A Second Independent Effort to use the QJM/TNDM to Analyze the War in Ukraine

This is the second such effort we are presenting. The first is here: An Independent Effort to Use the QJM to Analyze the War in Ukraine | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org)

We have had no involvement in either effort, although we have had a relationship with the author of this second effort that dates back to the early 1990s. The research, results, analysis and conclusions are entirely the author’s own. TDI has had no involvement in preparing this.

This second analysis is done by William (Chip) Sayers, the author of this posting: A story about planning for Desert Storm (1991) | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org). He will be doing a presentation at the HAAC: Schedule of the Historical Analysis Annual Conference (HAAC), 27-29 September 2022 – update 6 | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org)

The version of the model Chip Sayers used was an earlier “pre-programmed” version of the TNDM. Do not know exactly what all is included in it or not included. He assisted Trevor Dupuy in revising the formula for the OLI’s as it addressed modern armor. It was part of a master thesis he was working on.

Anyhow, his presentation is below:

 

————————–prepared by William Sayers—————————

Since the 26th of February (two days after Russia invaded Ukraine), two questions have been begging to be answered: 

  1. How have the Ukrainians managed to thwart the Russian Army?
  2. Was Ukrainian success foreseeable?

In order to explore these questions, I set up a hypothetical battle from the first few days of the war and analyzed it using The Dupuy Institute’s Tactical Numerical Deterministic Model (TNDM).  My first task was to see if the TNDM is capable of recreating battlefield results similar to what we are seeing in Ukraine.  If the TNDM could approximate the losses and movement of forces that we are seeing come out of this war, it would validate the utility of the model. 

Having determined that the model is relevant, I could move on to my second objective, which was to determine if the performance of the Ukrainian and Russian Armies was something that should have been foreseeable or was an edge case that couldn’t have been predicted.  My format was to run a base case with no quality modifier to either side, and then two more where the Ukrainian side was given a Combat Effectiveness Value (CEV) of 1.2 for the second run, and 1.5 for the third.  I believe there is every reason to give the Ukrainians a CEV advantage; the only question is to what magnitude.

I began by putting together an Order of Battle for the two sides using various sources available openly on the web.  While the units involved are (I believe) real and constituted roughly as I have presented them, the units pitted against one another, their operations and missions are meant to be representative and not necessarily a depiction of actual operations.

Initial observations:

  • Russian doctrine allows for the possibility of a successful operation at the Front-level with a Correlation of Forces (measuring combat potential in both quantitative and qualitative terms) superiority of as little as 1.2:1. Comparing the forces in this case, the Russian Ground Order of Battle : Ukrainian Ground Order of Battle = 1.5:1.  However, If terrain is added (rolling, gentile, mixed = 1.3) to a Ukrainian posture of 1.3 (hasty defense), the CoF is driven below unity.  As the Russian troops have proven to be poorly trained and unmotivated conscripts and the Ukrainians are fighting in their homeland against a very brutal aggressor, a Combat Effectiveness Value (troop quality) advantage seems to be called for and would serve to drive the overall CoF even further in Ukraine’s favor.  Conclusion: The Russian General Staff clearly erred in believing that they had sufficient force to fight this war.  They seem to have gambled on a political collapse on Kiev’s part, and when that did not happen, they were stuck in a losing battle.
  • Early claims that the Russian Army had committed 85% of its combat strength to the operation appear to be justified. Every military district has contributed major forces, including the Eastern Military District adjoining the Pacific Ocean.  The upshot is that if the Russian Army does not win this war politically, or on the battlefield with the forces on hand, there is very little hope that they can reinforce sufficiently to win with what they can use of the other 15% of the Russian Army.

Wargame Narrative:

Concept of Operations: Russian 35th and 36th Combined Arms Armies attack in the vicinity of the tri-border area with river crossing of Pripyat River:  the 35th CAA attack with the 38th Guards and 64th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigades at Pripyat, with the 35th in the lead and the 64th in the second echelon and supported by the 165th Artillery Brigade, 30 x Mi-24 and 20 x Su-25 sorties, and the 69th Independent Covering Brigade in reserve.  The 36th CAA attacks at the city of Chernobyl with the 5th and 37th Guards Tank Brigades supported by the 200th Artillery Bde, 30 x Mi-24 and 20 x Su-25 sorties.  The 29th Combined Arms Army constitutes the Front’s 2nd echelon.

The Ukrainian 14th Mechanized Brigade plus ½ of the 38th Artillery Brigade and 20 x Mi-24 sorties defends vs. 35th CAA, while the Ukrainian 15th Mech Bde plus ½ of the 38th Arty Bde, 20 x Mi-24 sorties defends vs. 36th CAA.

Day 1:

The Ukrainian 14th Mechanized Brigade rebuffs the 38th Guards Independent Motorized-Rifle Brigade, which takes heavy losses and fails to cross the river opposite the defunct nuclear power plant.  The 38th Brigade loses 17% of its combat power, four aircraft, nearly half its armored vehicles and 215 KIA, seriously wounded and captured.

On the southern axis, the 5th Guards Tank Brigade crosses the Pripyat River and secures the highway bridge north of town.  The 37th Guards Tank Brigade successfully crosses directly into Chernobyl City and both brigades push 1 ¼ km beyond the river.  Losses include 176 troops, 27 AFVs and 2 aircraft.

Day 2:

The 14th Mech Brigade frustrates a second attempt to force a river crossing.  The 38th Bde loses another 4 aircraft and 24 armored vehicles, bringing their total losses to over 80% of their tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.  Personnel losses now total over 420 men.

In the south, the 5th and 37th Guards Tank Brigades continue to push through the town of Chernobyl, making another 1.5km at minimal loss.

Day 3:

Having lost 30% of their combat power after two days of unsuccessful river crossing ops, the 38th Guards Ind. MR Bde has been temporarily rendered combat ineffective.  They drop into a holding posture and attempt to fix in place the 14th Mech while minimizing further casualties.  Rather than attempt passing the second echelon through, the 64th Guards wait in readiness for the 36th CAA to flank 14th Mech and make their position untenable.  Total losses stand at 60 out of 71 tanks and IFVs, 8 aircraft and 475 troops.

The 36th CAA has pushed the 15th Bde out of its prepared positions forcing them into a hasty defense posture and accelerating their advance rate to 2km per day.  This opens up a gap between the Ukrainian 14th and 15th Mech Bdes, threatening their supporting 38th Artillery Brigade.  The 38th is forced to displace to the south, behind the 15th Mech.  Meanwhile, the 14th Mech’s right flank is now fully exposed.  Russian losses after three days on the 36th CAA’s axis are 75 tanks and IFVs, 6 aircraft and 483 men.

Observations after 3 days:

  • The only viable river crossing area in the vicinity of the Chernobyl nuclear facility was the area around the railroad bridge. This was a tight squeeze for a single brigade with swampy ground to either side.  This left the Russians to attack the defending Ukrainian brigade at a CoF ratio of less than 1:1, yielding high losses and a stalled attack.  The Russians’ only hope was to fix the Ukrainian defenders in place and wait for the 36th CAA to turn north into the 14th Mech’s flank.
  • With over twice the combat power available, the 36th CAA was able to successfully make its river crossing at Chernobyl city and continuously push back the defenders. Eventually this opened up the opportunity to wedge the 14th Mech out of their positions near the reactor complex.
  • In just three days the Russians lost nearly 1,000 men (of which, ~250 would have been KIA), 135 tanks and IFVs and 14 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. If this exercise represents one of eight major axes of advance with similar combat intensities, even the higher published estimates of Russian losses seem plausible.
  • In contrast, Ukrainian losses were somewhat lower: 61 tanks and IFVs, 16 helicopters and 794 men (of which ~200 would have been KIA).
  • The highest rate of advance the Russians achieved was 2km per day, considerably slower than their Cold War expectations. Beginning on day 4, the Ukrainians would have had to reposition lest the 14th Brigade be isolated and destroyed.  Once the defenders broke contact, Russian advance rates would have picked up considerably.  At that point, it would be a game of hit and run by the defenders, trading space for casualties until they found another favorable terrain feature with which to anchor their line.  Clearly, the Ukrainians proved capable of mounting a serious defense against the invading force, both in the model and on the ground.

The battle was replayed twice to explore the impact of a Ukrainian advantage in Combat Effectiveness Value, once with a 20% advantage, and once with a 50% superiority.  As mentioned earlier, a CEV superiority for the Ukraine can be assumed because Russian conscripts have proven to be poorly trained and unmotivated while the Ukrainians are fighting in their homeland against a very brutal and existential threat.  These runs were made with the intent of finding the extent of that CEV superiority.

Ukrainian CEV of 1.2

Day 1:

The 38th Guards Ind. MR Bde takes heavy losses, fails to cross river opposite the defunct nuclear power plant.  38th Bde loses 26% of its combat power, five aircraft, over ¾’s its armored vehicles and 283 KIA, seriously wounded and captured.

The 5th Guards Tank Brigade crosses the Pripyat River and secures the highway bridge north of town.  The 37th Guards Tank Brigade successfully crosses directly into Chernobyl City and both brigades push 1 km beyond the river.  Losses include 226 troops, 42 Armored Fighting Vehicles and 3 aircraft.

Day 2:

The Ukrainian 14th Mech Brigade frustrates a second attempt to force a river crossing.  The 38th Bde loses another 6 aircraft and the rest of its armored vehicles.  Personnel losses now total over 550 men.  Having lost nearly 50% of its combat power, the 38th Bde is now combat ineffective.

The 5th and 37th Guards Tank Brigades continue to push through the town of Chernobyl, making another 1.2km, losing 39 tanks and IFVs, 3 aircraft and 211 men.

Day 3:

The 36th CAA continues to slowly push the 15th Bde at a rate of 1.3km per day at a total cost of 9 aircraft, 117 AFVs and 636 men, with a total advance of 3.5 km in three days.

Observations:  The battle developed in much the same way as the base run (no CEV advantage), but more slowly and at higher cost to the Russians. 

Ukrainian CEV of 1.5

Day 1:

The 38th Guards Ind. MR Bde takes heavy losses, fails to cross river opposite the defunct nuclear power plant.  38th Bde loses eight aircraft, all of its armored vehicles and 400 men KIA, seriously wounded and captured. Having lost 64% of its combat power, the 38th Bde is rendered combat ineffective on day 1 of the operation.

The 5th Guards Tank Brigade crosses the Pripyat River and secures the highway bridge north of town.  The 37th Guards Tank Brigade successfully crosses directly into Chernobyl City and both brigades push 500m beyond the river.  Losses include 301 troops, 70 AFVs and 3 aircraft.

Day 2:

The 5th and 37th Guards Tank Brigades continue to push through the town of Chernobyl, making another 600m, losing 74 tanks and IFVs, 4 aircraft and 287 men.

Day 3:

The 36th CAA continues to slowly push the 15th Bde at a rate of 700m per day at a total cost of 11 aircraft, 201 AFVs and 840 men. 

Observations:

The Russian force trying to cross the river at the power plant ran into a brick wall.  The rest of the operation continued to develop along the lines of the base case, but at a snail’s pace.  It was not entirely certain that the operation would continue before losses brought it to a halt.  Given that Russian troops took control of the power plant fairly rapidly, a 1.5 CEV is probably too large an advantage.  The 1.2 CEV case fits the results better.

Outlook:

  • Given their failure to cause a collapse of political will by indiscriminate bombing and shelling of Ukrainian cities and the probable combat attrition of Russian forces, the redeployment of the Russian Army to the Donbas region seems more of an attempt to salvage something from this campaign gone wrong, rather than a war-winning strategy. Ukrainian forces can redeploy more easily and have likely suffered a smaller percentage of losses than the Russian Army and thus should be in a relatively better position according to the Correlation of Forces than they were at the beginning of the invasion.  Given an upwards of 85% of the Russian Army was committed to the operation, it is highly doubtful that they have significant forces to send as reinforcements.  For instance, it is essentially impossible for Russia to deploy the 11th Army Corps from Kaliningrad to Ukraine as reinforcements, yet they make up as much of 30% of the combat power of the Russian Army not yet committed to Ukraine.
  • The lack of accurate OOB and combat loss information make it impossible to make a confident prediction on the future course of the war. However, one can be fairly confident that the Russians will not be able to mount successful major offensive operations – they are played out and only the massive use of chemical weapons, or the use of tactical nuclear weapons is likely to change the course of the war.  They apparently intend to make a play for Odessa, but it is doubtful that they will be able to successfully cross the major rivers between their forces and the objective, much less sustain operations beyond them.
  • The Ukrainian Army has made successful local counterattacks and could possibly mass sufficient combat power to push the Russian Army back to their pre-24 February positions, and possibly out of Ukraine altogether. However, it is more likely that both sides will lose – Russia will not get the territory or control Putin wants, while Ukraine will have to settle for more of their territory being occupied by Russia – at least until Putin is ousted and the UN or EU can work out a withdrawal.

What this analysis reveals about Russian Forces:  In the 1990s, Russia began a movement towards replacing the division with the brigade its main tactical grouping.  This paralleled the US Army’s development of the Brigade Combat Team to allow for greater strategic mobility.  This worked for the US, because with the massive support that could be devoted to a deployed BCT, no formation in the world the Army envisioned fighting could match the BCT’s combat power.  For the Russian Army, it appears to have been a purely economic move, with formations at most levels shrinking one echelon down (i.e., divisions became brigades, regiments became battalions, etc.)  This allowed the Russians to keep the core of the Army, while retaining a more fiscally sustainable organization.

In the 2000s to 2010s, the Russian Army experimented with going a step further, using its brigade formations to generate a Battalion Tactical Group, a reinforced, combined-arms battalion.  This seems reminiscent of British Army system of the 19th century where a regimental organization at home would deploy a battalion-sized force for expeditionary work.  The BTG system makes sense within that kind of framework, but having a brigade deploy a single battalion for a major war is untenable.  Particularly in an army whose bread and butter are mass and concentration of force.  The General Staff may have realized their mistake as they are rebuilding several divisions and may be headed for a more traditional force structure.  For this war, however, they’ve been caught with one boot on and one off.

Up to a certain point, the Russian’s traditional use of massive amounts of artillery could make up for the lack of maneuver forces.  Certainly, if the General Staff believed that rolling up to the outskirts of a city, using the maneuver forces to provide security for the guns, while the artillery batters the civilian infrastructure until the enemy’s political leadership cries uncle is a theoretically viable strategy.  But what happens if the enemy leadership doesn’t lose its nerve?  How does this pittance of scattered battalions execute a plan B to subdue the enemy?

By my estimation, the Russian Army has deployed about 21 maneuver brigades for the war in Ukraine.  Additionally, up to 42 more maneuver regiments subordinated to divisions may have been deployed.  This, against a Ukrainian force of 39 maneuver brigades.  On average, Ukrainian brigades appear to be somewhat more powerful than Russian brigades.  In an experimental run made earlier, a good Ukrainian brigade with surprise and a CEV advantage routed a weak, and unsupported Russian division.  While this run gave very favorable conditions to the Ukrainian side, there is no doubt that a Ukrainian maneuver brigade can be a formidable force.  39 of these brigades defending against 64 Russian formations of basically the same echelon may acquit itself fairly well, especially if a reasonable CEV is added to the mix.  It does not bode particularly well if the Ukrainian force must go over to the offensive.  However, if each Russian brigade is actually fielding just one reinforced battalion, the equation changes considerably.  That’s only 21 BTGs.  If the divisional regiments are organized the same way, the Russians have invaded Ukraine with 63 Battalion Tactical Groups facing the equivalent of roughly 120 battalions.  According to Clausewitz, that should be a no go by anyone’s mathematics.  

Bottom line:  I’m extremely suspicious of the idea of Battalion Tactical Groups.  Either we are not understanding them properly, or the Russians are using the term as disinformation.  I have a difficult time believing that they invaded Ukraine with 63 independent and uncoordinated battalions and had any success at all.  Worse, once the offensive was checked, the Ukrainians should have been able to make quick work of mopping up these isolated units.  If the Russians were far better at C3, there might be some viability in the BTG concept.  However, the Russians have never been known for their sophisticated Command & Control and certainly have not proven particularly good at it in the present conflict.

What this analysis reveals about Ukrainian Forces:

Initially, most pundits predicted that Ukrainian Forces would fold rapidly in the face of overwhelming Russian numerical superiority.  The TNDM analysis demonstrates that if the Ukrainians were willing to fight back with reasonable competence and vigor, they were capable of stalemating the Russian invaders short of their ultimate objectives.

After the initial shock of Ukrainian success, many analysts turned around their judgments completely and praised the Ukrainian Forces as some kind of elite David taking on a ponderous Goliath.  The TNDM shows that the success of the Ukrainian Army is not necessarily due to unusually proficient or heroic performance, but rather the expected performance of a competent force.  Given the demonstrated poor performance of Russian conscript troops, their terrible morale, and the shambles of the Russian C3 and logistics systems, one might be surprised if the Ukrainian Army didn’t perform this well.  After all, in contrast to the Russian Army, the Ukrainian’s have their backs against the wall in an existential war.  They should be performing at a higher level than Russian conscripts.  If anything, the Ukrainian Army may be underperforming.  That would bear exploration.

Implications for TDI:

The TNDM yields results that are entirely consistent with what we are seeing in the war, so far.  No other model that I have worked with comes close to this performance.  Further, it is extremely easy to use and very agile in its ability to analyze permutations, branches and sequels, and the unforeseen “what-ifs” that come up during the course of a modeling exercise.  While no substitution excursions were explored in this experiment, the model is set up well to replace one equipment set with another and measure the impact of different weapons systems and capabilities on unit performance.

The ability for the TNDM to model a campaign as it happens is limited only by the quality of the intelligence information provided.

—————————————–

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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3 Comments

  1. Very interesting – nice work! Some various commentary:

    1. The “Russian BTG Count” will be an ongoing exercise for a while. I recall some analysts, looking at the captured Russian documentation found in Ukraine, have assessed that some of the stronger Brigades/Regiments (I think the example was a Southern Military District brigade) were manned to produce 2x BTGs in peacetime, so the real number is probably more than the 60-ish low-end number estimated here.

    2. Some analysts have determined that some (many?) BTGs were understrength to start the campaign, so this makes the “BTG Count” less useful. It appears that the “start state” is a real enigma that will have to be uncovered to get a true sense of what transpired, but the assumptions in this exercise seem good enough right now!

    3. Do you think if this simulation was run using the modelling for an engagement in the Donbas where there appears to be more manoeuvre space for the Russians, and the artillery support seems to be in greater quantities, that we would see an outcome that explains the Russian success in achieving limited breakouts in that region?

    • However, you must remember that the Donbass has been a combat zone and a base of the rebels (opponents of Ukraine) since 2014.

      The Ukrainian armed forces could not build sufficient defensive barriers there, as they did in other parts of the country. I remember Odessa, Kiev, Sumy, to some extent Mariupol. These positions were associated with considerable problems and insurmountability for the Russians.

      Under these circumstances, one should take other bases of calculation for the Donbass. Which are in no way comparable with the data for the rest of the country. The successful breakthroughs of the Russian side in the Donbass do not come from the fact that the Russians are now smarter, but because of the insufficient defense positions.

      Now is the time when Ukraine urgently needs much more offensive weapons. In any case, more must come from the West. Unfortunately, only defensive weapons are of little use here.

  2. The BTG remind me of the WW1 version of the German Storm Trooper concept. Better trained groups, with local firepower, as the cutting edge for the following on masses.

    The BTG I gather are tied to existing units. I gather that where the problem comes in is that these units are often operating far from their parent units. It also seems a good way to burn through the more capable parts of your personnel.

    The organizational chart I see seems very light on UAV capability or defense. Given the thumping their Armenian (sort of) allies just got, I am a little surprised there isn’t more emphasis here.

    https://rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/commentary/getting-know-russian-battalion-tactical-group

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