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What weapons Ukraine needs to win the war

Leopard tanks.  REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa/File
Leopard tanks. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa/File

Since Ukraine released Khersonlast November, little has evolved the war. On the one hand, the Russians have tried to make gains – more propaganda than strategic – in Donbas and, on the other, the Ukrainians have tried to protect their skies from continued Russian attacks on their civilian population.

Although it is true that this situation can be “comfortable” for Europeans, its prolongation in time would mean a defeat of Ukrainegiven that Russia would freeze the conflict forever prolonging instability in the region and driving kyiv away from its European dream. In fact, this recent standstill appears to have allowed Russia to delay its supply lines and command centers, putting them out of range of Ukrainian artillery for the time being.

For this reason, from the presidency and from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, the requests for arms transfer, something necessary to organize the spring offensive that could permanently expel the Russians from the Ukraine. So, one wonders what weaponry Ukraine would need to beat Russia. We can establish three main categories:

1. Long-range drones

Since Ukraine began using the first drones in March, this capability has become one of the most effective assets of the Ukrainians against the Russian troops. In this final phase of the war, the Ukrainians need fastest drones, with greater autonomy and greater capacity to do damage. The one chosen for this task seems to be the Turkish drone kizilelmawhich is presented as one of the fastest and most capable devices on the arms market, even ahead of the North American MQ-20.

The missiles could be mounted on these drones TRG-230 IHA, which provide an extra range of 100 km. The conjunction of the Kizilelma drone and the TR-230 missile would allow the Ukrainians to damage both the command and logistics centers, a fact that would make the advance of the Ukrainian infantry much easier.

Kizilelma (Red Apple), Turkish defense company Baykar's first jet-powered unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), flies over Corlu, near Istanbul, Turkey, December 14, 2022. Baykar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS /Archive
Kizilelma (Red Apple), Turkish defense company Baykar’s first jet-powered unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), flies over Corlu, near Istanbul, Turkey, December 14, 2022. Baykar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS /Archive

2. Long-range artillery (and ammunition)

What has most changed the course of the war has been, without a doubt, the HIMARS (high mobility artillery rocket system). This American-made contraption enabled the Ukrainians to carry out the successful August-September offensive, which culminated in the liberation of Kherson.

However, as some US military have advanced, the main challenge of the war is not so much the training of troops as the maintenance of the ammunition supply, especially that referred to long-range artillery. Therefore, in the coming months The West should increase the effort to supply long-range artillery piecesnot only for HIMARS, but also for anti-aircraft systems such as NASAMS or the PATRIOTSwhich in the coming months will be part of the Ukrainian anti-aircraft defenses.

In this sense, Ukraine is expected to be able to incorporate systems GLSDB (capable of maneuvering in the air) and MLRS whose main virtue is to be compatible with HIMARS. Without the damage that artillery can cause, it will be very difficult for the spring offensive to be carried out.

An M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) takes part in a military exercise near Liepaja, Latvia, September 26, 2022. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File
An M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) takes part in a military exercise near Liepaja, Latvia, September 26, 2022. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File

3. European-made cavalry

While it is true that drones and artillery are very important to Ukrainian military plans, the tank shipping can become the vault key for the Ukrainian victory. Because the western allies (France, Germany and the US) they have already agreed to send infantry transport vehicles (AMX10, Marder or Bradley). It is a substitute for the tank that, although it is of great help to the Ukrainian army, is not capable of making the difference as a tank would.

The main difference between these vehicles and battle tanks lies on the one hand in its fire capacity and on the other in the armor. While some infantry transports like the French AMX10s have managed to mount similar guns to tanks (105mm vs. 120mm), the armor cannot compare. Thanks to this armor of the tanks, the Ukrainians could better protect the advance of his troops against the fire of artillery and Russian cavalry.

Three tank possibilities are being considered. The North American Abrahams 1, the British Challenger 2 and the European Leopard 2. Of all of them, the one that best suits the needs of Ukrainians is the leopardbut being a German-made vehicle requires berlin clearance for transfer to third parties.

A Spanish army Leopard 2 tank that is part of NATO's Reinforced Forward Presence fires during the final phase of the Silver Arrow 2022 military drill at the Adazi military training camp, Latvia, September 29, 2022. REUTERS/ Ints Kalnins/File
A Spanish army Leopard 2 tank that is part of NATO’s Reinforced Forward Presence fires during the final phase of the Silver Arrow 2022 military drill at the Adazi military training camp, Latvia, September 29, 2022. REUTERS/ Ints Kalnins/File

The Abrahams 1 would not have this problem, since it depends exclusively on the United States government, but they have other problems derived from training, maintenance and logistics. Although it is true that the Ukrainians learn very quickly and that this characteristic would allow them to overcome the obstacle of being an American tank, the complicated maintenance and, above all, the high consumption of gasoline would make the Abrahams an impractical vehicle for an offensive like the one planned for spring. Also, not only is it the most fuel intensive of the three, but it is also a slow tank that could be easy prey for the Russian T-72s.

A destroyed Russian T-72B tank captured by the Ukrainian army is displayed during an exhibition called "For our freedom and yours" in the old town of Warsaw, Poland, June 27, 2022. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
A destroyed Russian T-72B tank captured by the Ukrainian army is displayed during an exhibition called ‘For our freedom and yours’ in the Old Town of Warsaw, Poland June 27, 2022. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

The Challenger 2 is the tank with the best armor, which determines its autonomy (400 km). Although it does not consume as much as Abrahams, it does have less capacity for action. The best option is the Leopard, a tank that almost doubles the speed (75 km/h) of Russian tanks, is highly maneuverable and also has a range of 550 km. Thus, with the Leopards in the hands of the Ukrainians, one could repeat a strategy similar to September in which the tanks went kilometers into the enemy lines without the need to refuel, causing great damage to the Russian troops.

By way of conclusion we must say that the Ukrainians are going to need unmanned vehicles capable of penetrating lines with depth of fire, a constant flow of artillery pieces that allows him to damage Russian defenses, supply chains and control centers and, above all, tanks with which to break enemy lines that threaten to become borders. Europe must make a transfer effort to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia.

*Article originally published on The Conversation By Alberto Priego, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Law-ICADE, Department of Public Dep. DIP and International Relations Area, Comillas Pontifical University

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After the attack on Dnipro, NATO demands to strengthen the air defense and deepen support for Ukraine before the new Russian spring offensive

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