Ukraine that ranks 15 in global fire power index against Russia’s rank at 2 hardly had military equipment when Russia- Ukraine war broke out. Ukraine’s military fought back Russia’s special military operation with the equipment it had in its inventory that included Soviet-era tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery and aircraft besides a scattering of Western-supplied weapons such as Javelin anti-tank missiles.
A war that Russian Federation might have initially thought would not last beyond weeks is continued even after 15 months. On 30 September 2022, Russia announced the annexation of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, despite only occupying part of the claimed territory.
The UN General Assembly responded by passing a resolution rejecting this annexation as illegal and upholding Ukraine’s right to territorial integrity.
Before 2022, Russia occupied 42,000 km2 Ukrainian territory that included Crimea, and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk in Donbas region, and occupied an additional 119,000 km2 after its full-scale invasion by March 2022, a total of 161,000 km2 or almost 27% of Ukraine’s territory.
By 11 November, the Institute for the Study of War calculated that Ukrainian forces had liberated an area of 74,443 km2 from Russian occupation, leaving Russia with control of about 18% of Ukraine’s territory.
The situation from November 2022 has not changed much except Russia forces with wagner group financed by Yevgeniy Prigozhin made some advancement and occupied few more territories particularly in the southern region.
Ukraine could fight the war with much larger Russia as within weeks of Russian invasion, shipments of military support from Ukraine’s allies began to arrive and helped bend the trajectory of a Russia Ukraine war that already seemed to be going badly for the Russian military over time. Russia is rattled and wary of west providing weaponry to Ukraine.
Russia for 18 May requested a meeting of UN Security Council on the issue of military aid to Ukraine. So it is important to know what kind of weaponry and western military aid was successful in checking the advancement of Russian forces and effecting regaining Ukrainian territory.
Before we come directly to the equipment here I would like to show you a bar diagram of donors of military aid to Ukraine from January 2022 to January 23 published by BBC, which sourced it from Kiel Institute for World Economy. The diagram suggests that US, UK, European Union followed by Poland, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Italy, France and Norway.
Post January, however, this statistics may change as German chancellor Olaf Scholz promised almost 3 billion dollar aid when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Berlin on 14th May. The very next day French President Emmanuel Macron also announced military air including light tanks and armoured vehicles.
As President Zelensky met Rishi Sunak, the Brithish Prime Minster, the UK reportedly will send hundreds of air defence missiles and armed drones to Ukraine on top of the Storm Shadow cruise missiles announced last week. Russia’s permanent representative in United Nations raked up the issue on west providing military aid to Ukraine:
Vasily Nebenzya also says that Russia has requested a UNSC meeting on West’s military aid to Ukraine on 18th May. So this issue is going to be all the more important. Now lets discuss some of these crucial military weapons helping Ukraine succeed in war.
The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System – this artillery vehicles carry munitions that can hit a target a few metres in diameter from distances of about 80 kilometres. US made HIMARS changed the course of the war. HIMARS – the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System – is a missile launcher mounted on a five-tonne truck which can fire six guided missiles in quick succession. The 50-mile range is roughly similar to that of Russian Smerch missiles, but HIMARS fires GPS-guided missiles which can be more accurately targeted. According to media reports Ukraine started using HIMARS at somewhere between June and July 2022. HIMARS with high survivability is shoot and scoot system making it difficult for counter offensive. It can hit fixed targets, command centres and even moving forces.
US Department of Defense on August 19, 2022 announced the delivery of 16 105mm Howitzers and 36,000 105mm artillery rounds. The M119 howitzer is the American designation for the British L119 light gun which is in service with the U.S. Army. In 1987 an agreement was reached to produce the L119 under license by the US as the M119, to replace the M102 howitzer. It entered service with the 7th Infantry Division, Fort Ord, California, in December 1989. The M119 howitzer with a range of about 18 km designed to be moved and fired faster than larger weapons. Their relatively light weight 2,000 kg means they can be towed by pickup truck. Both types have been provided to Ukraine in the hundreds.
Another gun provided to Ukraine was the M777 is a 155mm gun that can fire GPS-guided shells and has a range of up to 40 km depending on what type of ammunition is used. However, media reports suggested that about one third of 152 guns M777 became Russian target as these can not move by themselves.
Since mid-2022, western allies have donated hundreds of armoured vehicles including M113, Marder, Bulldog, Bradley and Stryker vehicles.
Some are tracked and some use wheels; more advanced types such as the Marder, Bulldog, Bradley and Stryker also include useful sensors and aiming equipment such as thermal optics.
They are designed to withstand strikes from small arms and some light anti-tank weapons, and support infantry with weapons of their own ranging from .50 calibre machine guns to 25mm autocannons and guided anti-tank missiles.
In January, Britain pledged Challenger 2 tanks, which is a current-generation systems used by British army. The Challenger 2 uses a diesel engine, making it familiar for Ukraine’s forces to maintain, is about 50% heavier than a T-72 and is much more heavily armoured. It can reach speeds of about 60 kph on roads.
Challenger 2 uses NATO-standard calibre for its main gun— 120mm. Challenger 2 tank’s barrel is rifled, unlike the smoothbore weapons used in other Western tanks. That means it uses unique ammunition, which Britain also provide.
The United States has also pledged dozens of advanced Abrams tanks, which are powered by gas turbine engines, and other allies have promised to deliver modern German-made Leopard 2 tanks. Poland, provided surplus Soviet era tanks such as T-72s.
M1 Abram Tanks – While pledging Abrams tanks to Ukraine, President Joe Biden described them as “the most capable tanks in the world”. Ukrainian soldiers are being trained on Abram tanks.
In December, the US announced it was sending the Patriot missile system to Ukraine – and Germany and the Netherlands have recently followed the suit.
This highly sophisticated system has a range of up to 100 kilometres, depending on the type of missile used, and requires specialised training for Ukrainian soldiers, likely carried out at a US Army base in Germany. The Patriot missile system is expensive to operate— one Patriot missile costs around $3m.
Since the start of the conflict, Ukraine has been using Soviet-era S- 300 surface-to-air systems against Russian attacks.
Ukraine had about 250 S-300s and the stockpile was also reinforced by Slovakia.
To protect, Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, including power plants and residential buildings, its western allies have donated a wide variety of systems. They range from short-range heat-seeking systems such as the Humvee-mounted Avenger to the high-end, radar-guided Patriot, which can engage aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
Medium-range systems such as NASAMS and IRIS-T provide a means of defending against missiles as they get closer to their targets. As a last ring of defence, German Gepard anti-aircraft cannons, which are directed by radar and mounted on a tracked vehicle, can shoot down stragglers at relatively low cost.
Ukraine reported told that these guns are useful in defending against Iranian-made kamakazi attack drones, which are small and slow. In addition, the UK has provided several air defence systems, including Starstreak, designed to bring down low-flying aircraft at short range.
If we talk of anti-ship missiles In 2022, Ukraine used its indigenously made Neptune anti-ship missiles to sink Russia’s Black Sea flagship, the cruiser Moskva. Since then, Denmark has donated Harpoon anti-ship missiles and shore-based launchers.
Western allies also provide thousands of anti tank weapons like Nlaw that is designed to destroy tanks with a single shot.
Drones are important features in Russia- Ukraine war used for surveillance, targeting and heavy lift operations. Turkey has sold Bayraktar TB2 armed drones to Ukraine . Turkish manufacturer of the system has also donated drones to crowd-funding operations in support of Ukraine.
If we talk of ammunition than Ukraine has received millions of rounds of ammunition, including artillery shells. Some of these shells have advanced capabilities, such as the Excalibur, which uses GPS guidance and steering fins to hit targets as small as 3 metres from up to 40 km away.
Ukraine has also received BONUS and SMArt 155 rounds, which deploy submunitions that float down under parachutes or small wings, hunting for the infrared signatures of armoured vehicles. When one is spotted, the submunition waits until it is aimed properly, then fires a shaped charge into the top of the target.
Ukraine has also been provided with HARMs— High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles— which it has rigged to fire from its Soviet-era aircraft to attack Russian air-defence radars.
Ukraine along with west allege that Russia has not been able to justify its invasion in sovereign Ukraine.West believe Russia is loosing the prospects of winning war and soon it will be forced to come to negotiating table.