.

REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

And remember, the analysis above is just thinking through a conventional warfare strategy. The Russians are also clearly skilled at irregular warfare too.

There would be offensive cyber-attacks and electronic warfare jamming of Ukrainian radars and communications. Disinformation attacks such as fake text messages to enemy soldiers telling them to give up and fake social media posts to confuse the citizenry.

However, let’s not get carried away. The Ukrainians will fight back valiantly in any of these scenarios. Russian capabilities do not automatically mean there is an intent to use. The international community would conduct serious financial sanctions against the Russians to punish them for an attack. Although the Russians certainly have the offensive tools to make the world shudder at the thoughts of a potential invasion.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, Ph.D., is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

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