How to Understand the Reports of the Russian Ministry of Defence

NEW – August 14, 2022

“After strikes by Russian troops, a UAF unit lost its combat capability.” This is one of the most common phrases in the daily reports of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation. But what does this mean? Behind the words “target suppressed” or “disabled” is a specific level of damage to the enemy.

The reports of the Ministry of Defence on the course of the special operation regularly provide data on the volume of fire damage to the enemy – the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the nationalist battalions. This not only shows the number of affected objects, but also indicates the degree of damage caused to them (which, of course, is an estimate). Such expressions as “target suppressed”, “target defeated”, “target deprived of combat capability” and “target destroyed” appear as the size of defeat.

For example, not so long ago, the Ministry of Defence stated that the Ukrainian nationalist formation “Kraken” has lost its combat capability. Repeatedly, something similar is stated about other units of the Ukrainian army.

But what does it all mean? For a placemark, such as a single tank, the concept of “destroyed” has an obvious meaning – the object is completely destroyed. However, in relation to others that have distributed structures and include a large number of elements, this meaning is not always clear to a civilian. What is “target suppression” if the target is a regiment, company, or brigade?

First of all, let’s turn to military terminology. In it, the concept of “defeat” means causing some damage to the enemy and only that. But the amount of this damage is reflected in special concepts – “the target is suppressed”, “the target is defeated”, “the target is deprived of combat capability” and “the target is destroyed”.

When determining the level of damage caused, military experts start from the concept of “combat capability”. It, in turn, refers to the ability of a tactical unit – a company, regiment, etc. – to complete its own combat tasks.

For example, when it comes to a unit or sub-unit of the ground forces, it is its ability to conduct combat operations in a specific zone and depth, which are determined by the relevant standards. If we are talking about an artillery unit, then it implies its ability to perform the volume of fire tasks for a fixed time. If a unit meets these requirements, it is considered to be combat-ready. If not, then it is classified as having limited combat capability or non-combat capability. Thus, in military terminology, various degrees of defeat of the target means the deprivation of their ability to perform their tasks for a certain time.

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Thus, the term “target suppressed” in most countries of the world means that a given unit or subdivision has lost the ability to perform its proper functions for some time – from several hours to several days.

The term “target defeated” refers to the level of defeat at which a given unit or unit is deprived of the ability to perform their tasks for a long time, which is of operational significance.

The concept of “target deprived of combat capability” in the context in which it is used by representatives of the press service of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation can be considered equivalent to the concept of “target defeated”. By the term “target destroyed”, if we are talking about units and divisions of the ground forces, it means that the scale of the defeat is so great that it must be completely restored, as is said, from scratch.

In any military formations, the following main systems are distinguished: intelligence and surveillance, control, defeat of the enemy, logistics and technical support. The ability of these systems to perform tasks is determined by the staffing of personnel, combat, special and other serviceable equipment and weapons, the availability of material reserves, the level of tactical and operational training of command personnel, and the training of personnel. The moral and psychological state of all categories of personnel of the unit (subdivision) is of key importance.

Goal suppression is achieved in a variety of ways. Thus, a violation of the communication subsystem, in which the enemy’s command is deprived of the ability to bring commands to subordinate formations and receive information from them, leads to the deprivation of a unit (sub-unit) of the ability to complete its own tasks. In this case, they say that the target is suppressed by electronic warfare. Radio-electronic suppression of intelligence and surveillance systems leads to a similar result.

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The formation may be overwhelmed if, as a result of enemy fire, it loses its ammunition reserves and other material and technical means, without which it cannot complete its typical combat tasks. For some limited time, of course, not permanently. The destruction of control bodies and command posts can also lead to the deprivation of this formation to complete its usual combat tasks until the control system is restored.

The defeat of the combat elements of the formation, as a rule, leads to a decrease in combat capabilities, but not to the loss of combat capability, unless the moral and psychological stability of the personnel is lost. If this happens, the formation is also deprived of combat capability for the period of restoration of the moral and psychological state of the personnel.

An indicator of the level of moral and psychological stability can be considered the percentage of losses at which personnel refuse to continue performing combat tasks.

This, by the way, also appears very often in the reports of the Russian Defence Ministry recently. For example, a recent report says that “the personnel of the 23rd battalion of the 56th motorised Infantry Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in full force voluntarily left their combat positions and left for the rear areas”. Deserted from the battlefield, to put it simply.

And this indicator – the moral and psychological stability of the troops – varies within very large limits. It depends on many factors determined by the mentality, ideology, history, and condition of specific people. The experience of combat operations of the 21st century shows that Western armies have a high sensitivity to losses – already on average, with losses from 15-20 to 30%, in most cases their formations refused to continue fighting.

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The Russian army and, we must pay tribute, the UAF show a much lower sensitivity to losses. Suffice it to recall the example of the 9th Company in Afghanistan and many of our other units that found themselves in a critical situation.

In the course of combat operations, when the enemy is hit by fire, as a rule, a complex effect is carried out on the enemy’s military formations with the defeat of elements of all its functional systems. This is exactly what is reported in the reports of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation on the course of the Special Military Operation. It is believed that when approximately 15-20% of the personnel, weapons, combat and special equipment is destroyed, a unit (sub-unit) loses its combat capability, but after some time it can restore it at the expense of its own resources. That is, such losses correspond to the level of damage “target suppressed”.

The “target defeated” level is reached when 40-50 to 70% of personnel, weapons, combat and special equipment are destroyed. In this case, the formation cannot restore its combat capability at the expense of its own resources. It needs to be restored, replenished, and loses its ability to solve problems for a long time. Often in this case, it is allocated for reformation.

A formation is considered destroyed if its losses exceed 80-90% or more. In this case, it is considered completely lost. Then its fate is decided by the higher command: either it is no longer recreated under this name or designation at all, or a completely new formation is created under the same name. An example is the “Azov” regiment – after its complete destruction in Mariupol, it was re-created by Ukraine under the same name.

Based on these indicators, we can roughly assess what results our troops are achieving within the framework of the Special Military Operation.


Konstantin Sivkov, Doctor of Military Sciences

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