HIMARS and howitzers: West helps Ukraine with key weapons

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FILE – A launch truck fires the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) produced by Lockheed Martin during high desert combat training at Yakima Training Center, Washington, May 23, 2011. The HIMARS systems supplied by the United States and similar M270s supplied by Britain have greatly enhanced the precision strike capability of the Ukrainian army. Western arms supplies have been crucial to Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russian attacks in the nearly 5-month-long war. (Tony Overman/The Olympian via AP, File)

PA

The message to US lawmakers from Ukraine’s first lady, delivered amid stark, graphic imagery of civilian bloodshed, couldn’t have been clearer: After nearly five full months since Russia launched her invasion, Olena Zelenska said her country needed more Western weapons.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sent her to Washington to appeal directly to the US Congress for air defense systems.

The call came on Wednesday as Russia suggested it planned to seize wider areas beyond Ukraine’s eastern industrial region known as Donbas, the foreign minister Sergey Lavrov stressing that Moscow also claims the Kherson region and part of Zaporizhzhia and will expand “continuously and persistently”. his earnings elsewhere.

Billions of dollars in Western military aid have been crucial to Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russian attacks, but officials in Kyiv say the numbers are still too low to turn the tide of the war.

An overview of what Ukraine has received so far:

HIMARS ROCKET LAUNCHER

HIMARS systems supplied by the United States and similar M270s from Britain have greatly enhanced the precision strike capability of the Ukrainian army.

The HIMARS and M270 have longer range, much better accuracy and faster rate of fire than the Soviet-designed Smerch, Uragan and Tornado multiple rocket launchers used by both Russia and Ukraine.

The truck-mounted HIMARS launchers fire GPS-guided missiles capable of hitting targets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles), a distance that puts them beyond the reach of most Russian artillery systems. Mobile launchers are difficult for the enemy to spot and can quickly change position after firing to evade airstrikes.

So far, the Ukrainian army has received a dozen HIMARS and several M270 systems, but it has already used them to successfully target Russian ammunition and fuel depots in eastern Ukraine, essential to support the Moscow offensive. On Wednesday, Ukrainian forces reportedly used HIMARS to strike a strategic bridge in the Russian-occupied southern region of Kherson.

“HIMARS had virtually no rest during the day or night. Their potential has been utilized to the fullest,” Ukrainian military expert Oleh Zhdanov told The Associated Press. “The results have been impressive. More than 30 important Russian targets have been hit with high accuracy in the past two weeks.”

So far, US authorities have refrained from supplying Ukraine with longer-range missiles for HIMARS launchers that can hit targets up to 300 kilometers (186 miles), allowing the military to strike areas deep inside Russian territory.

HEAVY ARTILLERY

Ukraine has received deliveries of more than 200 heavy artillery systems from the United States and its NATO allies. They included the American M777, the French CAESAR, the German PzH 2000 and a few other towed and self-propelled long-range artillery systems.

Western howitzers have some advantages over older Soviet-designed systems in Russian and Ukrainian arsenals, but it takes time for Ukrainian crews to learn how to use them. Their large assortment poses obvious logistical challenges.

“Ukraine has received an enormous amount … of very diverse artillery equipment,” said Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert and program director at the Virginia-based think tank CNA. “They ended up with a petting zoo artillery, and it’s very difficult to do maintenance, sustainment and logistics.”

A more serious problem is that the number of Western weapons is still far too low.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said last month that the country needed at least 1,000 heavy howitzers, 300 multiple rocket launchers, 500 tanks and 2,000 armored vehicles – far more than the West has provided.

“Western weapons are superior to Soviet-era analogues, but the numbers were too low to turn the tide of the war,” Zhdanov said.

ARMOR

Ukraine asked the West for more armor to replenish its heavy battlefield losses. The country reportedly received more than 300 Soviet-made T-72 tanks from Poland and the Czech Republic, and has already used them in combat.

The long-promised delivery of German Leopard tanks is on hold, however, a delay that has sparked an angry reaction in Ukrainian media and social media.

Ukraine has taken delivery of several hundred armored personnel carriers from the United States and a few NATO allies, a motley collection of vehicles that has not fully made up for what it has already lost.

Western allies also supplied Ukraine with a large number of man-portable anti-tank weapons, which played a key role in helping Ukrainian soldiers decimate Russian armored convoys.

DRONES

Early in the war, Ukraine made extensive use of its inventory of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 laser-guided drones to strike long Russian troop convoys and supply columns. The Bayraktars, however, became less effective against the denser Russian air and electronic defenses in eastern Ukraine.

Since the war began, US and Western allies have shipped hundreds more drones, including an unknown number of Switchblade 600 “suicide bombers” that carry armor-piercing warheads and use artificial intelligence to track targets. But their range is limited and they can only stay in the air for about 40 minutes.

Ukraine has pushed hard for more advanced long-range drones that can survive radio interference and GPS jamming and rely on satellite communications for control and navigation.

AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS

The United States and other NATO allies have supplied Ukraine with more than 2,000 man-portable air defense missile systems, or MANPADS, such as Stingers and other similar weapons.

These compact systems are effective against low-flying helicopter gunships and jet aircraft, and the Ukrainian military has used them to inflict heavy casualties on the Russian Air Force, limiting its ability to provide support. close air to ground forces and helping to slow the pace of Moscow’s offensive. .

At the same time, Ukraine also pushed the West to provide it with medium- and long-range air defense systems capable of shooting down cruise missiles and high-flying aircraft.

It received several Soviet-made S-300 long-range air defense systems from Slovakia, the type of weapons the Ukrainian military has long used.

The United States has also pledged to give Ukraine two NASAMS mid-range air defense systems.

Germany has promised to supply Ukraine with 30 Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, but they have not yet arrived.

WAR PLANES

Since the start of the invasion on February 24, Ukraine has urged Western allies to provide it with warplanes to challenge Russia’s air superiority.

However, the United States and its allies have been reluctant to give Ukraine the fighter jets it requests, fearing this will escalate the response from Moscow, which has warned NATO that providing the fighter jets would be tantamount to joining the conflict.

In March, the Pentagon rejected Poland’s offer to hand over its Soviet-built MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine by transferring them through a US base in Germany, citing a high risk of triggering a Russia-NATO escalation. Ukraine has its own fleet of MiG-29s, but it is unclear how many of these and other aircraft are still in service.

Earlier this month, Slovakia announced plans to donate its MiG-29 fleet to Ukraine pending delivery of US F-16 fighter jets, but no action has been taken.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine