As Russian forces reportedly close in on Kyiv and other critical areas of Ukraine, it is uncertain whether there will be large-scale battles between the Russian military and Ukrainian defenders. Ukraine may not have the ability to stop or slow down a full-scale Russian invasion.
Russia’s army includes about two-and-a-half times the number of armored vehicles as Ukraine’s, and Russian equipment is also more modern. Global Firepower’s 2022 Military Strength Ranking reports Ukraine as operating roughly 12,000 armored vehicles, compared with Russia’s 30,000.
Russia has both quantitative and qualitative advantages in armored warfare against Ukraine. Some Russian armored vehicles, such as the KAMAZ SBA-60K2 Bulat Armored Personnel Carrier, were developed and procured within the last decade. Other weapons systems, like Russian T-90s tanks, entered service in the 1990s but have been upgraded substantially.
Meanwhile, Ukraine operates several Soviet-era armored personnel carriers (APCs) including the 1980s BTR-80 APC. The BTR-80 is complemented by Ukraine’s upgraded BTR-84 variant.
These advantages place Russia in a position to overwhelm Ukrainian ground forces. Ukraine’s most advanced infantry fighting vehicle is the BMP-3, a Soviet-era design also possessed by Russia’s Army. Russia, however, also fields the more modern BMPT (Terminator) Heavy Armored Support Vehicle.
The Russian ground force also operates modern S-400 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) which first debuted in 2007 and have been upgraded since. Russian SAM batteries give advancing forces the ability to track and destroy enemy aircraft. CNN’s Matthew Chance reported on Friday that Russian missile batteries down a Ukrainian fighter over Kyiv. Ukraine operates older S-300 batteries and Tor short-range SAMs.
These mismatches don’t mean Ukraine lacks advantages of its own, however. Assaulting Russian mechanized forces will have to dismount and engage in close-quarters battles in some areas. Ukrainian infantry using prepared defensive positions may be able to use cover to mount surprise hit-and-run attacks on advancing Russian armored units.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.