One fact that is common to all modern military forces is that only a small percentage of the total number of soldiers are actually engaged in combat. At least that is the theory. The concept of “Tooth – to – Tail Ratio” is military-speak  to describe the amount of military personnel it takes to supply and support (“tail”) each combat soldier (“tooth”).

For the U.S. Army in Iraq that ratio was roughly 8 support troops for each combat soldier. I got to thinking about this today (I had a long drive and plenty of time to cogitate) with respect to Ukraine’s upcoming offensive. Based on the classified docs allegedly leaked by Airman Jack Teixeira, Ukraine is planning to field 12 brigades, which could mean as many as 60,000 soldiers (i.e., one full strength brigade has 5,000 troops). Does this mean that all are combat troops? I don’t know. Let’s assume the answer is yes. Then that means the offensive would be backed up by 480,000 support troops. Last I checked (and I welcome anyone who can correct me), Ukraine does not have that many soldiers — at least trained personnel.

Let’s take the opposite assumption, i.e., that the 60,000 troops slated for the offensive represents the total number dedicated to that operation. If we use the 8 to 1 ration, that means Ukraine is fielding only 6000 actual combat troops. Here’s another example to contemplate. Let’s assume that Ukraine launches an offensive with 50 tanks, each with a four man crew. That is 200 tankers. Do the math. That means the tanks will need at least 1600 personnel to provide the support in terms of providing fuel, ammunition and repairs. Does Ukraine actually have the number of skilled personnel capable of providing that support?

If Ukraine is going to launch an offensive it cannot rely on static artillery, i.e. artillery pieces fixed in one location, because if they succeed in advancing forward they will be outside the range where those guns could provide them support by pounding Russian positions. Conversely, Russia has an enormous advantage in terms of artillery — both mobile and fixed — and ammunition that can be zeroed on advancing Ukrainian units. We have already seen that Ukrainian attempts to penetrate the Russian border in the Belgorod region have been beaten back with a lethal combination of artillery, missiles and close air support from combat fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

Let me know what you think.

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