Since the beginning of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, Western weapons have played a crucial role in the Ukrainian military’s struggle against the invader. Since February 24, Western partners are handing over to Ukraine the weapons it needs for defense: from bulletproof vests and helmets to anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, radars, drones, howitzers, and grenade launchers. Widespread and effective use of some weapons has led to their popularity even among civilians, who appreciated their importance in the fight against the occupiers. Such was the anti-tank missile systems of Javelin, thanks to which a large part of the Russian military equipment on the way to Kyiv was destroyed. The Ukrainian military has even set a record in the efficiency of their use. «For 112 shots – 100 accurate hits on target,» – reported Pentagon.
The anti-tank missile systems that the Ukrainians received from the allies continue to reinforce the infantry on the battlefield. The commander of the 93rd Independent Kholodnyi Yar Ruslan Shevchuk notes: «The enemy is now more cautious because it has already felt our opposition… In particular, thanks to the latest models of anti-tank short-range weapons, which we received from our allies – Javelin, NLAW. There was a case, for example, when 6 tanks came out for one company. Within 10 minutes of the battle, three tanks were destroyed, and the rest retreated. I think, when 50% of the advancing enemy force is destroyed, it loses the desire to continue the offensive. »
After a successful counterattack by Ukrainian forces in the country’s north, the Russian command decided to change tactics and focus on the offensive in the east of Ukraine, in particular in the area of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Since then, the conflict has escalated into an artillery war, with Russia moving to use heavy artillery to defend its initial territorial gains and launch an offensive in Donbas. There, the Russian Federation can use its artillery advantage, since Ukraine is running out of ammunition for its Soviet-era systems and is waiting for new Western ones. As a result, Russia releases about 60,000 artillery shells and missiles every day against 5,000-6,000 of Ukraine. That is why Ukraine’s military requests have increased — from the search for less expensive small arms and anti-tank weapons to much more expensive artillery and tracked vehicles.
According to the statement of the representative of The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine Vadym Skibitsky: «Now everything depends on what [the west] gives us. Ukraine has one artillery unit for every 10-15 Russian artillery units. Our Western partners gave us about 10% of what they have.»
The Financial Times compared the actual amount of military aid provided by the West and Ukraine’s requests. According to preliminary data, things are going best with tanks, allies provided Ukraine with more than 50% of the request (about 270 tanks out of 500). The worst situation is with the supply of multiple rocket launcher systems. Ukraine requested about 300 units from partners, but so far received only 50. This is a sixth of the need. Ukraine also needs about 1,000 howitzers. So far, only a quarter of the request has been fulfilled, i.e. 250 units.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine also lacks high-quality air defense, primarily medium- and long-range air defense equipment, needed to protect against cruise missiles launched by the enemy from long distances from outside the borders of Ukraine. We are talking about the American Patriot air defense system or the American-Norwegian NASAMS. The previous deliveries of MANPADS combined with the mastership of the soldiers allowed the Ukrainians to become a threat to the Russians in the sky.
Yuriy Kochevenko, an officer of the 95th Air Assault Brigade, notes: «The Russians considered aviation one of their advantages, but they greatly underestimated Ukrainian air defense. To protect the Ukrainian sky, domestically produced MANPADS and those provided by allies are actively used: American «Stinger», Polish «Piorun», British MANPADS «Starstreak». By the way, «Starstreak» showed itself very effectively against drones. We destroy Russian Orlan UAVs every day. We clipped the enemy’s wings, now our task is to poke out his «eyes».
However, artillery remains one of the decisive means of defeat. The key to success on the battlefield is the gradual process of increasing Ukraine’s technological advantage over Russia. Western-made 155-mm artillery systems received by the Armed Forces of Ukraine are superior in accuracy, rate of fire, and range to Russian analogs and create a new quality of artillery warfare. All of them use standard NATO 155 mm shells, which makes logistics much easier (shells can come from any NATO country). And most importantly, they are capable of accurately hitting targets even at a distance of 40 km. Now it is more about a war with high-precision means of the 4th generation against the means of the 3rd generation that the enemy has. In other words, the quality and accuracy of shooting — versus the number of shots.
There is a well-known case of the M777 howitzer hitting a target with the first shot; in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, it is being called sniper artillery for a reason – 9 out of 10 shots hit the target. The effective action of the Ukrainian artillery made it possible to disrupt the crossing of the aggressor’s troops across the Siverskyi Donets River near the village of Bilohorivka and to defeat two battalion tactical groups.
Ukrainian artillerymen of the Joint Forces Task Force have also mastered the French self-propelled howitzer on the truck chassis Caesar, which ensures the survivability of the crew and comfortable working conditions. The time to complete a fire task (take a position, open fire, change position) for Caesar is 3-5 minutes, which enables you to operate according to the principle of “maneuver-fire-maneuver” and excludes constant stay in one position. So, it took only 1 minute to destroy a group target consisting of 2 tanks, 2 BMDs, and a truck with self-propelled gun ammunition at a distance of 22 km. The shooting was carried out at a rate of 4-5 shots per minute. A battery consisting of 6 Caesar self-propelled guns has already destroyed 80 enemy artillery guns in a month of participation in hostilities.
However, experts note, that artillery is a matter of quantity, so their swift further deliveries are key to Ukraine’s success at the front. Western partners associate the delay in the transfer of some equipment units (especially MLRS) with the need to train personnel of the Ukrainian forces before working with them. Until there is a sufficient number of specialists, it is considered to be pointless to transfer samples of weapons.
According to the latest reports of the Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Oleksiy Reznikov, training of servicemen to master foreign equipment has been taking place since April, and they have already learned to use 155 mm M777, FH-70, M109, Caesar, and PzH 2000, M142 HIMARS, Crab self-propelled guns, as well as combat vehicles M113, FV-103, Bushmaster, Senator, Mastiff, Husky, and Wolfhound. Thus, right now, Ukraine is undergoing the fastest transition in history from Soviet-style weapons to units of NATO standards. In the future, Ukraine will receive a large number of experienced specialists who can effectively use the most diverse types of NATO-standard weapons.
Ukrainian officials believe that manufacturers can also substantially benefit from the transfer of the latest weapons in the way of testing them in real combat conditions and confirming their effectiveness directly from users. Such experience will allow manufacturers to sell their weapons in large quantities and receive orders for years to come. For example, the Baykar Makina plant, which produces Bayraktar drones, will focus almost all of its capacity on the needs of the Armed Forces in the nearest future.
The extraordinary effectiveness of the Ukrainian army against the superior opponent remains its distinguishing feature, but its supplies are now virtually entirely dependent on the support of its Western allies. Therefore, the consequences of this war will depend not only on the fighting ability of Ukrainians but also on the determination of Western partners to win the battle for democracy.