UKRAINIAN TERRITORIALS ARE WEARING DOWN RUSSIAN DEFENSES IN ZAPORIZHZHIA. ARE THEY PREPARING FOR A COUNTEROFFENSIVE?
Nov 16, 2022
A few videos circulating online and depicting the goings-on in one Ukrainian army reserve brigade are not definitive evidence of a coming Ukrainian offensive in south-central Ukraine. A counteroffensive that could cut Russian forces in Ukraine in half before turning right to roll up thousands of hapless Russian troops clinging to the left bank of the Dnipro River south of the newly-free city of Kherson.
The 110th Territorial Brigade does seem to be unusually active, and aggressive, along its sector of Zaporizhzhia. Dropping tiny bombs from quadcopter-style drones. Plinking Russian positions with mortars and artillery. Tracking down and blowing up Russian guns.
The 110th Territorial Brigade is one of at least 31 territorial brigades that, along with a handful of independent territorial battalions, comprise Ukraine’s national guard.
The army and navy’s roughly 30 maneuver brigades—tank, mechanized, mountain, marine and air assault formations—lead major attacks and respond to Russian breakthroughs. They’ve got the most firepower, the most mobility, the most supporting forces such as scouts, engineers, artillery and air-defenders.
The territorial forces by contrast are more lightly-equipped and generally less well-trained. They back up the maneuver brigades, garrison towns the maneuver forces have liberated, and also hold defensive positions along more static stretches of the front. There are many, many exceptions to this rule, but in general the territorial brigades don’t do a lot of the hardest fighting.
When they do, it’s often because they’re racing forward to re-establish Ukrainian control in areas where the Russians are retreating. The territorials around the free city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine got an intensive workout back in September when a clutch of Ukrainian mechanized brigades penetrated Russian lines in the surrounding oblast and triggered a cascading Russian collapse across the sector. Soon territorial forces were advancing miles per day behind the fleeing Russians.
But there’s another reason why a territorial brigade with perhaps a couple thousand personnel might register an uptick in operations. If the Ukrainian army is planning a major attack along a given sector, it might task the local territorials to prepare the battlefield.
Analysts anticipate a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. So it should come as no surprise that the 110th Territorial Brigade is working over the Russian battalions in the sector. There was a noticeable increase in photos and videos from the 110th starting in August, around the same time Ukraine’s twin counteroffensives around Kharkiv and Kherson were about to kick off.
The territorials flew their quadcopters along the front, spotting Russian armored vehicles and walking in mortar and artillery fire. They also captured a few intact vehicles in positions the Russians had abandoned. Counterdrone teams from the 110th brought down at least a couple of Russian Orlan drones, possibly by jamming their control signals.
In September, at least one battalion of the 110th apparently joined the maneuver forces counterattacking toward Kherson, and reportedly lost a few armored vehicles: an ex-Dutch YPR-765, an ex-British Husky and an ex-Slovenian M-80.
By October, the 110th again was working the Zaporizhzhia front. Brigade air-defenders reportedly shot down a Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter. The 110th’s artillery pummeled a Russian staging area around a warehouse. And this month, the brigade’s quadcopters dropped mortar bombs to knock out a Russian T-80 tank and several BTR fighting vehicles.
The brigade’s biggest win came on or before Tuesday, when the 110th gunners cued by quadcopters claimed they destroyed two Russian 2S4 mortars. The 240-millimeter 2S4 is one of the most powerful artillery pieces in the Russian arsenal.
Destroying or suppressing the enemy’s heavy artillery, it’s worth noting, is a prerequisite to a successful offensive.