scorecardRussia can't really fight Ukraine at night because Moscow's military is so broke and degraded it can't afford night-vision gear for its troops, war expert says
  1. Home
  2. international
  3. news
  4. Russia can't really fight Ukraine at night because Moscow's military is so broke and degraded it can't afford night-vision gear for its troops, war expert says

Russia can't really fight Ukraine at night because Moscow's military is so broke and degraded it can't afford night-vision gear for its troops, war expert says

Chris Panella   

Russia can't really fight Ukraine at night because Moscow's military is so broke and degraded it can't afford night-vision gear for its troops, war expert says
LifeInternational3 min read
  • Russia can't afford expensive night-vision technology to fight Ukrainian forces at night.
  • A war expert told Insider that Ukraine has the advantage in nighttime operations.

Ukraine has the advantage in the dark and is able to launch nighttime assaults against Russian forces thanks to Western-provided equipment — which includes everything from night-vision goggles and scopes to drones equipped with thermal imaging.

Beyond equipment, another thing that gives Ukraine an edge in nighttime operations is Russia's inability to do the same due to lack of resources or planning. An expert told Insider that, at the end of the day, Russia just can't afford to equip its forces with expensive night-vision capabilities.

"The Russian military is pretty well known for lacking some of these higher-end capabilities, even before the war and even before the military was stressed and degraded," said George Barros, a geospatial intelligence team lead and Russia analyst with the Institute for the Study of War.

"These pieces of equipment are quite expensive," Barros added. "Some of these individual helmet-mounted night-vision goggles retail for tens of thousands of dollars for a single unit."

And it's not just these nighttime warfighting capabilities that Russian forces lack. The average soldier is poorly equipped when it comes to weapons, armor, and combat technology. Russian troops have described being sent into battle with rusted, Soviet-era weapons that jam.

"It's difficult to see how the Russian Ministry of Defense could be able to afford to regularly equip its average infantry with really expensive night-vision goggles or other kinds of similar optics when they can't afford regular optics for most of these troops, let along proper body armor and proper training," Barros said.

While some night-vision technology has been "proliferated throughout specialized Russian units," he told Insider, the common soldier just isn't getting anything close to the coveted scopes and goggles. And with corruption running rampant in the Russian armed forces, some groups that get access to higher-end equipment like night-vision systems likely hoard them, Barros noted.

To address certain equipment and technology shortages, Russia sometimes relies on crowdfunding campaigns. Milbloggers and nationalist groups source the money from Russian civilians and put it towards important battlefield assets. In those campaigns, Barros said, he's rarely seen night-vision optics being funded.

"They're crowdfunding for things like drones and medical equipment," he explained. Instead of night-vision goggles, it's "basic optics" like daylight scopes, sights, and range finders.

Ukraine's forces are taking advantage of their Western-provided equipment

Ukraine has access to a variety of night-vision systems, including thermal and infrared vision technology, and nighttime assault assets thanks to supplies from the West. Tanks, such as German-made Leopards Ukraine has fielded as part of its counteroffensive operations, have thermal and night-vision optics that also help Ukrainian forces launch nighttime assaults.

Russian sources have reported that those technologies are boosting Kyiv's abilities to operate at night, according to ISW. They've also seen an increase in Ukrainian forces launching nighttime raids during the early days of the counteroffensive.

One Russian occupation official in Zaporizhzhia said night assaults allow Ukraine to use its capabilities even more successfully, ISW said.

Barros said that from a campaign design perspective, Ukraine is using that tactical advantage to its benefit. "There's been combat footage and reports about Ukrainian night raids that have been fairly successful because of these capabilities," he told Insider.

There are plenty of benefits to attacking Russian forces at night, especially if they're unprepared to fight back effectively. For instance, it might be more difficult for Moscow's forces to bring in air support or hold defenses, and it might be easier for Ukraine to go undetected while attacking and advancing under the cover of darkness.

While the full extent to which Ukraine is able and Russia is unable to conduct nighttime operations is unclear, Kyiv is definitely leveraging the tools it's been given and making the most of its opportunity here.

"Whenever we enable the Ukrainians to exploit a tactical or operational edge, they're really good at it," Barros said. "Every single system that we sent them, they make good use of it."

He added that these situations highlight the need for Western nations to continue investing in Ukraine. They have, Barros said, really "demonstrated that if we want the Ukrainians to do well, we need to actually give them the systems and the capabilities that can help them do that."




Advertisement