The message to US lawmakers from the first lady of Ukraine, delivered amidst stark and graphic footage of civilian bloodshed, it couldn’t have been clearer: After nearly five full months since Russia launched its invasionOlena Zelenska said that her country needs more Western weapons.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sent her to Washington to appeal directly to the US Congress over air defense systems.
Wednesday’s appeal came as Russia suggested it plans to seize wider areas beyond Ukraine’s eastern industrial region known as Donbas, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressing that Moscow also claims the Kherson region and part of Zaporizhzhia and will expand “continually and persistently”. your earnings elsewhere.
Billions of dollars in Western military aid have been crucial to Ukraine’s efforts to fend off Russian attacks, but officials in Kyiv say the numbers are still too small to turn the tide of the war.
A look at what Ukraine has received so far:
HIMARS ROCKET LAUNCHER
HIMARS systems supplied by the US and similar M270s from Great Britain have significantly bolstered the precision strike capability of the Ukrainian military.
The HIMARS and M270 have longer range, much better accuracy, and faster rate of fire compared to the Soviet-designed Smerch, Uragan, and Tornado multiple rocket launchers used by both Russia and Ukraine.
Truck-mounted HIMARS launchers fire GPS-guided missiles capable of hitting targets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) away, a distance that puts them out of range of most Russian artillery systems. Mobile launchers are difficult for the enemy to detect and can quickly change position after firing to escape airstrikes.
The Ukrainian military has so far received a dozen HIMARS and several M270 systems, but has already used them to successfully attack Russian ammunition and fuel depots in eastern Ukraine, essential to supporting Moscow’s offensive. On Wednesday, Ukrainian forces allegedly used HIMARS to attack a strategic bridge in the southern Russian-occupied region of Kherson.
“HIMARS has hardly had any rest during the day or night. Its potential has been used 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 precision in the last two weeks.”
So far, US officials have refrained from providing Ukraine with longer-range missiles for HIMARS launchers that can hit targets up to 300 kilometers (186 miles), allowing the military to reach areas deep inside Russian territory.
Ukraine has received deliveries of more than 200 heavy artillery systems from the United States and its NATO allies. They have 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 Ukrainian crews need time to learn how to operate them. Their wide assortment poses obvious logistical challenges.
“Ukraine has received a tremendous amount … of artillery equipment that is very diverse,” said Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military and director of programs at the Virginia-based think tank CNA. “They ended up with an artillery petting zoo, and it’s very difficult to do maintenance, sustainment and logistics.”
A more serious problem is that the number of Western weapons remains too small.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said last month that the country needs 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 those of the Soviet era, but the numbers have been too small to turn the tide of the war,” Zhdanov said.
Ukraine has asked the West for more armor to replace its heavy losses on the battlefield. The country has reportedly received more than 300 Soviet-made T-72 tanks from Poland and the Czech Republic, and has already used them in combat.
However, the promised delivery of the German Leopard tanks is on hold, a delay that has provoked an angry response in the Ukrainian media and social networks.
Ukraine has received several hundred armored personnel carriers from the US and some NATO allies, a motley collection of vehicles that hasn’t quite made up for what it has already lost.
Western allies have also provided Ukraine with a large number of man-portable anti-tank weapons, which played a key role in helping Ukrainian soldiers decimate Russian armored convoys.
In the early part of the war, Ukraine used its inventory of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 laser-guided bomb-dropping drones extensively to attack large convoys of Russian troops and supply columns. The bayraktars, however, have become less effective against the denser Russian air and electronic defenses in eastern Ukraine.
Since the war began, the US and its Western allies have sent in hundreds of other drones, including an unspecified number of Switchblade 600 “kamikaze” drones that carry tank-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 jamming and GPS jamming and rely on satellite communications for control and navigation.
AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS
The United States and other NATO allies have provided Ukraine with more than 2,000 man-portable air defense missile systems, or MANPADS, like Stinger and other similar weapons.
These compact systems are efficient against combat helicopters and low-altitude aircraft, and the Ukrainian military has used them to inflict significant losses on the Russian air force, restricting its ability to provide close air support to ground forces and helping to slow the pace of the Moscow offensive. .
At the same time, Ukraine has also pushed the West to supply it with medium- and long-range air defense systems that would be capable of shooting down cruise missiles and high-flying aircraft.
It has received several Soviet-made S-300 long-range air defense systems from Slovakia, the type of weapons that the Ukrainian military has long operated.
The United States also promised to give Ukraine two NASAMS medium-range air defense systems.
Germany has promised to supply Ukraine with 30 Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, but they have not arrived yet.
Since the beginning of the invasion on February 24, Ukraine has urged Western allies to provide it with warplanes to challenge Russia’s air superiority.
However, the US and its allies have been reluctant to give Ukraine the fighter jets it asks for, fearing it will provoke an escalated response from Moscow, which has warned NATO that supplying Ukraine with fighter jets could equate to joining the conflict.
In March, the Pentagon rejected Poland’s proposal to deliver its Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine by transferring them through a US base in Germany, citing a high risk of triggering an escalation between Russia and NATO. Ukraine has its own fleet of MiG-29s, but it is unclear how many of those and other aircraft are still in service.
Earlier this month, Slovakia announced its intention to hand over its MiG-29 fleet to Ukraine while awaiting the delivery of F-16 fighter jets from the US, but no action has been taken.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine