Western weapons in the hands of the Ukrainian military turned the tide of the war
Undoubtedly, military equipment and weapons provided to the Armed Forces of Ukraine by partners played and continue to play an important, and sometimes leading, role in repelling and deterring Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.
With the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion at the end of February 2022, the huge Soviet “defense potential” of the Russian army fell on Ukraine. At the first stage of the war, the efficiency, talent, and stability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), as well as supplied Western weapons systems helped Ukraine withstood the first strike of the Russian Federation.
Javelins, NLAW, Stinger
In February-March, the Armed Forces of Ukraine used an asymmetric method of countering the overwhelming forces and means of the enemy in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions. While the Russians advanced in large columns, battalion-tactical groups, whole regiments, and divisions, Ukrainian military organized small combat mobile groups, which worked from ambushes and from the forests, and inflicted damage on the enemies, who outnumbered them in a ratio of 1 to 20-30 in the northern direction.
Ukrainian servicemen quickly mastered the methodology of using the Javelin anti-tank missile systems manufactured by the USA and British-Swedish NLAW. They implemented the so-called “sudden attack” and “small bites” tactics. Small combat groups of the Armed Forces of Ukraine consisting of 2-3 tanks together with anti-tank means destroyed several units of enemy equipment and quickly withdrew in another direction.
A bit later, they struck again or provided coordinates to the missile and artillery units of AFU to finish the task. The tactic was fully justified: it made it possible to disperse Russia’s forces and to create panic among personnel, since the enemy did not understand where the next blow would come from. The tactic helped to significantly reduce the combat potential of the Russian units, which were planning on simply marching into Kyiv and capturing the capital of Ukraine without any fight. In addition, a great role in the successful actions of the AFU was played by the individual training of servicemen – each of them had his own task and performed it accurately.
Portable anti-aircraft missile complex Stinger also played an important role. Most of the Russian rotorcraft, shot down since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, as well as some cruise missiles, were hit by Ukrainian forces with the help of Stinger. Those MANPADS are supplied to Ukraine not only from the USA, but also from European countries, in particular the Baltic countries.
Bayraktar TB2 drones
Bayraktar drones became well-known since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion for their wide and effective use in battles with the invaders.
Bayraktar TB2 is a Turkish strike operational-tactical medium-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a long flight duration that is capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flights. Bayraktar has the dimensions of a small plane with a wingspan of 12 meters, a maximum altitude of 7,600 meters, a maximum flight range of 300 km, and a maximum speed of 220 km/h. It is equipped with cameras and can be armed with two laser-guided UMTAS anti-tank missiles (launch range – 0.5-8 kilometers) or four high-precision aerial bombs that can hit targets at a one-kilometer distance.
With the help of these attack UAVs, the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed numerous Russian convoys of military equipment and weapons that were moving towards the capital from the side of the Belarusian border, as well as through the Chernihiv and Sumy regions at the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion.
Bayraktar drones have been effectively used throughout the following months. Just one example: over the course of three days, from August 31 to September 2, 2022, two Bayraktar TV-2 UAVs destroyed enemy equipment with a total cost of about $26.5 million – 8 T-72 tanks (estimated cost of one is $3 million), ACACIA self-propelled gun ($1.6 million), BMP ($0.6 million), and howitzers ($0.3 million).
Drones also played an important role in the service of the Naval Forces of the AFU. In particular, Ukrainian sailors used Bayraktar drones to attack Snake Island (temporarily occupied at that time), ships, and vessels supplying the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation directly in the waters of the Black Sea. On May 2, two Russian Raptor-type boats were destroyed this way near the island.
But Bayraktars are not the only Western weapons helpful in the Black Sea. On June 17, Ukrainian military used an American land-based Harpoon anti-ship missile to hit Russia’s Black Sea Fleet tugboat “Vasily Bekh” while it was transporting ammunition, weapons, and personnel to Snake Island. The Ukrainian servicemen were trained in the use of Harpoon missiles at the end of May in the United States.
The strengthening of the coastal defense of Ukraine with the Harpoon complexes in combination with the Ukrainian-made Neptune anti-ship coastal complexes forced the Russian fleet to keep a safe distance to avoid the fate of the “Moskva”, the flagship missile cruiser that had been hit and sunk down.
Since mid-June of 2022, the American M142 HIMARS multiple-launch fire systems have been in service with the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and have proven to be very effective on the front lines against the positions, facilities, command and support posts, air defense equipment, and ammunition depots of the occupiers. Thus, the AFU managed to suppress the enemy’s control systems and partially restrain the enemy troops on the battlefield.
This American long-range high-precision weapon made a certain turning point in the war in favor of Ukraine, because it allowed Ukrainian soldiers to strike at greater distances than the Russia’s artillery is capable of operating. Moreover, by destroying the enemy’s ammunition warehouses, the AFU significantly complicated the supply of the enemy’s artillery and made it impossible for Russia’s forces to effectively use the means of destruction.
The Ukrainian military very quickly mastered HIMARS and demonstrated the ability to destroy the targets of the Russian army even far in the rear.
With the HIMARS anti-aircraft missile system, the Armed Forces of Ukraine carried out targeted strikes on the Antoniv bridge and the bridge over the Kakhovska HPP in the Kherson region. Russians provided weapons and ammunition to their troops stationed in Kherson and on the right bank of the Dnipro River through these bridges. Thanks to successful actions, Ukrainian forces were able to take these two important infrastructure objects under fire control.
Another example is the American M777 howitzers: it is the most massive Western weapon, used by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The technical characteristics of the M777 howitzer allow to reach the enemy at long distances (the exact range depends on the type of projectile), and quickly work on various targets, which may be its main advantage. The M777 has a digital fire control system and is characterized by high accuracy and great destructive power. Using high-precision projectiles with a maximum range of up to 40 km, one battery of M777 howitzers can cover an area of up to 1,250 square meters.
155-mm howitzers work along almost the entire front line, destroying concentrations of personnel, weapons, and military equipment of the Russian invaders. For example, the soldiers of the separate artillery Grand Duke Vytautas brigade destroyed Russia’s 2S7 Pion self-propelled gun with the help of the M777 howitzer.
In one of the areas of military operations in the Kherson region, the battery of the 155th artillery division of the M777 howitzers effectively fired at enemy targets. As a result, an artillery battery, a cluster of weapons, and military equipment of the Russian forces were destroyed.
Caesar installations, which were provided to Ukraine by France, are also successfully used by the Ukrainian military on the front lines. Caesar is a self-propelled artillery installation of a new generation that allows to hit targets at a distance of 20 kilometers or more from the front line with high accuracy. Exactly at a distance that the enemy’s artillery, reserves, and control points are often located.
In June 2022, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported about the destruction of a cluster of invaders’ equipment: “With one volley, 6 CAESARs covered the area where the enemy had concentrated more than 15 units of weapons and military equipment. The self-propelled howitzer 2S-19 “Msta-S” of the enemy and the command and staff car of the battery commander were hit directly,” states the message on the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Facebook page.
An important role in the areas of hostilities is also played by high-precision guided projectiles M982 Excalibur caliber 155 mm with a range of 40 km. You can fire this ammunition both from the American M777 howitzer or the French CAESAR. Recently, the capabilities of counter-battery combat of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have further increased thanks to the long-range counter-battery radars.
More weapons and ammunition will be needed to ensure Ukrainian success
The use of HIMARS systems, together with other Western models of 155 mm artillery, allowed units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to go on counter-offensive in different directions and to liberate almost all of the Kharkiv, parts of Kherson, and Donetsk regions from Russian occupation. The counter-offensive proved that the AFU use modern Western weapons very skillfully and effectively to fight Russian forces and to change the dynamics on the battlefield.
But more will be needed to liberate all the territories temporarily occupied by Russia. An extremely important factor in increasing the offensive capability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is the continuous supply of modern weapons and ammunition from the partners. In particular – aircraft of various types with the corresponding ammunition for them, the latest anti-missile defense and air defense systems, ships and boats, tanks, armored vehicles, towed, howitzer, and jet artillery, modern EW complexes, high-precision means of reconnaissance and targeting (radar, means of counter-battery control and adjustment of fire, drones, satellite data), anti-ship cruise missiles, high-precision ammunition for 155 mm artillery, radar stations, and kamikaze drones. American ATACMS ballistic missiles with a range of up to 300 km are needed to destroy Russian military targets at a long distance.
Considering massive Russia’s missile and drone attacks on critical infrastructure in October, the issue of strengthening air defense systems and the Air Force of AFU, arose acutely. Therefore, the decision of the US and German governments to transfer to Ukraine the latest NASAMS and Iris-T anti-aircraft missile systems, which are primarily intended to destroy Russian long-range cruise and ballistic missiles, is welcomed.
Ukraine is already setting precedents that will later be studied in the lessons of military tactics and strategy. Thanks to the supply of modern weapons and defense systems from partners, as well as a modernized and flexible approach to both defensive and offensive operations, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, managed to repulse Russian attacks and liberate large parts of Ukraine’s territory. But Ukraine still needs help – and an uninterrupted supply of weapons is a necessary condition