Density of Deployment in Ukraine

It appears that both sides have deployed between 300,000 to 617,000 troops in this war. Putin claimed 617,000 deployed in mid-December. To quote “The front line is over 2,000 kilometers long, there are 617,000 people in the conflict zone.” See: Putin Says Over 600K Russian Servicemen in Ukraine – The Moscow Times. Ukraine shortly afterwards stated it was 450,00. I tend to lean towards the lower figures. As Russian advances over the last six months have been fairly limited, I am guessing that Ukraniain deployment is at least 300,000. It is probably closer to 400,00. They have put out a few figures noticeably higher than this, but if this was the case (and they were deployed forward), then we probably would not be seeing many advances by the Russians. So most likely the deployed figures for both sides are between 300,000 to 450,000. Let’s just use the figure 450,000 for the sake of simplicity.

The effective front line of Ukraine is around 700 kilometers. See: The front is really not 1,200 kilometers long – rev. 1 – The Dupuy Institute. Ukraine obviously has to maintain troops in mobile positions from Chernihiv to Sumy, but there are probably forces still being stood up and trained, with their defense being supplemented by National Guard and Territorial Defense Forces, to be stood up as needed.  There is also the area opposite of the Khakhovka Reservoir, which is only light held by both sides. Then there is the area from the Dnipro River down to Kherson. This is an inactive front, because of the logistics issues caused by the river. While this does have to be held by forces on both sides, they basically have done no major operations since November 2022.  That will almost certainly be the case going forward. So, the active front is only around 700 kilometers (435 miles) 

S0, 450,000 divided by 700 km equals 643 troops per kilometer. This would be 429 per kilometer if there were only 300,000 troops. Obviously, they are not equally distributed across those 700 kilometers, but they really can’t leave large parts of the line seriously undermanned.

So, how does this compare to the last war in Ukraine (1941-1944)? 

During World War II, on the Western Front, the troops were often deployed to a density of 2,000 troops per kilometer of front line. On the Eastern Front in World War II, it was often over 1,000 troops per kilometer. Now we do have a division-level database of 752 cases. Of those, 267 are from the Eastern Front 1943-1945.  Let’s take a look at some examples from that:

For example, before the start of the Battle of Kursk the density of the front was (@ 1800, 4 July 1943):

  • 57th ID: 684 vs 683
  • 255th ID: 467 vs 495
  • 48th PzC (-): 2,458 vs 651
  • 11th PzD+: 1,976 vs 1,038
  • LSSAH GzGrD: 3,763 vs 1,261
  • DR SS PzGrD: 5,207 vs 899
  • T SS PzGrD: 2,416 vs 940
  • 6th PzD+: 2,282 vs 1,168
  • 19th PzD+: 6,086 vs 3,104
  • 7th PzD+: 2,766 vs 558
  • 106th ID: 2,419 vs 511
  • 320th ID: 2,572 vs 540

Just before the Battle of Prokhorovka we have the densities at (@1800, 11 July 1943):

  •  57th ID: 395 vs 483
  • 255th ID: 482 vs 399
  • 332nd ID+: 504 vs 463
  • 48th PZC (-): 1,694 vs 1,353
  • 11th PzD+: 1,669 vs 3,373
  • 167th ID: 725 vs 917
  • T SS PzGrD: 1,371 vs 782
  • LSSAH PzGrD: 2,904 vs 1,692
  • DR SS PrGrD: 1,851 vs 1,291
  • 168th ID: 1,430 vs 282
  • 19th PzD: 1,084 vs 195
  • 6th PzD: 2,077 vs 1,348
  • 7th PzD: 3,701 vs 1,743
  • 198th ID: 1,779 vs 669
  • 106th ID: 1,690 vs 1,658
  • 320th ID: 1,302 vs 1,032

Now, we do have engagements from the fighting around Kharkov in February, March and August of 1943. Some sample cases (again keying of the German unit:

15 February 1943:

  • GD ID: 888 vs 1,143
  • DR SS: 800 vs 1,794

12 March 1943:

  • LSSAH D: 753 vs 473
  • DR SS D: 2,205 vs 450
  • T SS D: 306 vs 2
  • 11th PzD: 914 vs 498

22 August 1943:

  • 106th ID: 1,341 vs 875
  • 320th ID: 1,007 vs 1,210


Now World War I was a lot more dense, especially on the western front. For example:

  • Br 8th Division, 1 July 1916: 8,071 vs 2000 (Battle of the Somme)
  • Dr. Fourth Army (-), 14 July 1916: 10,000 vs 3,333 (Somme)
  • U.S. 4th Bde (+), 6 June 1918: 2,145 vs 1,463 (Belleau Wood)
  • U.S. 3rd Bde, 1 July 1918: 7,118 vs 5,754
  • U.S. 2nd Bde (+), 12 September 1918: 11,007 vs 1,742.
  • U.S. 2nd Div (+), 3 October 1918: 4,063 vs 2,031
  • U.S. 36th Div, 8 October 1918: 4,500 vs 2,500

During the Arab-Israeli Wars we see a lower deployment density, for example, in the 16 engagements in our division-level database from the 1967 war, the densities (for offense) range from 813 to 3,567 men per kilometer (with four exceptions, Mitla Pass, Zaoura-Kala, Jerin and Kabtiya). In the 1973 war we have 32 division-level engagements.  The densities (for offense) range from 444 to 4,900. There are no outliers.

In the 1991 Gulf War, we also see a lower deployment density. In the 15 engagements in our division-level database we have the densities ranging from 89 to 1,200 men per kilometer.

Keep in mind this is a single dimension measurement of a two-dimensional construct. The units also deploy in depth. So, there is not one man standing there every two meters, any more than with a WWII density of 2,000 there are people standing shoulder-to-shoulder across the front line. The minority of troops deployed are shooters.

The main point is that the density is around a fourth of the typical density on the Western Front in WWII. And again, that is in one dimension.

I will leave this blog post without a conclusion, as I am not sure what it should be. For now, this is just an observation.

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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. I can’t find any images online, but TND noted that as means (transportation and communications) and need (protection vs. enemy combat power) increased, so did dispersal. IIRC, it was something like 1 guy per square meter in ancient and medieval times, 1 guy every 25 meters in the Napoleonic era, 1 guy per 3,000 meters in WWII, and 1 per 4,000 in the Cold War. Radios and other comms are more effective, and more common, than they were in 1973, so the capability to disperse more would have increased, even if firepower hadn’t.

    VR,

    James D. Glick
    PO1, USNR (ret.)
    Clarksville, TN
    “Hey! What happened to all my silverware?” -Lady Selkirk, 1778.

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