Insane in the Ukraine

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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Upthorn » Thu May 26, 2022 1:23 am

pacobird wrote:napoleon kicked their asses so badly it single handedly turned the tide of the french revolutionary wars

Counterpoint: Napoleon was Italian.
How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks.

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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mongrel » Thu May 26, 2022 1:50 am

Friday wrote:The Russians have always been shit at offensive wars. They're also shit at defensive wars, but slightly less shit in that they have winter to kill the invaders for them and invaders keep fucking sending in their troops without, you know, coats.

All the "French people suck at war, haha" memes should have been pointed at Russians this whole time. Despite the international "tough guy" persona Russian has as a nation, it's actually a terrible warrior with a terrible track record. And yes, a lot of that is bad commanders rather than how tough each individual Russian man (boy) is. I don't deny that. But a nation's rating of effectiveness as a military force must include how absolutely whacked out delusional their commanders are, and Russians are pretty much at the top of the pile when it comes to that.

One of the things to bear in mind is that for 200+ years Russia has basically said "Meh, we can throw guys at the problem until it goes away.", which sometimes worked and sometimes didn't.

The thing is, that premise was predicated on Russia had a much higher population than any contemporary opponents they might face. That is no longer even remotely true because.

1) The Russia which employed that strategy no longer exists, because Ukraine, White Russia (Belarus), and Kazakhstan are no longer part of it and those three countries supplied, like, as much as half the manpower in a given war. Especially since Russia was typically involved in wars to the west or southwest.

2) In spite of it still retaining a huge amount of territory and a large population even without Ukraine/Belarus/Kazakhstan. Russia has experienced steady population declines for OVER A CENTURY. At least since the Russian Revolution. The only exception was the 60's which, even for Russia, were a boom era remembered as a good time, same as it was for most of the world.

To be Russian is to live with a crushing hopelessness that pervades everything. That endemic despair which makes Russians intellectuals so philosophical, just ends up driving most of the population to drink themselves to death, including the intellectuals. It also makes a lot of them just plain bitter and nasty, especially now that there's no myth of nobly serving as the global champion of socialism to prop morale up a bit; now they're just another brutal kleptocracy and who the fuck's proud of that?

This is part of why Russians love WWII so much. Because they won. Because it fed the narrative of the Soviet state as the saviour of the world, and the 20 million Russians killed are simply assumed to be the price of defeating Naziism, and so they feel they did it all, having paid a price twenty times what anyone else did, conveniently overlooking the fact that no one needed to lose that many. They just did because it was Russia being traditionally Russian at war. It was the only thing most of the officers who hadn't been slaughtered by Stalin knew how to do.

Classic case of "Do we kill him or give him a medal?" where the answer is almost always "Give him a medal", because an army likes to pretend everything was all according to keikaku. Only applied to an entire war.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby pacobird » Thu May 26, 2022 8:57 am

Upthorn wrote:
pacobird wrote:napoleon kicked their asses so badly it single handedly turned the tide of the french revolutionary wars

Counterpoint: Napoleon was Italian.


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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mongrel » Thu May 26, 2022 8:46 pm

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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mongrel » Thu May 26, 2022 11:34 pm

It's official. Russian units have been spotted in the field using T-62 tanks.

That's right. A nearly seventy-year-old design and the tanks themselves are probably 50-odd years old.

Also all Russian border guards in Crimea, the Donbas, and Russian territory adjacent to Ukraine have had their vacations cancelled and are scheduled for training in "late May" (what's it gonna be... two days worth?). Guess we know who's next to the party now.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Friday » Thu May 26, 2022 11:39 pm

So bottom line this for me as someone who knows nothing about tanks:

I was under the impression that in a lot of cases, old military tech is still used today simply because it's still solid and reliable.

Is the T-62 a bad tank? I understand that the tanks themselves being old and not just the design is a factor too.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mongrel » Thu May 26, 2022 11:50 pm

In some cases old stuff can still be fine, and of course sometimes expensive hardware is kept up to date with modernization programs to keep them in service for 20-30 years. The T-62 itself was a perfectly serviceable tank for its era and saw fairly long service. But it's a tank designed in the late 50's, deployed starting 1961(!).

There comes a point, especially with things like tanks or aircraft, where no modernization package can remedy the fact that you're using a shell that's an out-and-out relic - you can't mount a jet engine and modern avionics on a fabric-covered biplane.

That's also assuming the actual bodies themselves haven't seriously degraded (rusted out, etc.) over time, something which is by no means guaranteed given the poor amount of maintenance and mostly outdoor storage the Russians use (to be fair the US uses outdoor storage too, but they do so in the southwestern deserts where the dry air is great for preservation).

I assume they at least dug up the least rusty ones, but even so, these are just deathtraps. There's thousands upon thousands of several generations of anti-tank weapons in Ukraine right now, and you don't need Javelins or even NLAWs to take out these old hunks.

I mean, if you have two light infantry squads with no AT weapons, and one of them has a T62 which runs and can fire its cannon, sure the guys with the tank are gonna come out on top. But the likelihood of a Ukrainian infantry unit having no anti-tank weapons whatsoever is basically nil at this point, and if they come up against an actual Ukrainian tank, they'll be lucky if they even know one's there before they die.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Brentai » Fri May 27, 2022 12:25 am

I can't speak for the Russians but I know every decades old vehicle used by the U.S. Army at least has gone through that philosophical debate of "If you replace every part over time is it still the same vehicle?"
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mongrel » Fri May 27, 2022 12:43 am

In Russia those parts mostly get sold out the back door.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mongrel » Fri May 27, 2022 1:45 am

Reminds me I wanted to talk about a specific aspect of Russian tanks (which, it's worth remembering, the Ukrainians are also using).

Since the 50's Russian tanks have used what's called an 'autoloader'. Autoloaders are exactly what they sound like - an automatic loading system which grabs shells from the ammunition rack and shoves them into in the gun. Sounds all modern and mechanized, right?

Yet most NATO nations do not use autoloaders in their tanks, instead retaining an additional human crewmember to act as the loader (the French have a very fancy exception in the Leclerc tank). Why would NATO, with arguably better access to advanced systems and absolutely more technical resources still use manual labour for such a basic task?

Well, as it turns out there's pros and cons.

The advantages to autoloaders are that you have one less crew (three, to NATO's usual four). This means their tank turret can be smaller and the tank overall has a lower, stealthier profile, less weight, and requires less material to make. You might also be able to shoot quicker in theory, but not really - rate of fire depends a lot more on target acquisition and fire control than it does on loading speed. Tank duels are more like sniping matches than brawls in most cases, so stealth and accuracy matter a lot more than firing loads of rounds quickly (usually).

The DISADVANTAGE to autoloaders is the the way a tank must be designed to accommodate them. Remember those videos we'd see as kids (or as bored adults on YouTube) of a bottling plant where pop bottles or pasta jars or whatever are filled up? How the bottles and jars travel on long winding railed racks, sometimes with bearings to speed them along? How they line up to go into one machine after another, to be filled, then to be capped, then labelled? Well, autoloading ammunition racks are a lot like that. They're a long, open rack, inside the tank, and the end goes into the loading system.

But where do you fit a long rack like that full of shells in a tank without awkward right angles or switchbacks or other things likely to cause problems?

You bend it into a circle and fit it just under the turret ring.

This is why you see so many dead Russian tanks with their turrets blown off - because a direct hit to the hull anywhere near the underside of the turret, from nearly any angle (but especially the sides) has an extremely high chance of blowing the whole ammo rack SKY HIGH, flinging the turret into the air like a Soyuz launch.

For the Soviets, who used extremely aggressive massed tank doctrines, that was simply an acceptable cost for the strategies they planned for in the event of an all-out war with the west.

Now you look at a NATO tank, like an Abrams, and they don't have any of that. They just let the oafs of the tank program lug shells by hand out of a box like some kind of peasant slopping up a bucket of mud. Boo! Lame!

Well actually no. See, almost all NATO tanks (even the Leclerc) keep their ammunition in an EXTERNAL bustle, usually at the back of the turret, there's a little automated door between the back of the turret which is only open for a few seconds every now and then when the loader actually pulls a round out. The bustle will have blow-out panels such that if there's a direct hit on the ammunition compartment, the blast will naturally be directed away from the back of the turret, so the crew has a pretty good chance of surviving even a direct hit on their ammunition compartment and the tank itself might even be salvageable, at least partially.

Of course this make NATO tanks bigger, with moderately higher profiles, and they're heavier and require more fuel. But you can see that NATO forces recognize that a trained tank crew is a valuable, hard-to-replace thing, whereas the Soviets were more concerned with overwhelming quantity and an aggressive strategy. Leaving aside the moral implications for a moment, they were simply different doctrines.

Were.

The era where that Soviet doctrine might have had its uses has gone (and yes, even in some imaginary future Russia-vs-NATO war too). Which means most Soviet-designed tanks are now vulnerable in ways others are not. Russia could mitigate that weakness with more infantry support for their tanks (NATO uses a lot more infantry per tank; where Russia's been trying to do this on the cheap and short on infantry from the beginning), but they don't have that. Meanwhile Ukraine HAS been making sure to screen their tanks as much as they can, which is why the losses have been something like 10:1 Russia to Ukraine in terms of tanks. It's not just the Javelins (though the Javelins sure help)!

So when you see T62s on a modern battlefield, part of what makes that so horrifying is that more modern tanks at least have things like reactive armour (those little boxes all over the front-facing sections and some of the sides) which blow up to counteract an incoming projectile's momentum. More modern ones have active defence systems with scanners which actually launch little counterfire projectiles.

T62's have *ZERO* active defence systems and *NO* reactive armour - they just use plain old armour plate. They have ancient optics and a garbage effective range compared to any modern tank. Yet they still have that Soviet autoloader deathtrap design. On a modern battlefield they are INCREDIBLY vulnerable. Even Vietnam-era antitank weapons (and the Ukrainians have lots of those) can wreck something that old. Shit, even stuff that sorta worked against WWII tanks like some small arms, molotovs, grenades, impromptu tank traps, etc. can be used to limited success against something so old. This is why you see comments saying the Russians are pulling "Antiques" out of the "Boneyard". It's like sending out a guy with a medieval steel breastplate instead of modern body armour (and a WWII surplus rifle instead of at least an AK).

What's more, you wonder if the Russians are putting crews trained (however briefly) on MODERN tanks in these things. If so, they're wasting modern-trained crews on something way below their capabilities. If not, they're probably sending hapless dorks out to die with next to no training. Either way that's a very bad situation for the Russian mobile forces to be in.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mongrel » Fri May 27, 2022 2:06 am

Oh and ultra-modern tanks are trying to solve this problem by having the entire turret be self-contained and fully mechanized, with the crew only in the hull, operating the gun remotely, but there's some problems with a design like that no one's quite sorted out yet (turns out the turret is useful for more than just housing the gun and firing system - if nothing else, tank commanders actually benefit quite a bit from the elevated position).

Russia's long-delayed (supposedly) super-modern 'Armata' T-14 tank was supposed to be one such tank, though it's rumoured the project stalled years ago because it's simply too expensive for the Russian military budget (worth remembering that Russia's economy is only the size of Spain's!), so it's very likely the Armata's in development hell and nowhere near being functional, let alone ready.

In general, world militaries, including Russia, have preferred to update their 80's/90's-era tanks to add modern countermeasures and armour upgrades since everyone expected small conflicts rather than massive tank battles between major powers. Keeping the old stuff trucking was a lot cheaper. That might change now!

The Abrams replacement in particular has been put off for decades, making the Abrams one of the oldest base designs still in service with NATO. But it's still a perfectly fine tank thanks to upgrade programs - it can accept and mount all sorts of modern systems.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mongrel » Sat May 28, 2022 2:50 am

Overall the main show is still Russia's attempts to surround and capture the city of Sverodonetsk, the last major Donbas city still in Ukrainian hands and the easternmost tip of Ukrainian-held territory. Russian forces continue to tighten the area around the city, though they have not yet started actual urban combat, or cut it off entirely (worst assessment as of today has the Russians surrounding at most 2/3rds of the city, and there's a good chance of it being less).

Meanwhile, in occupied territory, the authorities are trying to forces Russian passports on everyone. This serves two goals, one promoting the fiction that they're Russian citizens, and two, they will now be registered and are subject to conscription the way the people of the Donbas were. A while ago the prospect of press-ganging actively hostile citizens was raised, and the Russians likely realized just how bad an idea that was even if the conscripts are totally unarmed and dropped it. If Russia's desperate enough to bring it up again as a possibility or tempted because they think they can just send them off to die and not have them count against any ledger in the same way as the conscripts from the Donbas have been treated... well we'll see how that plan works out for them, eh?

Other than that, two small stories came up worth noting.

First is that partisan activity in southern Ukraine has reached the point where Russian occupation forces are actively avoiding bridges and even roads in some areas. The Russians clearly lack the forces to mount search-and-destroy operations presently (remember almost everything's been sucked into the eastern battles), and if they don't get reinforcements soon, well maybe things won't get worse for them... or maybe they will.

Second is that the Ukrainian general staff reported that multiple Russian units north of Kharkiv RIOTED when ordered to form up to mount an attack towards Kharkiv. Not protested, not refused orders, but RIOTED. This has not yet been confirmed by 3rd parties, but uh, that sure would be something if true.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mongrel » Sun May 29, 2022 2:26 am

WELL IT'S ON. Ukraine has started a major offensive in the south-west, presumably aiming at at least recapturing Kherson. Information is scarce (since the Ukrainians are actually good at this sort of thing), but there's circumstantial evidence which shows they've successfully bridged a major river the Russians were using to hold the area northwest of Kherson.

T62s are becoming a meme as it turns out the Russian defenders down south are getting more of the things. Apparently many of them will be bunkered down with static defences as even the idiots in charge seem to get they don't dare commit them to actual mobile warfare.

Turning a tank into a little gun emplacement behind dirt and/or concrete barriers is basically the last useful thing a tank can do before it's just scrap. This has historically been a desperation measure to get some use out of extremely outmatched and otherwise-useless tanks. Except in some circumstances where gun turrets are actually removed from their tanks and properly built into a large well-made fortification, as with the German West Wall making use of old Panzer turrets, tanks in this position are typically not very effective and do not last long even with the additional protection of their impromptu bunkers or even having their hulls buried completely.

Other big changes today include most analytical military journalism formally adding reports on the effects of Ukrainian partisan activity to their regular, structured updates, as opposed to just mentioning them sporadically. Strong partisan activity could be dire for the occupying Russians given how poorly supported and undermanned they are.

Notably, imported Russian or collaborationist authorities have stepped up efforts to barricade their personal residences and demand guards which pulls even more occupation forces away from their preferred activities of looting and torture (aww poor babies), and their theoretical responsibilities as actual military occupying forces. This isn't a HUGE shift in manpower or anything, but it demonstrates the fear and insecurity occupying forces are increasingly feeling. Americans may remember times where the US army was doing so poorly against a given insurgency that there were periods where they were ordered not to leave their bases; we can cheerfully hope it gets that bad for the Russians.

There are also reports of Russian commanders falling to new lows as they've been observed doing things like refusing to evacuate wounded men or resupplying units which advance too far (thus PUNISHING success!) for fear of putting vehicles in harm's way which they will then be blamed for. Russian commanders are also failing to send reinforcements in an organized or timely fashion, thus rapidly exhausting their troops. This information has been reported by Ukrainian intelligence, but there are corroborating accounts from Russian military bloggers (including one with near 1 million followers) who are collectively blowing a gasket about the sheer incompetence Russian commanders are displaying.

Russian forces have also continued their freeze on all military offensives other than the ones on the city of Sverodonetsk, or operations directly supporting that one (like attempts to cut off highways leading to the city). The question remains about just how weak a lot of these depleted forces elsewhere are, as Russia is sacrificing almost all major combat power it has left to conquer a destroyed city with little strategic but a fair bit of symbolic value (they can declare Lukhansk Oblast fully conquered, though Donetsk Oblast has barely lost any territory since February, so it's not like they can say they've conquered all of the Donbas). Hilariously, some Russian commentators think the incredibly marginal gains made at ruinous cost around Sverodonetsk means they're winning and want to mount a new attack on Kyiv. LMAO PLEASE TRY THIS, OMG YES.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mongrel » Sun May 29, 2022 2:54 am

So... there's a question I've been asking myself for a couple days now: Is the Russian army of 2022 the dumbest army in history?

What about the last 1000 years? 500? 100?

Armies can have moron leaders, unrealistic goals, idiot troops (this one's most armies, really), institutionalized cowardice, atrocious morale (okay that one is actually appropriate), blinding greed, infighting, terrible logistics, unsound structure, bad intel, arrogant assumptions, confused advance planning, rotten communications, untrustworthy allies, and many other signs of idiocy, but it's quite rare to tick off *every last box*.

That's not a full bingo card. That's a bingo card where you start writing new boxes in the margins. I mean, sorry, but I didn't go into this with squares fuckin' marked "dig trenches in world's most comically lethal radioactive soil" or "build bunkers out of explosives precursors".

I am as you all know a big fat history nerd, and I can think of a LOT of shockingly stupid shit, but like, I'm really struggling here to think of anything even remotely comparable outside a couple Crusades and... Russia again in 1905.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Friday » Sun May 29, 2022 4:31 am

The Crusades were really, really bad. At one point during the first Crusade the besiegers of Jerusalem stripped naked and circled the city over and over again because God sent some weirdo a dream.

And keep in mind the first Crusade was the most effective one (despite doing most of its damage to Christian cities and peoples on the way there) and the only one to capture Jerusalem.

So I guess it's comparable to how terrible Russia is doing right now, yeah.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mongrel » Sun May 29, 2022 4:46 am

I think my favourite "Crusaders are idiots" story was the one where they charged a city which responded by just opening the gates, and then they ran screaming across the entire city (okay, granted, we're not talking NY), to the wall opposite the main gate, at which point they were surrounded on all sides (and above, on the walls) and slaughtered.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby zaratustra » Sun May 29, 2022 8:49 am

Mongrel wrote:I am as you all know a big fat history nerd, and I can think of a LOT of shockingly stupid shit, but like, I'm really struggling here to think of anything even remotely comparable outside a couple Crusades and... Russia again in 1905.


There's the Battle of Crécy, where the French somehow managed to hire five thousand professional crossbowmen and still lose to the common bow and arrow:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cr%C3%A9cy

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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mazian » Sun May 29, 2022 11:26 am

Or the Battle of Karánsebes, in which... I'll just let the Wikipedia infobox speak for itself.
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But if we're talking about full campaigns, the Crusades are tough to outdo. Even Vietnam didn't check all the boxes.

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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Mongrel » Sun May 29, 2022 1:06 pm

Mazian wrote:the Battle of Karánsebes


It's funny how often people have been bringing this one up lately... :thonk:

But yeah, single battles can be comedically stupid, far exceeding any one battle Russia's fought in this war. But those are single events; the overall course of the war here feels pretty tough to match.
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Re: Insane in the Ukraine

Postby Brentai » Sun May 29, 2022 4:34 pm

I get the feeling that the Russian dysfunction is fairly par for the course and this is the first time our generation's looked at two regular military forces going at each other with any level of detail. It's fairly easy to look competent when you're rewriting history or matching yourself up against a loose coalition of religious zealots, and the U.S. has been fairly spotty even at that.
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