Russia Is Winning the Industrial Warfare Race

Last year I mocked the media for claiming that ‘Russia is running out of’ whatever.

> Back in March I had warned that Lies Do Not Win Wars. Here is another practical example.

After allegedly having ‘run out of missiles’ and, more importantly, patience, the leadership of the Russian Federation decided to de-electrify Ukrainian cities with a ‘barrage of missile strikes’. <

Western military commentators have finally started to accept the obvious. Russia is winning and doing so by a large margin.

A similar turn can be seen in dearth of new ‘Russia is running out of’ stories which get now replaced by acknowledgements that Russia’s weapon industries are out-producing the West:

Russia Overcomes Sanctions to Expand Missile Production, Officials Say – NY Times
Moscow’s missile production now exceeds prewar levels, officials say, leaving Ukraine especially vulnerable this coming winter.

As a result of the sanctions, American officials estimate that Russia was forced to dramatically slow its production of missiles and other weaponry at the start of the war in February 2022 for at least six months. But by the end of 2022, Moscow’s military industrial manufacturing began to pick up speed again, American officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose the sensitive assessment now concede.

Before the war, one senior Western defense official said, Russia could make 100 tanks a year; now they are producing 200.

Western officials also believe Russia is on track to manufacture two million artillery shells a year — double the amount Western intelligence services had initially estimated Russia could manufacture before the war.

As a result of the push, Russia is now producing more ammunition than the United States and Europe. Overall, Kusti Salm, a senior Estonian defense ministry official, estimated that Russia’s current ammunition production is seven times greater than that of the West.

Russia’s production costs are also far lower than the West’s, in part because Moscow is sacrificing safety and quality in its effort to build weapons more cheaply, Mr. Salm said. For instance, it costs a Western country $5,000 to $6,000 to make a 155-millimeter artillery round, whereas it costs Russia about $600 to produce a comparable 152-millimeter artillery shell, he said.

I believe that the numbers of current weapon production in Russia, which the New York Times cites, are too low. Consider that back in February the former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev spoke of an ‘exponential increase’ in weapon output:

Medvedev said Moscow had increased military production “by tens of times” at some factories and was closely studying weapons fired into Russian-held areas from the Ukrainian side in an effort to gain an advantage.

I would also argue that sanctions were never really able to hinder Russia’s arms industry. No military uses the latest and greatest chips when it comes to making weapons. Putting sanctioning on those is thus pretty useless. Some old Intel 80386 compatible CPU is, correctly programmed, sufficient to manage a modern artillery system. For little money one can get thousands of these in any Asian electronic market.

There are a few exceptions that need special stuff. For some time Russia was behind in the production of night vision equipment. It imported some from France which blocked further transfers. But that issues seems to have been solved. For basic materials and energy Russia has all it needs. It also has well qualified staff to develop and build new weapons.

Five years ago the Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed a number of new weapon systems which were superior to western ones. He also mentioned that same of these were based on “new physical principles” which had been discovered by Russian scientists. At the recent Eastern Economic Forum he repeated that claim:

If one looks into the security sphere, new physical principles weapons will ensure the security of any country in the near historic perspective. We understand this very well and are working on it, Putin said.

(I don’t find those sentences in the plenum transcript but trust Sputnik to have it right.)

There is some guessing what Putin might have meant. I thought about it for quite a while but have to admit that I have no clue what he has in mind.

A warning that Russia will outproduce the West was given back in June 2022 when Alex Vershinin of RUSI issued a note about The Return of Industrial Warfare:

The winner in a prolonged war between two near-peer powers is still based on which side has the strongest industrial base. A country must either have the manufacturing capacity to build massive quantities of ammunition or have other manufacturing industries that can be rapidly converted to ammunition production. Unfortunately, the West no longer seems to have either.

It has become to expensive for the West to regain that capability.

That Russia was running out of stuff was always wishful thinking, not fact based analysis. On that point it took the media more than a year to catch up with reality. On other aspects of the the war, casualty numbers come to mind, the media are still miles behind.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.