“New Year’s” Military Aid Package for UA

US has announced a $2.85B worth of military aid package to UA. In practical terms, Pentagon is selling its old stocks of military hardware for the price they decide. The money will be used to procure modern weaponry and ammunition, while the old hardware will be cheaply utilized for the price of transportation and some training. Any Russian soldiers (and civilians) killed or crippled, and any Russian military hardware lost will be a “nice” bonus for Unkle Sam. UA will receive this old hardware and feel good about it since it “costs” almost $3B. But it will also help to support the UA’s military for a few more months of positional warfare. Let’s examine some of the articles provided in this package.

The Infantry Combat Vehicles (M1 Bradley and Marder)

US will supply 50 M1 Bradley IFV’s, and additional ~50 Marder IFV’s will come from Germany. So, about 100 IFV’s in total, which is enough to arm how many mechanized units? If one IFV is required for a squad, ~3 for platoon, ~10 for company, when it will be enough for 3 or 4 mechanized brigades or regiments, or 1 or 2 mechanized divisions, generally speaking. In more practical terms, those vehicles will probably be used to replace the BMPs previously lost, and not to create new units.

Regarding capabilities, the Bradley armed with 25-mm auto-canon, has an adequate frontal armor protection against 25mm rounds, and a protection against large caliber (12.7mm) machine guns from other sides. Also, a good protection against artillery round shrapnel. It has a powerful and long-reaching TOW anti-tank missile system on board, and good optics. It can be used on pair against BMP-2/3 IFVs, it could endanger Russian tanks if used from closed or masked positions, and it can be very effective against infantry. Marder IFV’s lack the anti-tank capabilities, but have a good 20mm automatic canon, which would be effective against IFVs and APCs (except for frontal armor of BMP-3 and possibly BMP-1/2), but not against tanks.

Bradley with its TOW anti-tank missile system can be also used as a dedicated tank-destroyer in defensive operations, or against fortified fire positions (of high value weaponry) in offensive operations. Its rough equivalency with BMP-2/3 means the deciding factor on a battlefield will be the quality of crews and commanders. It is no superweapon by itself. Along with its strengths, such as the powerful anti-tank missile system, the training of the Ukrainian crews and especially the maintenance will be a nightmare. Each, normally insignificant malfunction will probably require transferring it to Poland, since there will be no trained technicians for them, nor spares or special tools. As it happens with the resto of Western weaponry, it would have to be repaired far from the frontline.

The 50 Bradleys will come with 500 TOW missiles (i.e. 10 for each vehicle) and 250,000 25-mm canon rounds (i.e. 5,000 rounds per each vehicle). US military has around 2,000 Bradley IFVs in storage, which means additional supplies are quite possible in the future. It also means there should be no shortage of ammunition or spare parts for the vehicles supplied.

M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzers

US will also supply 18 155-mm self-propelled howitzers (SPH) to Ukraine, along with 70,000 rounds, 500 precision rounds (laser or GPS guided) and 1,200 remote-mining rounds. Whose 155-mm rounds should be (theoretically) interchangeable with M777 lightweight howitzers and other western howitzers like the French Ceasar SPH.

Then the supplies of the M777 started, I said it won’t be as effective as SPH in Ukraine. Currently M777 are being towed by trucks, loaded with ammunition. Some time ago a lot of videos appeared, where M777 were engaged by the Lantset suicide drones. In those, the drone will strike the howitzer, damage it, and then the towing truck will evacuate it for repairs. One time a drone hit the towing truck, detonating the ammunition, which resulted in total destruction of the truck, the howitzer, and anyone who happen to be near it. Which shows that even then Russian military has an effective weapon, it will use it ineffectively for some unfathomable reasons (maybe drone operators are instructed to hit howitzers instead of inflicting as much damage as possible, for bureaucratic reasons). The towing truck which also used as ammo transporter results in less mobility, better visibility and higher vulnerability. The armored (against artillery shrapnel), tracked SPH will have less time spent on position and greater protection, resulting in higher survivability and overall effectiveness. Still, the 18 is not a large enough number to make a real difference. Again, those will serve to replace the destroyed Soviet-vintage SPHs, and not to create new artillery units or achieve new capabilities (well, except for guided 155-mm rounds, which were a rarity in Soviet and post-Soviet arsenals).

RIM-7 Surface-to-air missiles

The RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles are a surface-to-air variant of air-to-air AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. Those were first introduced long ago, as a medium-range semi-active radar guided missiles, used on all modifications of US (and many Western) fighter jets since the Vietnam War till today. The newer AIM-120 AMRAAM started to replace the AIM-7 around the start of the millennium. The latter variants used by the US Navy, Air Force and the Marines are still capable anti-aircraft missiles. The RIM-7 variant was developed as a lower tier than the Navy’s Standard missile system, used on smaller or auxiliary ships for self-defense against aircraft and anti-ship cruise missiles, as well as a second defense echelon on large warships. US naval aircraft carriers also use those for self-defense.

It is hard to understand their intended place in the Ukrainian air-defense. Since those use the semi-active radar guidance, they need to be intimately integrated with the fire-control radar and the rest of the guidance system. One secondary source suggest they intended to be used on Ukrainian Buk air-defence systems. This makes sense, because UA actively uses those systems but have no means to mass-produce the missiles. Older RIM-7s from US Navy stocks should be plentiful and nearing the end of their useful life. On the other hand, integration of those with Soviet Buk systems seems to me like an extremely complicated affair. Either the missile’s guidance systems should be modified to work with Buk radars and guidance system, or the Buk system should at the very least undergo some type of radar modification to work with RIM-7 missiles. It is theoretically possible for them to be compatible, having some common radio bands. Though highly unlikely, since specific radar guidance requires a specific radar not only to be able to receive the radio waves reflecting from the target but also not to create any electro-magnetic noises what would adversely influence the guidance process. Any radar guidance system developed, also undergoes a testing process to find any such issues before the introduction into service. That is why two possibilities exist: either the RIM-7 missiles have some common radio bands with the existing Ukrainian fire-control radars in service or require small scale modifications to the radars, or the entire guidance system of Buk needs to be redesigned. The first option could provide some limited and, potentially, very troublesome operability, while the second option requires so much work, it would be easier to use Western fire-control radars and fire-control systems with those missiles. Since the Sea Sparrow is a naval system, it relies on ship-based fire-control radars, which are not at all practical to be used on land-based, mobile air-defence systems. It is possible more modern versions or naval radars exist which are compatible with Sea Sparrow and much more compact, but those would still be too expensive and complicated to install on old Soviet air-defence systems like Buk. On the other hand, modifying the guidance system of the RIM-7 missiles would be similarly expensive and complicated. Since the US intention is to get rid of the old hardware while providing the Pentagon with funds to replace it with newer weaponry, the only reasonable option is to use existing Buk air-defence systems as they are, or to make some small and easy modifications to enable them some kind of interoperability with RIM-7 missiles (with poor results).

In any case, it is possible those RIM-7 missiles would be of limited quantities, intended mainly for Ukrainians to try and adopt their systems to those missiles. In the event they would succeed, US will be able to provide large numbers of RIM-7 (or AIM-7) missiles, to replenish the Ukrainian arsenals. If the Ukrainian military wouldn’t be able to effectively integrate them into their own systems, then the only option remained is to supply more Western air-defence systems (ADS) such as NASAMS, Patriots or IRIS-T, though those are not available in large quantities to give away, since they are still the basis on NATO’s land-based air-defence. Only the Hawk ADS are old enough and plentiful enough to give away, but those have very limited effectiveness on the modern battlefield, due to the old design of the missiles and the fire-control system. They would be also much less useful (if at all) against Russian cruise missiles or Iranian drones.

It is also possible, the RIM-7 missiles are not intended for any Soviet ADS, but for the Western ones. Even though none of the supplied Western ADS are intended to use RIM-7 missiles, it is possible some work has been done lately to integrate them with the Patriot or the Hawk system. Since both use semi-active radar guidance for their original missiles, and thus have an organic fire-control radar, capable of target illumination. In the case of Patriot, integration of RIM-7/AIM-7 missiles would allow the use of cheap and plentifully available missiles, while in the case of the Hawk, it will provide a significant upgrade to the system capabilities, especially against Russian long-range strikes.

Since none of the available options are easy or obvious, we should wait and see how those missiles would be used.

Zuni air-launched rockets (4,000 units)

This is another debut for Western weapon introduced to UA’s arsenal. Since those are (originally) unguided rockets, they could be integrated easily into Ukrainian aircraft, if high precision isn’t required. They are roughly the equivalent to the Russian R-13 rockets, with compatible performance. Currently, both RU and UA use the bulk of their close air support aviation such as attack helicopters and attack jets exclusively from low altitudes, they expend extensive quantities of unguided rockets, launched from the loft. This result in very little actual effect on the enemy (except for moral effect), and very large exhaustion rate of ammunition. It is possible, the Zuni rockets are supplied in order to replenish the depleting Ukrainian stocks of air-launched rockets. In this is their intended purpose, they can be used without any modifications to the targeting systems, since the precision of currently used unguided rockets is almost non-existing anyways (for the reasons mentioned above).

2,000 anti-armor rockets

I’m not sure what that might be. It could be air-launched unguided rockets with anti-armor warhead, or MLRS type unguided rockets with anti-tank submunition for the HIMARS and MLRS systems previously supplied, or LAW type anti-tank grenade launchers, or maybe something else entirely.

100 M117 APCs and 138 Hammer vehicles

Those are probably intended only as a replacement for the lost BTRs and armored cars. US can undoubtedly supply much more than this, but older hardware that comes from the storage facilities needs to go through repair depots first. And those have their capacity limits. It is also possible UA doesn’t need much more than that, since many Western countries provide or sell a wide range of armored personnel carriers and armored vehicles. Actually, all the European junk that was stored and rusted for decades, is now hastily put in working condition and send to UA, in return for the money provided by their governments as UA military aid. Some also sell newly built armored cars (MRAP), like Canadians or Turks.

In conclusion

There is nothing really revolutionary in this air package for UA. The supply of the IFVs can suggest future supplies of main battle tanks like M1 Abrams or Leopard-2. A few European officials already expressed their willingness to supply Leopard-2 to UA, namely Finland and Poland, but they would need some sort of compensation from Germany or US in order to do so. Germany itself doesn’t have too much of Leopard-2 tanks, since in the last decades it mostly sold them to third countries, while upgrading their own diminishing stocks. US, on the other hand, currently sells all the Abrams tanks they can produce, while trying to expand their presence in Europe and constantly keeping their eyes on Asia. So, while theoretically they can supply large quantities from active or reserve service units, the Pentagon would be against it, since they have no means to replenish their tank fleet in the near future. The other possible tank donors are France, UK and Italy, but they don’t have significant quantities to begin with.

Mostly, this package is intended to replace the destroyed or otherwise out of commission hardware, and not to provide new capabilities or raise new units. The West, and especially the US, is content with the current state of things in the war. UA and Russia are griding each other personnel in positional warfare, while high value Russian targets sometimes get hit by a drone or an explosive device. Without any risk to itself, the West is waging a proxy war on Russia, and all it does is providing some weapons, mostly the old ones, while paying themselves to restock with a modern military hardware. This form of cheap utilization without any environmental damage to the Western countries, while grinding down Slavic population in East Europe, is highly advantageous for the West, at least in the short term.

It is obvious the West isn’t ready yet to supply a game-changing weaponry to UA, such as fighter jets or long-range cruise missiles. Not because they are still afraid of Russian response (which will not happen, as we saw already many times with the “red lines” crossed), but because they don’t really want any side to be victorious — only to inflict as many casualties and as much destruction on UA and RU as possible. At the same time, Russia is also unwilling to make necessary changes in MoD and MIC in order to achieve decisive victory in Ukraine. President Rasputin and Co are seemed as much wiling to grind Eastern Slaves as the West does.

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