Ukrainian forces lack operational capabilities: Pentagon report

The Pentagon
The Pentagon

Ukrainian forces demonstrate resourcefulness on the battlefield, but they lack joint force capability on an operational level, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Defense, published on May 16.

The Pentagon report, covering the period from Jan. 1 to March 31, identifies numerous factors affecting Ukrainian forces’ capabilities, including:

  • Persistent use of Soviet military doctrine;

  • Impact of troop fatigue on training quality and combat effectiveness;

  • Limited resources and material capabilities;

  • Tactical and operational situation on the ground.

The DoD noted that shifting the mindset of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), which still largely rely on outdated Soviet combat doctrines, is a significant challenge for U.S. and NATO instructors. U.S. military officials claim that AFU corps-level HQs have shown “limited competence” in coordinating operations above the brigade level.

"Observations during the early stages of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022 indicated that some AFU units and commanders adopted post-Soviet doctrine and mission command philosophy, but fatigue over time has reduced the quality of the forces," the report states.

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The AFU heavily rely on long-range artillery fire as primary means of striking the enemy, which has led to a persistent shortage of munitions.

The report suggests that the lackluster Ukrainian offensive in the summer of 2023 provided Russian forces the opportunity to continue laying landmines and other defensive measures, complicating future AFU advances.

At the same time, the report notes that the AFU have shown an increasing ability to use and maintain NATO-standard armored vehicles, such as tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. New ammunition supplies have slightly improved AFU capabilities in recent months, although a shortage of 155mm munitions remains an issue.

The Pentagon highlighted improvements in the Ukraine’s naval capabilities, thanks to the delivery of various types of maritime equipment from Western partners.

"However, the AFU still lack the necessary equipment to achieve their 2024 naval campaign goals," the report states.

"In particular, the AFU require continuous supplies of anti-ship cruise missiles for their coastal defense brigades. They also need various types of drones and unmanned underwater vehicles for mine countermeasures operations to keep sea lanes open."

Finally, the report said that the Ukrainian military faces personnel issues in terms of recruitment and training. The average age of AFU soldiers now exceeds 40, which is an indicator of Ukraine’s manpower struggles.

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