Russian Munitions Being Depleted, UK GCHQ Director Says


Credit: Russian Defense Ministry

Russian supplies of munitions are being drained and the country’s forces are being exhausted by Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the head of the UK’s signals intelligence agency has indicated. 

Sir Jeremy Fleming, director of the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). “We know, and Russian commanders on the ground know, that their supplies and munitions are running out.

“With little effective internal challenge, his [President Vladimir Putin’s] decision-making has proved flawed. It’s a high-stake strategy that is leading to strategic errors in judgment,” Fleming added. 

The costs to Russia of the Ukrainian invasion are “staggering,” Fleming said. 

“Russia’s forces are exhausted. The use of prisoners to reinforce, and now the mobilization of tens of thousands of inexperienced conscripts, speaks of a desperate situation,” he said. 

And there are signs that Russia’s population has started to understand the impacts too. “They’re seeing just how badly Putin has misjudged the situation,” he said. “They’re fleeing the draft, realizing they can no longer travel. They know their access to modern technologies and external influences will be drastically restricted. And they are feeling the extent of the dreadful human cost of his war of choice.”

Fleming’s words come a day after Russian forces launched dozens of air-launched and sea-launched cruise missiles and loitering drones to attack targets in Ukrainian cities, killing 12 people and injuring another 80, according to the Ukrainian government. 

Russia said the strikes were in response to the Oct. 8 attack that badly damaged the Crimean Bridge across the Kerch Strait, which is a main supply route for Russian forces operating in Ukraine. 

Russia appeared to use a mix of Kh-101, Kh-555 and Kalibr cruise missiles—weapons that are reportedly already in short supply, partly because of their reliance on Western electronics. The shortfall in such weapons is believed to be one of the reasons Russia has turned to Iran to supply it with loitering munitions such as the Shahed-136, which was also used extensively in the strikes. As many as 2,400 Shaheds have been ordered from Iran, Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy has said. 

Russia’s strikes have prompted Ukraine to call for additional transfers of air defense systems from the West, with Zelenskyy telling Western leaders Oct. 11 that when Ukraine “receives a sufficient number of modern and effective air defense systems, the key element of Russian terror—missile strikes—will cease to work.” He thanked Germany’s efforts in speeding up the deliveries of IRIS-T short-range air defenses and called upon both the French and Italian governments to deliver Eurosam SAMP/T systems, a European equivalent to the U.S. Patriot. He said such weapons would be “needed in the coming months.” 

Zelenskyy said he would be urging defense ministers to discuss further deliveries in an upcoming meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group on Oct. 12.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.


NATO countries' stocks of munitions are also being depleted by supplying them to Ukraine. If Russia attacks a NATO country (eg Poland, Estonia, etc) then this will be crucial for NATO's response. Are NATO countries making haste to replenish munition stocks?
If NATO got involved, Russia would be quickly suppressed (or there would be a nuclear war). Imagine all those F-16s and other fighter bombers with lots of weapons, precise or not. Not to mention F-35s, A-10s, B-52s (B-52s attacking Russia -- the mind boggles), B-1Bs, B-2s, etc. And lots of drones and ground based weapons. If they are retreating from Ukrainia, then think about the mismatch with NATO.

Bernard Biales
I hope the NATO countries supplying Ukraine with weapons are drawing down their older units. All these items have a shelf-life and if they are due for disposal in three or four years anyway, giving them to Ukraine where they may sit around for a few weeks at most then it will save the cost of disposing of them.
Replenishment orders will undoubtedly be for the latest version and a few years earlier than planned.