Who could win if UK and Russia went to war and where we put Putin to shame

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Last week Vladimir Putin attempted to showcase Russia's military might in an annual parade through Moscow’s Red Square.

The event is an annual tradition and key date in the Russian calendar as it marks the Nazis’ surrender in the Second World War. But rather than display his country's power, not for the first time his plan rather backfired and missed the mark.

Just hours before the Russian president was set to oversee the spectacle British defence chiefs undermined the display having questioned the Russian army's “ageing” munitions.

The Ministry of Defence in London stressed that Russia's “shortcomings” in Ukraine had been caused by their use of old missiles with so many of their modern precision-guided weapons being used up in the early stages of the attack.

The use of such weapons has had a detrimental effect on Russian forces being able to carry out precision strikes “at scale”.

As a result, Putin’s generals have resorted to indiscriminate shelling and air strikes, killing countless civilians in Ukraine.

Russian media mouthpieces have been making some alarming threats towards the UK – but should we be worried?

The latest intelligence briefing from the MoD in London gave a damning assessment of Russian operations in Ukraine.

It said: "At the onset of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia publicly promoted its ability to conduct surgical strikes and limit collateral damage.

"It stated that Ukrainian cities would therefore be safe from bombardment.

"This has forced the use of readily available but ageing munitions that are less reliable, less accurate and more easily intercepted.

"Russia will likely struggle to replace the precision weaponry it has already expended.

"Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has revealed shortcomings in its ability to conduct precision strikes at scale. Russia has subjected Ukraine’s towns and cities to intense and indiscriminate bombardments with little or no regard for civilian casualties.”

Russia's attack on its neighbouring country started started on February 24 and the Russian leader had been expected to address his country in an attempt to rally his armed forces amid reports of low morale in some military units.

Putin's early plan, which included seizing Kyiv within days, has now been refocused and will now target the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine where there are the Donetsk and Luhansk areas held by Moscow-backed separatists.

According to the BBC the only major cities seized by Russian forces are Luhansk, Mariupol, Donetsk and Kherson. But despite these victories there appear no closer to taking the capital of Kyiv.

So far Britain has avoided getting involved in the conflict itself but has provided anti-tank missiles, air defence systems and other weapons to Ukraine.

A further £1.3bn in military support and aid for Ukraine was also announced last week (May 7), ahead of a planned video call between Boris Johnson and the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The new pledge is said to almost double Britain's previous spending commitments on Ukraine, with the government suggesting this is the highest rate of spending on a conflict since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

In a statement following the announcement, the British prime minister said: "Putin's brutal attack is not only causing untold devastation in Ukraine – it is also threatening peace and security across Europe."

So far it looks highly unlikely Britain will engage with Russia but with the MoD questioning the quality of its arsenal just what deadly weapons could we deploy?

Britain's arsenal of deadly weapons

The Army, Royal Marines and RAF Regiment make use of NLAWs (Next-generation Light Anti-tank Weapon) and another form of missile known as the Javelin, which really complement one another, and are essential forms of defence for infantry confronting enemy tanks.

Both weapons are used against tanks but whereas NLAWs are designed to be used by regular troops who do not have to be expert anti-tank specialists the Javelin is heavier, longer-ranged and used by specially trained units.

NLAW is fired towards a target before diverting and striking it from above, where tanks and other armoured vehicles are weaker.

As well as this overfly top mode, the weapon also has a direct attack mode that enables it to be used against bunkers as well.

To use a NLAW, the firer rests it on their shoulder, uses the sight to lock onto a target and then releases the 150mm anti-tank missile from the launcher.

It is known as a fire-and-forget weapon – meaning it can fire one missile, be reloaded, and then trained on another target, thereby 'forgetting' the first target and enabling a second one to be taken out next.

It has a maximum effective range of 600 metres.

The Javelin is considered to be the next step up from NLAWs. The weapon can fire effectively up to 2,500 metres and is used by specialist anti-tank platoons.

It takes two crew members to use a Javelin, with one acting as the firer and the other as the loader.

Similar to an NLAW, it is a fire-and-forget weapon and has both overfly top and direct-fire modes. This means it can also be used to strike stationary targets like bunkers and buildings.

As well as anti-tank weapons the army also makes use of anti-aircraft missile systems. Just one of these weapons used is called a Starstreak High Velocity Missile (or HVM).

Unlike the Javelin and NLAWs, Starstreak launches canister missiles which contain three smaller explosive darts.

These work in a similar way to a shotgun which sprays its target with pellets. In this case the missile sprays any low-flying aircraft, such as helicopters or jets.

This increases the odds that the target will be hit. According to the MoD, Starstreak is effective at a range of up to five-and-a-half kilometres, though the manufacturer Thales has said this has been extended to seven.

Other weapons used by the army include missiles known as LMM, GMRLS, Rapier, Sky Sabre and Hellfire (Romeo variant). Find more details about these weapons below, as well as weapons used by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

A comparison of British Armed Forces missiles:



Length and weight

Max Range

Used by


Surface-to-surface anti-tank

1 metre

12.5 KG

600 metres

Army, Royal Marines, RAF Regiment


Surface-to-surface anti-tank

1.4 metres

24.3 KG

2,500 metres

Army, Royal Marines, RAF Regiment



1.4 metres

14 KG

7,000 metres



Surface-to-air, surface-to-surface, air-to-surface, air-to-air

1.3 metres

13 KG

6,000 metres

Army, Royal Navy FAA (as Martlet)



4 metres

1,670 KG

300 km




2.3 metres

45 KG

500 – 8,200 metres


Sky Sabre


3.2 metres

99 KG

25 km

Army (as Land Ceptor); Royal Navy (as Sea Ceptor)

Hellfire (Romeo variant)


1.6 metres

49 KG

0.5 – 11 km

Army, RAF (on drones)



2.9 metres

88 KG

25 km




3.7 metres

151 KG

55 – 75 km

RAF, Royal Navy FAA



3.7 metres

190 KG

200 km


Storm Shadow


5.1 metres

1,300 KG

250 km




1.8 metres

50 KG

40 – 60 km*


Sea Viper


4.9 metres

430 KG

113 km

Royal Navy

Sea Wolf


1.9 metres

82 KG

10 km

Royal Navy



4.6 metres

691 KG

129 km

Royal Navy

Sea Venom


2.5 metres

110 KG

20 km

Royal Navy

AIM-9 Sidewinder


2.9 metres

85.5 KG

18 km

Royal Navy FAA, RAF


Surface-to-surface cruise

6.25 metres

454 KG (payload)

1,600 + km

Royal Navy Submarine Service


Surface-to-surface ballistic missile

13.6 metres

59,000 KG

6,400 + km

Royal Navy Submarine Service

(Source: Forces.Net)

Britain vs Russia

Although all that impressive equipment is, well, impressive it might all count for nothing against the sheer size of the Russian army.

It is said that they have the world’s second most powerful armed forces, according to Business Insider, trailing only behind the USA.

Meanwhile, the UK resides in ninth place, behind Italy, South Korea, France, India, Japan and China.

Also in comparison to the UK, Russia has an estimated total military personnel of three million – while the UK has only 275,660.

Russia’s airpower is also far superior with a combined 4,163 aircrafts such as fighters, transports, and helicopters, whereas the UK has 733.

Another slightly scary figure shows that Russia has 12,950 tanks compared to the UK's 227.

The UK has a total of 5,000 armoured vehicles to Russia’s estimated 27,000. However, one area that we do exceed in is the the UK two aircraft carriers, compared to Russia's one.

But sadly its not the same story when it comes to ocean-based combat vehicles such as submarines and destroyers. Russia owns 16 destroyers and 62 submarines to the UK’s six and ten.

One reason for Russia's dominance may come from the country's decision to continue with armed forces conscription following the end of the Soviet Union.

Men between the ages of 18 and 27 are drafted into the military each year. They are then divided up to serve for the army, Ministry of Internal Affairs forces, border troops, and other branches of Russia's military arsenal.

The Evening Standard reported that conscription in Russia has been heavily criticised by internal critics, with some claiming the wealthy can pay bribes to avoid doing their time.

Those unfortunate enough to be called up are required to serve a minimum of 12 months – a reduction on the two-year term reduced in 2008 reforms.

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  • Ukraine
  • Russia Ukraine war
  • Military
  • Vladimir Putin

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