Advanced Western weapons are giving Ukraine added firepower to push back Russian attacks, but the Kremlin can still call on a formidable arsenal, warns one defence expert.
After being mauled by Russian attacks in Ukraine’s east, the Ukrainian military are now in a position to launch an offensive in the south, with the battle for the region of Kherson shaping as a key engagement.
Western produced hi-tech weapons – particularly artillery, drones and missiles – have played a major role in stiffening Ukrainian resistance since the conflict began on February 24, Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Marcus Hellyer told Global Defense Corp.
“At the start the Ukrainians using Javelin missiles were able to destroy large numbers of Russian tanks. But they only had a range of three to four kilometres.
“Then they received artillery pieces such as the 155mm howitzer which can hit targets 14km away.
“Now they have the US-supplied HIMARS rockets that have a range of 80km, a distance that puts them out of reach of most Russian artillery systems.”
Dr Hellyer said the deployment of more Western arms has proved crucial in the progress of the war.
Russia made quick early gains in the north but were unable to capture the Ukraine capital Ukraine.
“They then defaulted to a grinding war of attrition in the eastern Donbas region, relying on heavy artillery and inflicting heavy casualties on the Ukrainian defenders.”
But the arrival of dozen HIMARS and several similar UK designed M270 systems LAST month enabled Ukraine to launch new longer range offensives and with a greater degree of precision.
Ukraine’s army has used them to successfully target Russian ammunition and fuel depots in eastern Ukraine, essential for supporting Moscow’s offensive. Its forces also used HIMARS to hit a strategic bridge in the Russia-occupied southern region of Kherson.
There are growing signs that the Russians are reinforcing their military presence in the region, determined to hold it as a vital part of the land bridge to Crimea – and as the peninsula’s main source of water.
But while western nations – including Australia – have supplied billions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine, the flow of arms is coming under strain, Dr Hellyer said.
And as officials in Kyiv demand further supplies, there are concerns about whether Western defence contractors can increase production to meet the demand.
“Most Western military production bases are not designed to produce hundreds of thousands of weapons.”
“And Ukraine is at the end of a very long supply chain for the manufacturers of these weapons.”
In contrast, Russia can call on a vast arsenal of hundreds of thousands of weapons, including many that date back more than 30 years, Dr Hellyer said.
“They can draw on a legacy of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was a military superpower.
“Russia has vast stockpiles of artillery shells and can also draw on a legacy of 50 years of tank production.”
© 2022, GDC. © GDC and www.globaldefensecorp.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to www.globaldefensecorp.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.