Ukraine’s call for support has led to an unprecedented response from western governments around the world leading many to send aid in the form of armoured fighting vehicles, artillery systems, anti-tank weapons and counter-battery radars.
The list is extensive, and, according to a database maintained by Joost Oliemans and Stijn Mitzer of the Oryx Blog, includes hundreds of ground vehicles alone. The total quantity of promised and delivered equipment is categorised below, which indicates that Ukraine is in the process of, or already has taken delivery of, a significant number of systems.
Many of these systems are new to the Ukrainian forces and they will not have operated them before the war. This situation may create challenges for Ukraine in terms of maintenance and supply.
|All T-72M standard
|Infantry fighting vehicles/
Armoured personnel carriers
|In addition, and unknown quantity of VABs have been promised,
and numbers are not available for the YPR-765 APC delivered
|Protected mobility platforms
|Not including hundreds of additional HMMWVs promised
|Includes several different air defence systems
|Mix of Soviet and NATO standard equipment
|Mix of Soviet and NATO standard equipment
|Uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs)
A Soviet legacy
Theoretically, many of the platforms provided to Ukraine – the 270 promised T-72Ms, for example – should not represent a significant challenge to Ukraine’s ability to operate and fight with these vehicles as they are broadly similar to the T-64 and T-72 tanks already in Ukrainian service.
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The same can be said of the BVP-1/BWP-1/M-80A/Pbv-501As, which are all analogues of the BMP-1 IFV that have been provided by the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Poland. Equally, the BM-21 Grad 122mm multiple rocket launchers supplied by Poland and the Czech Republic should not represent a significant challenge from an operator perspective.
However, the supply of ammunition required to sustain these vehicles has proven problematic, with Ukraine quickly exhausting its own stocks and depleting those of its European partners. Production of these munitions has also proven difficult, leading quickly to supply issues.
There must also be the question of spares and repairs for these vehicle fleets. There is no active production of the T-72 outside of Russia and India, nor for the BMP-1 series. It is also unclear how viable the production lines for high-wear items such as tracks and roadwheels are. This suggests that, despite the ease with which Soviet legacy systems can theoretically be absorbed by the Ukrainian military, it is possible that the supply chain is complicated and that it is unable to support the full weight of the Ukrainian war effort.
The challenges of supporting Soviet weaponry, combined with the fact that many of Europe’s more modern militaries do not operate those platforms, has driven the supply of NATO standard systems. Notionally, Ukraine has been provided with or promised at least 281 NATO calibre artillery systems chambered for 155mm ammunition.
However, this aid spans seven different systems that are outlined in table 2 below. It does not include the 105mm L118 light guns to be supplied by the UK, which adds a further calibre that must be accounted for.
According to RUSI’s Dr Jack Watling, Ukraine has found that despite being NATO standard systems, many of the munitions have different fuzing and ammunition requirements, as well as different demands for training and support.
The Caesar is powered by a Renault engine, the Zusana by Tatra and the M109 by Detroit Diesel. The PzH2000 and Krab both use the MTU 881 Ka-500 engine, representing a rare example of commonality between the artillery systems provided, however they both rely on different transmissions; Renk and Allison respectively.
The automotive demands of each self-propelled howitzer are therefore distinct, requiring different processes and levels of expertise for each system. It follows that the provision of so many different artillery systems may be creating additional challenges for Ukraine in fighting the war, ones that are difficult to sustain.
Fortunately, the situation should be different for the APCs being supplied by NATO countries, most of which are the M113. Despite its age, this platform is supported by a large user club and production line that has been given some support by frequent upgrades. The fact that they remain in service with the US Army will also ensure that spare parts are available.
However, the heavy Wolfhound and Mastiff MRAPs supplied by the UK, as well as its CVR(T) tracked armoured vehicles that are also expected to be delivered, will introduce an additional vehicle type that must be supported.
Suffice to say, none of the above NATO systems share any commonality with the Soviet and Ukrainian weapons that form the mainstay of Ukraine’s armed forces.
The one who bears all gifts
The ancient Greek meaning for the word ‘Pandora’ is understood to mean ‘the one who bears all gifts’. Pandora is of course famous for releasing evils upon humanity as a result of her curiosity, leaving hope trapped inside the container used to transport the evils. The provision of military aid to Ukraine has not released all of the world’s evils, however the modern interpretation of the myth – which has come to mean, “something that creates a lot of new problems that you did not expect”, according to the Cambridge Dictionary – is more appropriate.
Ukraine is now faced with operating multiple platform types including many different calibres of munition with different production capacities, and must also maintain and repair these platforms, some of which are considerably more challenging than others. The fuel and maintenance requirements of a tracked self-propelled howitzer are likely higher than a wheeled system, for example.
This is combined with an urgent need for ammunition to enable the Ukrainian forces to counter Russia’s artillery predominance, which it is currently losing large quantities of personnel to. It follows that, whilst military aid from Western and allied states is valuable in sustaining Ukraine’s war effort, some form of rationalisation around one or two types of vehicle, weapon, and ammunition is likely required to facilitate support and combat efficiency.