A Russian tank rumbles through terrain amid concerns of a Russian offensive in Donbas (Picture: Russian MOD).
A Russian tank rumbles through terrain amid concerns of a Russian offensive in Donbas (Picture: Russian MOD).
Russia

Ukraine: Has Russian army been stung by lack of Non-Commissioned Officers?

The Russian army has received criticism for the way in which it is structured, relying heavily on conscripts.

A Russian tank rumbles through terrain amid concerns of a Russian offensive in Donbas (Picture: Russian MOD).
A Russian tank rumbles through terrain amid concerns of a Russian offensive in Donbas (Picture: Russian MOD).

Has a lack of quality Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) in the Russian army been hindering its progress in Ukraine?

That was the question posed by a recent BFBS Sitrep podcast, which you can find here.

The Russian army has received criticism for the way in which it is structured, with no equivalent of the Non-Commissioned Officer corps. Rather, it relies heavily on conscripts who typically serve for just a year.

'Big' Phil Campion, a former British Army NCO, author and TV personality, told a recent episode of the BFBS Sitrep podcast: "You need people there who are trained. You need people there who absolutely 100% understand how the battlefield works."

Also speaking on BFBS Sitrep, defence analyst Michael Clarke explained why NCOs are important.

"The NCOs, the lance corporals, corporals, sergeants, sergeant majors – they are the backbone of any army, that's absolutely right," he said.

"They're the people who drive a platoon forward or get a platoon moving. It's always said that the British Army follow their Commissioned Officers, but that's mainly out of curiosity; they follow their NCOs because they are their peers, they're the people that they work with.

"The point about NCOs is that they do the drills and skills, they will make sure that you do your drills and skills. In combat, drills and skills will keep you functioning as a soldier and they'll save your life."

He added: "When the sergeant says, 'think of me as your mother', there's a sort of truth in that because he won't come around and kiss you goodnight, but he will make you, like your mother, do your drills and skills that will keep you alive and your sergeant will bring you all home at the end of it."

Mr Campion described NCOs as "the tip of the spear" on the battlefield.

He explained how Russia's lack of NCO structure could be hurting their movements, saying: "A lack of NCOs will obviously be hampering progress because they've got no direction at the very tip of the spear, so what do they do. Conscript soldiers, as well, are a massive problem for me.

"The other thing that we're seeing here, is they're up against people that are in their back yard quite literally fighting for their lives."

Speaking of what he saw when in Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, Mr Campion added: "I've seen farmers in their fields digging in with pitchforks, constructing bunkers in their gardens, defending them with sticks.

"These people are prepared to fight to the death. Now if these conscripts, some of them who probably didn't even know what they were getting themselves into, are coming up against people who are absolutely prepared to go to any length, tooth and nail, to win this thing, it's a very difficult proposition."

Click here to access our BFBS Sitrep podcasts – in the latest episode, we explore Boris Johnson's new defence deal with India, which imports most of its military hardware from Russia and won't condemn the invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Clarke also assesses whether the Ukraine conflict could be spreading to neighbouring Moldova.