May 29, 2024

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Ukraine has a set of new Western weapons.  What advantages can they offer in the counterattack?

Ukraine has a set of new Western weapons. What advantages can they offer in the counterattack?

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the Ukrainian military was largely reliant on Soviet-era weaponry, from tanks to artillery to fighter jets.

While that arsenal helped Ukraine repel an attack on the capital, Kiev, and prevent a complete defeat in the first weeks of the war, Billions of dollars in military aid Since then the country has poured in, including more modern Western weaponry.

ukraine counterattack, Now in its infancy, it could offer a glimpse into whether and to what extent newer weapons systems have strengthened Kiev’s ability to stand up to Russia.

Analysts are cautiously optimistic.

“Ukraine is in a much better position to be able to wage a combined arms war than it was at the beginning of Russia’s all-out reconquest of Ukraine,” said George Baros, a Russia analyst at the Center for International Strategic Studies.

Here’s a look at some of the Western weapons being sent to Ukraine and the benefits they might offer.

Amazing goals

One of the advanced US missile launchers being sent to Ukraine has garnered a lot of attention – and for good reason: Highly mobile artillery missile systems It gave Kiev’s forces the ability to hit distant targets with far greater accuracy than those designed by the Soviet Union.

In the fall counteroffensive, HIMARS—which currently gives troops the ability to hit a target up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) away and then move quickly—was used to destroy bridges near the southern city of Kherson, cutting off Russian forces from each other and their supply routes.

Since then, Ukraine has called for long-range missiles that can also be launched by HIMARS and can reach 300 kilometers (190 miles). But the United States and its allies have been reluctant to provide it.

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However, Washington Agreed in February to field ground-launched small diameter bombs, which have a range of 150 kilometers (90 miles) when launched by HIMARS, and the UK Announce delivery Storm Shadow cruise missiles – with a range of 550 kilometers (340 miles).

Both weapons have already been spotted in combat, expanding Ukraine’s reach.

Air Defense

Throughout the war, Russia rained down missiles on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure on an almost daily basis.

To defend against those missiles, the West sent Ukraine the Patriot and Avenger air defense systems.

At a cost of $4 million per round, the Patriots are meant to protect against larger ballistic missile attacks, leaving simpler weapons to deal with the cheap, slow-flying Iranian drones often used by the Russians.

Even with these new air defense systems, Ukraine has struggled to protect its territory from daily Russian attacks.

Russia relied on long-range ballistic and cruise missiles to strike targets deep in Ukraine, avoiding risking its warplanes after losing many of them in the early stages of the invasion. Moscow’s failure to control Ukrainian airspace was one The biggest surprises of the war.

Ukraine also kept its much smaller air force made of Soviet Sukhoi and MiG-29 jets away from the front line and used them to launch missiles from great distances to minimize casualties.

Ukraine has long pushed for Western planes, however their delivery Not expected any time soon.

“Ukraine will be in a much better position to achieve a more decisive victory and success in a shorter time frame if we take these decisions much faster,” Barros said.

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Long known as the “king of battle,” artillery systems are essential in any war—but especially the war in Ukraine. Russian forces entrenched throughout the south and east of the country. Dislodging them would require heavy artillery fire.

Artillery can destroy buildings and enemy weapons from reasonable distances and cause such chaos that the opposing forces are forced to withdraw. Ukrainian forces make heavy use of artillery in the battles around Zaporizhia, where the beginnings of a counter-offensive are unfolding.

Ukraine had a lot of artillery to begin with – but it now has American M777s and German Panzerhaubitze 2000 howitzers, both of which are more accurate and powerful than they started the war with.

Tanks and armored vehicles

Barros said that Ukraine needs a “strike force” of tanks and other combat vehicles if it is going to penetrate Russian lines.

Tanks delivered Even now – which includes multiple models of German Panthers and British Challengers – it is more advanced than the Soviet T-64 and T-72 tanks that Ukraine relied on at the start of the invasion.

They also have much better armor and can strike more accurately than Russian tanks, according to Craig Cartier, a retired USSR-US analyst with more than three decades of experience.

Meanwhile, the US has sent Bradley Fighting Vehicles, which provide better protection for the troops carrying them and have better firepower than the Soviet-era armored vehicles used by Ukraine.

All of these vehicles can inflict significant casualties and destroy other weapon systems, making them invaluable for counterattack.

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an exercise

However, perhaps the most important in Ukraine’s success were the Ukrainians themselves. Both Barros and Cartier said the experience and training of the Ukrainian forces, not just weapons provided by the West, made them a deadly force.

Cartier said that the Ukrainians “demonstrated the ability not only to master equipment and tactics, but also the ability to do things no one else has been able to do, as evidenced by their (air defense) magic”.

In the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as other neighboring countries, Ukrainian forces have been trained in infantry tactics and on some specialized equipment, such as the Challenger 2 tanks.

Barros said it was impossible to know how the counterattack would play out.

“What I will say is that every time the Ukrainians had a chance to show their fortitude and determination on the battlefield, they always exceeded expectations,” he said.


Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine: