Below, readers of InformNapalm international volunteer community website will find a intelligence and analytical report on units of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps (AC) deployed by the Russian Federation in the occupied part of the Ukrainian Donbas.
The transformation of units of the so-called Novorossia militia into a proper military force modeled on the Russian army started after the end of active hostilities in 2015. This process was aimed at establishing a homogeneous quasi-military structure capable of:
- establishing internal discipline, eliminating anarchic mafia-style military structures in the “republics”;
- coordinating the units and the defense along the stabilized front line with the development of lines 1, 2, and 3 of the defense infrastructure;
- setting up a military structure similar to Russia’s regular army to be effectively integrated into Russia’s Southern Military District with all the ensuing implications, such as the unified logistics, the appointment of Russian supervisors (on a rotation basis), the unification of the principles of service, the organization of exercises, etc. based on Russian military rules and technical regulations, etc.
The “republics” were unable to become united due to the infighting and conflicting spheres of influence. Thus, their armies were also divided into two army corps, the 1st AC in Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the 2nd AC in Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).
The front line has remained mostly unchanged since summer 2015. The switch to the trench warfare eventually made it possible to transform dozens of real and virtual battalions and groups into brigades and regiments of the 1st and 2nd ACs, and equip them in accordance with the combat and numerical strength standards.
The brigades (and, sometimes, regiments) were staffed according to the Russian standards with the dual command structure to ensure their subordination to the Russian army.
The dual command structure is supported by the Russian supervisors, who duplicate all the command positions at the brigade and battalion levels; by design, they are the actual commanders, rather than locals who are formally in command. However, those formal commanders were actively touted in the separatist and Russian media to support the “civil war” and “local people who took up arms to defend their land” narratives, while the actual operational control has firmly remained in the hands of the Russian career servicemen.
Duplication of functions, significant differences in salary, status, ranks, control over shadow income streams (dealing in the scrap metal, fuel, materiel, income from “phantom soldiers”, smuggling, drug trafficking), the temporary nature of the military advisers deployment (they are rotated once a year on the average), their indifference toward the loss of personnel and focus only on submitting acceptable reports to the Russian higher command give rise to the extremely difficult relationships that have repeatedly turned into open armed conflicts. Some advisers were even assigned personal guards.
The resistance to curbing of the free reign of “volunteer” battalions controlled by local war lords and the overt and covert obstruction by the local DPR and LPR power brokers have continued till summer 2019. At first, it often resulted in the direct confrontation, assassination of leaders, encirclement and disarmament of specific units (ranging from the relatively combat-seasoned ones, such as “Olkhon’s battalion”, to the toy Cossack units). This resistance played an important role in the decision to terminate Alexander Zakharchenko. After his death, the “personal battalions” disguised as separate forces at the “ministries of the republics” (almost every “ministry” had their very own “guard force”) were quickly incorporated in the DPR People’s Militia. After Plotnitsky’s escape, the LPR elite demonstrated more docility; it is for this reason, most of them are still alive, while Zakharchenko no longer is.
By the fall 2019, the reorganization was completed in principle. The following is a list of formations of the 1st AC (military unit 00100) (with a few exceptions, all odd-numbered brigades are a part of the 1st AC and all those even-numbered are a part of the 2nd AC):
- the 1st Motorized Rifle Brigade (MRB) (military unit 08801, Komsomolske);
- the 3rd MRB (military unit 08803, Horlivka, includes the 1st Territorial Defense Battalion, military unit 08822);
- the 5th MRB (military unit 08805);
- the 100th MRB (military unit 08826, includes the 3rd and 4th Territorial Defense Battalions, military units 08815 and 08823, respectively, Donetsk);
- the 9th Separate Assault Motorized Rifle Marine Regiment (military unit 08809, Novoazovsk, includes the 6th Territorial Defense Battalion);
- Vostok 11th Separate Motorized Rifle Regiment (military unit 08818, includes the 2nd Territorial Defense Battalion, military unit 08814).
In addition to these combat forces, the 1st AC also includes:
- Kalmius Separate Artillery Brigade (military unit 08802, Snizhne, Donetsk);
- a special operations regiment of the Internal Troops (military unit 02707);
- two security guard regiments (military unit 08833 and the Republican State Guard Service, military unit 08830) and a separate commandant regiment (military unit 08816);
- Bulat or Diesel separate tank battalion (military unit 08810);
- Somali separate assault battalion (military unit 08828);
- Jaguar or Sparta separate reconnaissance battalion (military unit 08806);
- Congo separate repair and maintenance battalion (military unit 08813);
- a separate logistics battalion (military unit 08812);
- a separate anti-aircraft missile battalion (military unit 08817);
- a separate EW/SIGINT company (military unit 08821);
- a separate engineer and pioneer company (military unit 08820).
Open sources often mention Slavic Battalion, Patriot, Vityaz, Pyatnashka, Beavers, and other units; however, these units have ceased to exist by now either at all or as individual units, having been included in other units as companies.
The length of the front line portion designated to the 1st AC totals approximately 195 km. The AC’s designated area does not match the demarcation line within the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk Oblast. For instance, Svitlodarsk salient and Debaltseve belong to the Donetsk Oblast, whereas they are a part of the designated area of the 7th MRB, operationally subordinated to the 2nd AC.
Since 2016, all brigades and regiments have been firmly assigned to specific designated areas, and have been rotating battalion by battalion. Some units, such as Somali separate assault battalion, the special forces regiment of the Internal Troops, and Sparta separate reconnaissance battalion are not assigned to any specific defense sector; they are deployed ad hoc, whenever it is necessary to strengthen specific sectors or carry out a rotation, or dispatch combat brigades for recuperation (e. g., after losses) or to training ranges, etc.
Below, is the general layout of the designated areas of the 1st AC’s brigades.
These are brief descriptions of the units with their designated areas.
9th Separate Assault Motorized Rifle Marine Regiment
The 9th Separate Assault Motorized Rifle Marine Regiment has a reference to the “marine corps” in its title; however, it has no landing assets and the personnel are not trained in amphibious assault. The structure of the regiment is almost the same as that of the other brigades of the 1st AC. The regiment has been headquartered in Novoazovsk, since an artillery strike on its former headquarters in the village of Bezimenne in 2017.
The 9th Regiment has poor personnel discipline even compared to the other units of the 1st AC (with the 9th Regiment and the 7th Brigade being notorious leaders in terms of disciplinary offenses); it is characterized by the low level of training of its commanders and the highest personnel losses over the years from 2015 to 2020. The regiment’s actual headcount is below 50% of the authorized strength; as a result, the 6th Territorial Defense Battalion was attached to the regiment in order to strengthen it. The 6th Territorial Defense Battalion itself was established in 2019; the quality of its personnel is eloquently evidenced by the fact that no HIV, hepatitis and mental health certificates were required for the enlistment.
In 2019, the 9th Regiment lost the tactically important Derzkaya height, thus losing operational control over the Kominternove-Zaichenko line.
The loss of Derzkaya was not the first defeat sustained by the regiment. After Shyrokyne operation, the regiment kept losing ground (at Shyrokyne, Lebedinske, Vodyane, Hnutove, Pavlopil, large territories in the gray area), and generally showed poor performance.
The command of the 1st AC considers the regiment’s defense area to be strategically important because the lack of the dense urban areas, features of landscape and infrastructure, and the regiment’s low tactical value make it possible for the Ukrainian Army forces to mount a successful offensive towards the Ukraine/Russia border.
The regiment is not strong or capable enough for offensive operations even at a tactical level.
Due to the lack of large settlements and the convenient logistics, the regiment’s designated area is often used by Russia for training its artillerymen, including graduates of Russian artillery schools.
1st Motorized Rifle Brigade (Slavyanskaya)
The Slavyanskaya 1st MRB is the 9th Regiment’s right-flank neighbor. This brigade was among the first units to switch to the structure modeled on the Russian army. The headquarters is located in Komsomolske.
The brigade’s boasts the largest designated defense area in the 1st AC due to the geographical features of the area: About 60% of its front line runs along the Kalmius River, a natural water barrier that complicates active operations. There are hardly any infantry positions within the rifle fire range for at the section between Chermalyk and Hranytne villages. The defense system of the 1st MRB in this sector relies on a network of observation posts.
The Kalmius is conveniently fordable, for instance, near the village of Hranytne, the focal point of fierce battles in 2015 culminating in the victory of the Ukrainian Army. However, both sides are well aware of all the fords and can defend them with maneuvering forces at the slightest hint of a threat.
In general, the brigade’s combat efficiency is medium; it is well equipped with combat hardware but the actual headcount is below 55% of the authorized strength.
The 1st Motorized Rifle Battalion (based in Rozdolne village) controls the area north of Hranytne.
5th Motorized Rifle Brigade
In general, the Oplot 5th MRB is one of the most interesting units of the 1st AC, and its designated defense area is of the greatest interest. It runs from Komsomolske to Olenivka. The defense area is centered around Dokuchaievsk with dominating heights at the tops of spoil tips, enabling the adversary to control the line with a relatively small force.
The 5th MRB is a reserve brigade of the 1st AC. However, it is one of the most combat-ready units of the AC; it is the only unit capable of mounting an offensive, at least at a tactical level.
The brigade has a non-standard table of organization and equipment, which includes as many as two tank battalions. In fact, if Diesel Battalion is placed under the brigade’s control, the 5th MRB effectively becomes an armored brigade, with motorized rifle battalions covering the tank units.
If necessary, the brigade can be completely withdrawn from the contact line and replaced by Somali and Sparta battalions, and the Internal Troops regiment without affecting the defense of the designated area.
In terms of discipline and manpower, it is also one of the best units of the 1st AC.
However, the Dokuchaievsk direction is one of the most critical for the Ukrainian forces, because it opens a direct route to Volnovakha and makes it possible to quickly cut off the strategically important Donetsk-Mariupol motor road and the only railway line to Mariupol.
100th Motorized Rifle Brigade
The Kupol 100th MRB occupies the designated defense area from Olenivka to Donetsk Airport, covering the city of Donetsk.
Almost the entire defense line of the brigade relies on the urban buildings and dominating heights at spoil tips. The only exception is the section from Olenivka to Oleksandrivka, but it is defended by the territorial defense battalion attached to the brigade.
The personnel of the 100th MRB consists mainly of Donetsk residents. This brigade is distinguished by passable morale of its personnel and is manned above the average level. However, the brigade is not capable of mounting an offense: keeping its defense positions is crucially important in the case of a counterattack.
11th Separate Motorized Rifle Regiment
Vostok 11th Separate Motorized Rifle Regiment covers the area from Donetsk Airport to Panteleimonivka village. The regiment’s defense line is based on Yasynuvata agglomeration. As of 2020, this direction is deemed of secondary importance, experiencing some trench warfare.The regiment is not capable of mounting any offensive on its own.
3rd Motorized Rifle Brigade
The Berkut 3rd MRB is covering a critically important area from the village of Panteleimonivka to the village of Bayrak, defending Horlivka from the west and north. Like with the 100th MRB, the defense also relies on urban buildings, except for Panteleimonivka area, which is defended by a territorial defense battalion. The designated area of the 3rd MRB also includes the city of Yenakiieve located in the rear of the brigade.
The brigade has a classical table of organization and equipment with three infantry battalions, a territorial defense battalion, a tank battalion, a howitzer battalion, a self-propelled howitzer battalion, a missile battalion, etc. It has only 60% of the authorized personnel strength but 90 to 100% of the authorized hardware.
The brigade’s battalions are rotated regularly: in this case, the units of Internal Troops and the Somali separate assault battalion are put to the forefront.
The brigade is not capable of mounting an offensive on its own.
East of Buieraky village, there is an area controlled by the DPR — for instance, Vuhlehirsk and Debaltseve, but this area is assigned to the 2nd AC, to which the 7th MRB (to be described below) is operationally subordinated.
The 2nd AC is smaller than the 1st AC, as it consists of only four combat brigades, of which one is a part of the 1st AC, but placed under the operational control of the 2nd AC. The contact line within the designated area of the 2nd AC is 158 km long, with a significant portion running through urban areas or challenging terrain with natural barriers, where mobility is particularly restricted.
The 2nd AC (military unit 77077) includes:
- the 2nd MRB (military unit 73438);
- the 4th MRB (military unit 74347);
- the 7th MRB (military unit 08807);
- the 6th Motorized Rifle Regiment (military unit 69647);
- a separate commandant regiment (military unit 44444);
- the 10th Separate Artillery Brigade (military unit 23213);
- a separate tank battalion (military unit 64064);
- a separate reconnaissance battalion (military unit 55055);
- a separate security battalion (military unit 73604);
- a separate anti-aircraft missile battalion (military unit 13931);
- a separate logistics battalion (military unit 14941);
- a separate EW/SIGINT/UAV company (military unit 05776);
- a separate engineer company (military unit 11011).
Thus, in general terms, the table of organization and equipment of the 2nd AC matches the structure of the 1st AC, because both corps are modeled after the Russian standards and the demand of the Russian army command to ensure the integration of these forces with the Russian army.
Despite the “compactness” of the corps (or, perhaps, precisely because of this), the 2nd AC’s units are better manned (except for the 7th MRB) and generally have a higher combat efficiency than those of the 1st AC.
7th Motorized Rifle Brigade
Debaltseve, a critical railway junction that should have been controlled by Ukraine’s government under the Minsk Agreements, is located within the defense area of the 7th MRB. Most of the defense area consists of rough terrain with hills and gullies, etc. not penetrable by the heavy equipment.
The only area, where the offense can be mounted in both directions, is Bakhmut-Debaltseve motor road. On the Ukrainian Army side, the motor road abuts operationally important Svitlodarsk and Myronivsky thermal power plants. On the other side, a water barrier makes such an offensive unlikely.
The 7th MRB has well-trained infantry personnel, but is dogged by poor discipline. The actual to authorized manpower ratio is below 50%.
6th Separate Motorized Rifle Regiment
6th Separate Motorized Rifle Regiment (Platov’s Cossack Regiment) bears on settlements, such as Kadiivka (formerly Stakhanov), Pervomais’k, and Irmino. There is no reliable information about the structure of the regiment; however, the regiment—typically for Cossacks—has low tactical efficiency.
The designated area of the regiment on the Ukrainian side includes Popasna-Bakhmut—an important motor road and the only direction prone to the offensive from Russia.
4th and 2nd Motorized Rifle Brigades
The 4th MRB (including Prizrak Battalion) and the 2nd MRB have structures typical for both the ACs. About 80% of their designated defense area lies along the Siversky Donets river which significantly constrains their combat activity in this direction.
The 2nd MRB is based in Luhansk. Due to its convenient location and the lack of actual participation in combat, it is manned at a record level of 80% of the authorized strength for both ACs.
All the combat units of the 1st and 2nd ACs have almost identical table of organization and equipment fitting the standard organization model of the Russian army.
As a rule, a brigade or regiment includes three to four (sometimes, with territorial defense battalions) motorized or mechanized infantry battalions, a tank battalion, a howitzer battalion, a self-propelled howitzer battalion, a missile battalion, an anti-aircraft missile battalion, and other units.
The following table describes the manpower of the units (using one of the 1st AC’s brigades as an example)
|Subunit||Manpower, TOE||Tanks, TOE||Armored combat vehicles, TOE||Artillery/
|MLRS, TOE||Anti-aircraft defense, TOE||Anti-tank defense, TOE|
|1st motorized rifle battalion||413||30||6||9|
|2nd motorized rifle battalion||413||30||6||9|
|3rd motorized rifle battalion||413||30||6||9|
|Self-propelled howitzer battalion||184||18|
|Anti-aircraft missile battalion||114||10||33|
|Repair and maintenance company||57||3|
* The table does not indicate all subunits; for instance, there are no support subunits that include civilian employees.
The makeup of units can be different in different brigades. Most often, the differences are due to the specifics of the formation and purpose of the unit.
For example, a brigade can have a flamethrower platoon instead of a flamethrower company. A tank company may comprise three or four companies. Quite often, there are rudiments of some “legendary” units, intricately integrated into the general structure of a brigade or a regiment.
The brigades with an attached territorial defense battalion, have four battalions. A territorial defense battalion can include a separate tank company—for example, the 1st Territorial Defense Battalion being a part of the 3rd MRB does.
The 5th MRB has only two motorized rifle (mechanized infantry) battalions; however, the brigade includes two tank battalions instead of one, because this brigade is used as the corps reserve force.
Combat brigades are usually equipped with the same hardware as the Ukrainian Army. This approach makes it possible to conceal supplies from Russia.
As a rule, the equipment includes BTR-70 and -80 armored personnel carriers, BMP-1 infantry combat vehicles (BMP-2 are scarce), T-64 and T-72 tanks, 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled guns, D-30 howitzers, BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers, MT-LB multi-purpose armored towing vehicles, Osa and Strela surface-to-air missile systems, Igla MANPADS, etc. However, there are exceptions. For example, the 9th Regiment is armed with a battery of Nona-K gun-mortars not used by the Ukrainian Army.
It is noteworthy that the declared equipment availability level in brigades ranges from 80 to 100%, while the manning level hardly ever exceeds 50-60%. This means that the brigades of the 1st AC are, in fact, skeleton units intended to be promptly topped up with the military personnel from Russia.
Some units, such as Sparta, Somali, Diesel, etc., have specific organizational structures, but their manpower strength is kept low (at 40%); for this reason, they are only capable of limited tactical operations or are used for rotations at small frontline sections or for strengthening weaker battalions of the combat brigades.
The 1st and 2nd ACs are facing the greatest management problems at the tactical and operational levels.
The ACs rely on the Soviet decision-making system, typical for most of the Russian army, additionally significantly hindered by the dual control by Russia.
- There is hardly any scope for any initiative of commanders at all levels.
- The long command chain extends the decision-making time at almost all levels.
- Each link in this chain distorts the understanding of the actual situation because of its erroneous concepts of the situation (these concepts, in turn, are based on humbug reports on the high combat efficiency).
Thus, each decision goes through a circle of superfluous decision-makers; as a result, decisions get hopelessly distorted.
While the idea of this prolonged process in Soviet times was to increase its fool tolerance (taking into account similar command processes of the potential adversary), the military decision making procedures and data transmission protocols changed substantially in both NATO and in Ukraine by now, after 40 years: much less time is needed to transfer the information. The ISTAR artillery fire control system, which has been used a number of times by the Ukrainian Army in the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) and demonstrated its absolute advantage over the Soviet artillery control principles, can serve as an example.
Both the 1st and 2nd ACs are clearly aware of this issue. For instance, commanders of the 2nd AC are trying to design its counterartillery suppression on the basis of the criteria of maximum flexibility and information transfer rate, but such examples are isolated.
Any direct communication along the “company—brigade”, “gun platoon—battalion”, “battalion—corps”, etc. lines is totally absent (moreover, it is impossible because of the technical incompatibility). The obligatory information channeling through the command hierarchy is not a critical disadvantage in the case of low-intensity defense, but the situation changes radically with the combat intensification. Thus, multiple instances of the critical overload of communication channels and slower decision making were recorded in the case of even an insignificant increase in the combat intensity.
For instance, any task to a gun platoon is usually foiled completely if the Ukrainian forces use their counterartillery suppression assets because the platoon is unable to interact directly with the artillery command operations platoon and get actual battleground situation updates.
Practice shows that the response times in the case of the escalation range from at least 4 hours for the most combat-ready detachments, such as a reconnaissance company to at least 8 hours in the case of the combined arms reserve and at least a day in the case of the corps reserve. The only exception is the artillery reserves on combat alert duty.
The decision-making process is critically affected by the extremely low availability of the SIGINT, air reconnaissance, and real-time information transmission equipment to the 1st and 2nd ACs.
The SIGINT, anti-aircraft, and UAV units above the battalion level deployed along the contact line usually report directly to Russia and are manned with the Russian personnel; for this reason, any exchange of information with them is not efficient even at a brigade level.
However, the EW system is an important exception. The adversary is still able to use it in real time at a number of sections of the contact line.
On the whole, this situation results in extremely stereotypical actions of the adversary, reactive in their design; thus, the desired course of action can be easily imposed on the 1st and 2nd AC, should the need arise.
The issue of the personnel morale is of critical importance for both corpses. The motivation level of soldiers is extremely low, except for some Special Forces or reconnaissance battalions and companies.
The extremely low salary ($300 to 400 per month, including the combat supplement) resulted in the natural outflow of the military “volunteers” from Russia and their replacement with the locals that find this remuneration level acceptable. Exercises, inspections, and career development courses in Russia for commanding officers with the subsequent promotion to senior officer ranks hardly compensates for the low general education level and poor leadership qualities of the personnel.
The artillery units of the Russian occupation forces deserve special attention.
Each brigade of the 1st and 2nd ACs includes an artillery group that comprises:
- an artillery command operations platoon;
- a howitzer battalion;
- a self-propelled howitzer battalion;
- a missile battalion;
- an anti-tank artillery battery.
Usually, a battalion has 18 guns.
A howitzer battalion includes D-30 howitzers and, in some cases, Nona-K non-self-propelled guns; a self-propelled howitzer battalion relies on 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers; a missile battalion has BM21 Grad MLRS; and an anti-tank artillery battery has MT12 Rapira anti-tank guns.
An analysis of open sources (photos taken at the training grounds or during hostilities, etc.) shows that the number of combat-ready gun units is at least 12 per battalion. The readiness depends on the number of trained crews.
In some cases (e. g., in the 9th Regiment), the self-propelled and towed artillery could be organizationally combined in a single subunit.
The typical structure matches that of both Russian and Ukrainian brigades.
The brigades have primitive means of artillery reconnaissance: aiming point directors, DS-1 optical range finders, laser range finders, and other optical devices. The aerial artillery reconnaissance capabilities are usually absent or limited.
Usually, one battery of a howitzer battalion and on ebattery of a self-propelled howitzer battalion is on duty; at least one battery stays in firing positions permanently.
The brigades lack 152-mm howitzers, and this sharply reduces their firepower compared to brigade artillery groups of the Ukrainian Army.
However, separate artillery brigades are much more interesting. Each corps has one separate artillery brigade: Kalmius in the 1st AC and the 10th Separate Artillery Brigade (the number is often omitted) in the 2nd AC.
Both brigades were formed in different manners; for this reason, their structures and armaments differ.
Leaving aside the history of the 10th Separate Artillery Brigade formation, we can see that it comprises a missile battalion and two howitzer battalions at the moment. Whether it has a self-propelled howitzer battalion, is still in doubt. The brigade also has an anti-aircraft missile battalion.
The qualitative makeup of the brigade is noteworthy.
In addition to the typical 18 BM-21 Grad MLRS, the missile battalion has a full-fledged BM-27 Uragan battery. One of the vehicles was seized from the Ukrainian Army, with five more supplied from Russia in addition. However, according to the data that require additional confirmation, the brigade has retained only two BM-27 vehicles. The brigade also has at least two transporter and loader vehicles for BM-27s.
One of the howitzer battalions is equipped with 18 units of 2A65 Msta-B howitzers; the second one is equipped with 18 2A36 Hyacinth-B howitzers. According to non-verified data, the brigade also has one or two D-20 batteries in service.
The anti-aircraft missile battalion is equipped with the Strela-10 and Osa air defense systems, as well as with MANPADS.
Most likely, the brigade also includes an anti-tank battalion equipped with the Fagot anti-tank guided missile systems.
The brigade’s artillery reconnaissance is equipped with sound-ranging systems and Granat UAVs made in Russia. There is no reliable information about the availability of other types of UAVs.
Notably, the brigade is well manned. All its units are fully combat ready.
Kalmius Separate Artillery Brigade is armed more modestly: the brigade includes a self-propelled howitzer battalion with 2S1 Gvozdika howitzers; a howitzer battalion with an unknown number of batteries armed with 2A65 Msta-B, 2A36 Hyacinth-B, D-20 howitzers; and a missile battalion with BM-21 Grad MLRS. The data about the availability of BM-27 Uragan MLRS in service of the missile battalion are not confirmed.
The brigade also includes an anti-aircraft missile battalion.
There is no reliable information about the UAVs in service.
Until the summer of 2019, the artillery reconnaissance of the brigade relied on the Zoopark system.
Unlike the 10th Separate Artillery Brigade, the Kalmius Brigade is critically low in personnel (below 50%). Given that the brigade’s batteries are dispersed over a large section of the frontline, they will not be able to influence the combat perceptibly.
On a separate note, let us consider the differences in the artillery reconnaissance systems of the two ACs.
The network of observation posts (OP) of the 2nd AC is integrated into a system, in which information is exchanged rapidly. The data is transmitted both to the brigade level and to the 10th Separate Artillery Brigade. The artillery reconnaissance system also includes sound ranging posts that complement visual observation data.
However, the 1st AC lacks a single artillery reconnaissance system with OPs controlled by brigades. The general quality of the artillery reconnaissance in the 1st AC is very low; the corps is not capable of organizing effective counterartillery suppression operations. They do have the reconnaissance equipment but it is not used as a part of a system.
The artillery reconnaissance services of the two ACs interact with each other at the junction point between the 3rd and 7th MRBs.
The average response time of the 1st AC’s counterartillery suppression groups ranges from 40 to 60 minutes.
The quality of the counterartillery suppression system improves substantially with the use of counterartillery radars; however, they are deployed sporadically and are operated only by the career servicemen from Russia. Whenever a system like Zoopark is used, the response time goes down to 15–25 minutes.
Notably, both brigades have at their disposal Russian-made Krasnopol guided projectiles and Sakharoza cluster scattering projectiles.Rounds of both these types were repeatedly used in combat, but with low efficiency.
Let us summarize our findings:
- over the last 4 to 5 years, Russia has established two army corps in the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions modeled on the typical Russian army structure, making it possible to integrate them into the overall structure of Russia’s South Military District;
- the integration of the corps into the formal structure of the Southern Military District is supported by the dual command structure in all units of the 1st and 2nd ACs from the battalion level up;
- almost 100% availability of the equipment and at the same time low personnel strength of the units indicates them as skeleton units that can be topped up by Russian servicemen at any time;
- the communications from the battalion level up are digital and secure, based on Azart and Arakhis radio stations ensuring easy integration and control of the units, should it become necessary;
- the 1st and 2nd ACs are unable to mount offensives on their own not only with their current personnel strength, but also after being topped up to the authorized strength (with rare exceptions at a tactical level). Moreover, the 1st and 2nd ACs will not be able to ensure effective defense in the case of a large-scale Ukrainian Army offensive along two operational directions. Both corps are tasked with delaying the Ukrainian Army offensive as much as possible to ensure the deployment of the regular units of the Russian army;
- critical factors that reduce the combat efficiency of the ACs include low availability of reconnaissance equipment, weak counterartillery suppression capabilities (except for the 2nd AC), extremely low motivation of soldiers and poor training of commanding officers, disencouragement of initiative of the commanding officers, unwieldy and extremely complicated decision-making mechanism.
However, the 1st and 2nd ACs are quite capable of securing defense against potential Ukrainian Army counterattacks in the case of the potential Russian offensive in the East, making the regular Russian army units fully available for the offensive (according to the principle of not engaging defensive units in the offensive actions).
This intelligence and analytical report was prepared by Roman Grinev for InformNapalm readers. Translated by Oleksandr Ivanov. Edited by Artem Velichko. Distribution and reprint with reference to the source is welcome! (Creative Commons — Attribution 4.0 International — CC BY 4.0) InformNapalm social media pages: Facebook / Twitter / Telegram