“We are positioning Ukraine to move forward and recapture territory,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper told reporters Friday when outlining $3 billion in new security aid for Ukraine.
Coupled with the recently announced U.S. and European training for thousands of Ukrainian troops in Western-style combined arms maneuvers, the new weaponry marks a turning point for the United States and its allies, which have so far characterized their assistance as largely defensive.
As they continue to provide defensive equipment, including the advanced surface-to-air Patriot missile system, Ukraine’s backers are now making it clear that they intend to help “change the dynamics on the battlefield of what Cooper’s hard-fought” inches ahead largely static front lines, to more progress in regaining territory lost to the Russians.
“That’s what we’re looking forward to in the months ahead,” she said.
Ukraine’s significant territorial gains, such as the recapture of the Kharkiv region in the north in September, often depended on surprise maneuvers against an ill-supplied, trained and positioned enemy. Russian troops withdrew from the southern city of Kherson in November to more defensible positions on the other side of the Dnieper River, which Ukraine found difficult to penetrate.
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Topping the list of new items are 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles – armed with tank-destroying TOW missiles and hundreds of thousands of rounds of 25mm ammunition – and 18 self-propelled howitzers.
While not the heavy main battle tanks Ukraine has been looking for, the Bradleys are agile and fast, with “mounted firepower,” “considerable armor capability” and the ability to transport troops, Cooper said. They complement French AMX-10 RC light tanks and German Marder infantry fighting vehicles also announced this week, she said, along with agreements from the United States and the Netherlands to purchase Russian-made T-72 main battle tanks obtained from former Soviet bloc countries. to replenish Ukraine’s existing stocks.
All but the T-72s had long been on Ukraine’s wish list, but were rejected by the West because they were logistically complicated and would send an escalating signal to the Kremlin. But Moscow’s relentless bombing of civilian areas and energy infrastructure in recent months, the stalemate along the eastern and southern fronts, and the proven ability of the Ukrainian armed forces to adapt their existing weapons and use new equipment seem to challenge Western analysis. have changed.
RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles — air defense weapons designed to fire from sea or land — are also part of the package and will be paired with Soviet-era Buk launchers, Cooper said, “a creative solution that required some technical finesse. “
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that the new aid was one of the “concrete results” of his visit to Washington late last month and talks with other partners.
“Finally, we can say that we have succeeded in bringing Ukraine’s strength and defense cooperation with partners to a new level. The one we really need right now,” Zelensky said in his nightly speech in Kiev. “For the first time we are getting Bradley Fighting Vehicles – this is exactly what is needed. New guns and projectiles, including highly accurate ones. New missiles. New drones.”
Washington has touted the need for “combined arms”. — a concept of war that unites armour, infantry, aviation and other weapons and tactics to complement and support each other. It is an important element that commanders prefer to overwhelm enemies and exploit weaknesses.
Experts have pointed to Russia’s failure to protect its armored units with infantry as a major reason why they were picked apart in their attempt to capture Kiev in the early days of the invasion.
Many of the new weapons, along with training to operate them, will take months to arrive on the battlefield, and appear timed to anticipate a Ukrainian spring offensive across the broad, flat lands of the eastern part of the country . An offensive against entrenched Russian positions requires soldiers to move quickly in well-protected vehicles, said Bradley Bowman, a foreign policy and military analyst with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.
The Bradleys will boost firepower and allow the Ukrainian infantry to keep up with the armored units. “Their primary purpose is mechanized warfare,” he said. “And mechanized warfare is mobile warfare.”
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Other weapons on the list, including additional Humvees, M113 armored personnel carriers and mine-resistant vehicles, also indicate a need for mobility and protection.
The self-propelled M109 howitzers are a first, adding to what other Western allies have delivered. Howitzers previously sent by the United States require a separate truck to tow them around the battlefield, but M109s are built on tank-like tracks, which allows them to fire and be quickly carried to safety, a technique known as ‘ shoot and scoot’.
Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.