HIMARS and howitzers: West helps Ukraine with key weaponry

ARMOR

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

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

Ukraine has taken delivery of several hundred armored personnel carriers from the U.S. and a few NATO allies, a motley collection of vehicles that hasn’t fully compensated for what it already has lost.

Western allies also have provided Ukraine with big numbers of portable anti-tank weapons, which played a key role in helping Ukrainian soldiers to decimate Russian armored convoys.

DRONES

In the early part of the war, Ukraine extensively used its inventory of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 laser-guided, bomb-dropping drones to hit long convoys of Russian troops and supply columns. Bayraktars, however, have become less effective in the face of denser Russian air and electronic defenses in eastern Ukraine.

Since the war began, the US and Western allies have shipped hundreds of other drones, including an unspecified number of “kamikaze” Switchblade 600s that carry tank-piercing warheads and use artificial intelligence to track targets. But their range is limited, and they can only stay aloft for about 40 minutes.

Ukraine has pushed strongly 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 US and other NATO allies have provided Ukraine with over 2,000 portable air defense missile systems, or MANPADS, such as Stingers and other similar weapons.

Such compact systems are efficient against combat helicopters and low-flying jets, and the Ukrainian military has used them to inflict significant losses on the Russian air force, restricting its capability to provide close air support to ground forces and helping slow the pace of Moscow’s offensive.

At the same time, Ukraine also has prodded the West to supply it with medium- and long-range air defense systems that would be capable of downing cruise missiles and high-flying aircraft.

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

The US also has 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 yet to arrive.

WARPLANES

Since the start of the invasion on Feb 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 would provoke an escalatory response from Moscow, which has warned NATO that supplying Ukraine with combat aircraft could be tantamount to joining the conflict.

In March, the Pentagon rejected Poland’s proposal for handing 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’s unclear how many of those and other jets are still in service.

Earlier this month, Slovakia announced an intention to give its MiG-29 fleet to Ukraine as it awaits delivery of US F-16 figter jets, but no action has been taken.