Wounded-to-killed ratios in Ukraine in 2022

I made a post on Friday that unsurprisingly got some pushback on twitter. It is here: The Ukrainian casualty claims are inflated – part 1 | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org).

One of the twitter complaints is that I used a wounded-to-killed ratio of 4-to-1 for my challenge of the Ukrainian kill claims. This was based upon the only set of aggregate wounded-to-killed statistics offered in the conflict, the reports from the Donets Peoples Republic (DPR) who are reporting as of 26 May that they had 1,912 soldiers killed and 7,919 wounded (a 4.14-to-1 wounded-to-killed ratio). 

This also generated another twitter criticism because I was using DPR data. Yet, this last week Zelensky has stated that they are losing between 60 – 100 Ukrainian soldiers a week. An additional 500 are wounded. This is at least 5-to-1 wounded to killed ratio (or 8.33-to-1). 

Apparently, some other people have been using a 3-to-1 wounded to killed ratio (not that this lower figure changes my argument one iota). What is the basis for people using 3-to-1? WWII data? Lack of artillery?

It almost certainly is a traditional figure drawn from Trevor Dupuy or WWII data or convention. Now, wounded-to-kill figures vary by 1) definition, 2) posture, 3) medical care, 4) how Died-of-Wounds (DOW) are counted, 5) mix of wounding agents, 6) number MIA or captured, 7) use of body armor and 8) the nature of the targets (airplanes or tanks compared to infantry). This is discussed in depth in Chapter 15 of my book War by Numbers.

Let my post a table from my book:

German

                                                                        U.S. Army      UK Army       Army[1]

Ardennes from 16 – 23 December                  4.85-to-1         1.67-to-1         3.25-to-1

Ardennes from 24 December – 1 January      5.65-to-1         2.89-to-1         3.08-to-1

Ardennes from 2 – 16 January                        5.12-to-1         4.59-to-1         2.99-to-1

 

                                                                        German Army[2]          Soviet Army[3]

Kursk from 4 – 11 July                                   5.11-to-1                     2.29-to-1

Kursk from 12 – 18 July                                 4.54-to-1                     2.68-to-1

See my book for the footnotes.

So, 3-to-1 or greater for WWII data. The Soviet Army at Kursk, when on the defensive and having divisions being overrun with large numbers of MIA and captured had lower than 3-to-1. But, when the Soviet missing was less than 10% of the casualties, the wounded to killed ratio rose to 3-to-1. This is discussed in more depth in my book along with supporting data. Anyhow, 3-to-1 is kind of the minimal figure to be used for most ground combat in WWII and as you can see from the table above, it is sometimes higher. 

The wounded-to-killed ratios since WWII have been higher. In some cases much higher (like 13-to-1 for the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan). All this is discussed in depth in my book. 

From a practical point of view, I do not know what the wounded-to-killed ratio will be for the fighting in Ukraine. I expect it to be more than 3-to-1. This is the old WWII figure and medical care has improved since then and many people are now wearing body armor. Body armor certainly increases survivability from blast and fragmentation wounding, which is the majority of wounding on most battlefields.

Therefore, the DPR wounded-to-killed figures of 4-to-1 looked reasonable to me. They may be low, depending on how they are counting wounded (not all lightly wounded are counted as wounded). Zelensky’s off-the-cuff figure of 5-to-1 (or higher) also seems reasonable. 

On other hand, for those using a 3-to-1 figure, then I have to ask what is their basis for using this figure (WWII data or tradition?) and what is their basis for not revising it to reflect better medical treatment improvements over the last 75 years and the rather extensive use of body armor now?

Now, as this war continues, I expect the wounded-to-killed ratio to actually increase. This is because both sides are making more use of artillery and more of the engagements are using dismounted infantry. This changes the mix of causative agents and targets in a manner that should result in more people wounded per person killed (or to express it another way, less mortality per casualty). 

 

 

P.S. Final note: in the fall of 2020 I was hoping to obtain contracts based upon two proposals submitted to CCCRP (Combat Casualty Care Research Program) to further examine wounded-to-killed ratios and the analysis of combat casualties, including a combat casualty modeling effort. This effort died because some reviewers did not feel a strong need to further examine this subject. I still feel this subject needs to be fully explored. Tempted to do a further blog post on this. To date, my book is the most complete discussion on the subject that I am aware of.

This entry was posted in Casualty estimation, Eastern Europe, Russia, War by Numbers by Christopher A. Lawrence. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience. ... Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation. ... His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024). ... Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

7 thoughts on “Wounded-to-killed ratios in Ukraine in 2022

  1. Given the tendency of the T72 to catastrophically burn out (and kill all the crew), are there enough T72 kills to skew the KIA:WIA ratio ?

    Mad Dog

  2. Christopher, as promised on Twitter here is my reply. I noticed the push back myself and was called a “Vladimir”, for supporting you in the inflated numbers of the Ukrainians. First off you are correct to point out that people on Twitter drink the Ukrainian coolaid. The bulk of them are not professional analysts and therefore do not put aside their own biases and assumptions. People on Twitter tend to fall into Groupthink Mitigation & Decision Support; how many “likes” can I get and be part of the crowd and get accepted.

    Second, I was merely making a slight comparison of inflated BDA between Vietnam and Ukraine in terms of resources. I want Ukraine to win against Russia, but thinking out of the box, it is not inconceivable to think that Ukraine would inflate BDA numbers to gain support for money or weapons. Just like in Vietnam the higher the BDA count the higher the reward. Hell, it was a competition in Vietnam!
    I do not disregard emotions but I have the ability to take my heart out of the equation.
    In closing, I as an analyst use data, and information. I use facts and not feelings.

    • Well, I didn’t get a lot of push back from this post. I have not gotten any pushback for my follow-up post (Wounded-to-killed ratios in Ukraine in 2022).

      In the end it is hard to take someone named “Dickus Maxximun” too seriously. He has 0 followers on his twitter account.

      Anyhow, don’t know how many people are watching these figures closely vice just using them as talking points. There was a Forbes article that came out on 6 June by David Axe that said “having lost as many as 15,000 soldiers killed…” and also said “industrial city with a pre-war population of 100,000.” That last statement caught my attention, but I have not seen a lot of articles that tell people the pre-war population of the cities and villages being fought over. I do wonder if he has been reading our blog. The 15K loss figure is probably from the UK estimates, although he does not give his source.

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2022/06/06/now-ukrainian-troops-are-counterattacking-in-the-south-and-east/?sh=65e6b53d3c53

  3. Pingback: The Russo-Ukrainian War of 2022 – Day 152 (ground actions) | Mystics & Statistics

  4. Thank you, for giving me the information I needed to make my own educated guess. I enjoyed reading and learning, much appreciated.

  5. Russian claims for wounded to killed are 3 to 1 in the first Chechen war, or 4 to 1 for external sources. That was a tiny war, whereas this one seems much bigger, implying that armoured ambulance , helicopters, and body armour are in lesser supply per capita. Anecdotally some troops are very poorly equipped.

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