We Are The World
Back in the 80s, we had concerts to raise money for countries in need. The old song says, “There are people dying, and it’s time to lend a hand…” So we sent money and medicine and blankets. Today, people are still dying, and we are still lending a hand; but today, it is in the form of powerful rockets and missiles, each with a longer and longer reach.
Winter was in full swing when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine in late February of 2022. As hard as it is to believe, the war has progressed through spring and summer, and now, we are in fall, looking at another long, cold winter of fighting. Then, much of the world thought Ukraine would be outgunned and taken over quickly by the mighty Russian army. Some 239 days later, we know that was not the case today.
From Albania to Uzbekistan, several nations rushed to the aid of Ukraine with humanitarian help and lots and lots of weapons. Today, we’ll look at some of those weapons and how they have helped Ukraine remain independent with firm hopes of a future free of Russian domination. Keep in mind that it is beyond this article’s scope to list every weapon system provided by every country over the course of many months. However, if you notice that we have left out something significant, please feel free to make a note of it in the comments. You can also check out the previous SOFREP report on Ukraine’s updated “wish list” here.
Only 48 hours after the start of the invasion, on February 26th, 2022, Reuters reported on President Joe Biden’s guidance to the US Senate to release $350 million worth of American weapons from our stockpiles as the Ukrainians struggled to repulse an active invasion. Biden directed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to do this through the Foreign Assistance Act. In the first days of the war, Ukraine quickly asked for Javelin anti-armor weapons to crush Russian tanks and Stinger missiles to eliminate threats from the air.
Sitting here seven months later, with billions and billions in aid sent to Ukraine, I had to chuckle a little bit to myself when I read Mr. Blinken’s comment that the request for the weapons authorization was “unprecedented.” Blinken noted that we had already sent more than $1 billion of military assistance to Ukraine in separate packages in the fall of 2021 and later in December.
In those earliest days of hostilities, the Netherlands agreed to send 200 Stinger missiles to Ukraine “as quickly as possible.” Belgium kicked in 2,000 machine guns and 3,800 tons of fuel. In a move that foreshadowed future difficulties, Germany agreed to send 400 rocket-propelled grenades from the Netherlands to Ukraine. They faced harsh criticism from the world community for trying to appease both sides in the war and not taking direct action. As they do not have a military of their own, the government of Iceland agreed to transport military equipment from other countries to the war zone.
Much of the aid sent to Ukraine from the global community has been non-lethal. It doesn’t tend to get as much press as the rockets, missiles, and other stuff that goes boom, but it is vital nonetheless. For example, the US has sent over 75,000 sets of body armor and kevlar helmets. Japan has also sent thousands of helmets (Type 88 version 2 Kai) and bulletproof vests (Type 3 Kai). In addition, they’ve provided hundreds of tents and generators, satellite phones, binoculars, over 110,000 emergency rations, and tons of medical supplies. The Japanese Ministry of Defense also sent an unspecified number of surveillance drones and vans (for transportation, of course). Many nations have contributed to night vision devices. So many night vision devices (aka night observation devices, or NODs) that from what I hear from soldiers on the ground, they have enough of those and don’t need additional.
Germany has sent over 400,000 MREs (meals, ready-to-eat). Or, as we sometimes called them, “meals, ready to excrete.” Yes, we could be childish at times. To help prep them for the coming winter months, they have also provided Ukrainians with almost a quarter of a million winter hats, 116,000 winter coats, 80,000 pairs of cold-weather pants, and over ten thousand cold-weather sleeping bags. To help save mother earth, they’ve sent ten tons of something called AdBlue. I had to look that one up. AdBlue is a liquid comprised of 32.5% urea (the same stuff found in your pee) and 67.6% deionized water. It helps diesel engines break down soot and unburnt fuel to water and nitrogen. We wouldn’t want to mess up the planet too badly while we’re busy killing each other.
In a joint deal with Estonia, Germany has sent one mobile field hospital, 50 Unimog medical transport vehicles, 1200 hospital beds, and 14 pallets of medical supplies. Kind of a starter kit of sorts. No word on who is staffing it, but the Germans did earmark over five million euros for training those who do.
Aircraft and Radars
The US has agreed to send 20 Russian Mi-17 Hip military helicopters. So how did we get ahold of 20 Russian military helicopters? Glad you asked. I wrote a piece all about that here. The Hips are transport helicopters that can be armed with cannons and rockets. They are capable of being used in attack or close air support roles. In addition, the Czech Republic has sent an undisclosed number of “deeply refurbished” Mi-24V attack helicopters.
We have provided no fixed-wing aircraft. But according to a report in euractiv.com, quoting Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, Ukrainian forces “right now have available to them more fixed-wing fighter aircraft than they did two weeks ago.” Speculation is that they are Russian-built, and Slovakia may have provided them. At any rate, that doesn’t change the fact that neither Russia nor Ukraine has air superiority over the theater of war.
A transfer of multiple MiGs from Poland to Ukraine was discussed in early March, but the idea was quickly squashed by NATO, which felt the Russians would view that as direct involvement of NATO in the hostilities. NATO signatories continue to walk a fine line between helping Ukraine defeat Russia using offensive weapons and starting World War III.
To help defend against mortars, rockets, and artillery, we’re sending 22 highly mobile AN/TPQ-36 counter artillery radars. For more significant threats from the air, we’ve sent four AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel air surveillance radars capable of identifying approaching hostile aircraft (helicopters, fixed-wing, drones) and missiles. Finally, for good measure, we’ve tossed in some electronic radar jamming equipment. France has added an unknown number of Crotale NG short-range surface-to-air missile systems. The Germans sent eight mobile ground surveillance radars (mounted on Humvees) and one for each Cobra Counter Battery Radar System. The Cobra (COunter Battery RAdar) system is an active electronically scanned array 3D radar used to locate enemy field artillery.
Armored and Other Tactical Vehicles
This includes dusting off two hundred M113 armored personnel carriers (APCs) and a couple hundred more armored Humvees on top of those the US has already sent. In addition, we include another 100 utility vehicles to tow 155 howitzers the US is sending, together with a couple of dozen specialty vehicles to aid in the recovery of damaged equipment.
The French have sent a handful of Renault trucks, including some GBC 180 6X6 all-terrain vehicles and a few Peugeot P4 off-road vehicles.
Missiles and Anti-Armor Weapons
We’ve sent more than 6,500 Javelin weapon systems to the Ukrainian military. In addition, we’ve added about 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems and approximately 20,000 NLAWs (next-generation Light anti-tank Weapons). That’s a lot of firepowers.
Since the early days of the Ukrainian conflict, Javelins have been blowing Russian tanks off their treads right and left. However, they are only one of many specific weapons systems employed to extract a heavy price from Putin’s forces.
When speaking of these weapons, CSIS International Security Program Senior Adviser Mark Cancian says, “The Javelins are the top end. They’re the most expensive and the most effective.”
Manufactured in the US by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, the Javelin costs $178,000, including the launch system and missile, according to the Pentagon’s 2021 budget. Each replacement missile costs around $78,000. With Russian tanks costing up to $4 million each, you get much bang for the buck destroyed.
The Estonians, French, and UK also supplied Javelins to aid in the war effort. In addition, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Latvia, and Lithuania kicked in some Stingers.
In addition to the numerous anti-tank missiles sent for the war effort, the US was also asked for and supplied anti-ship missiles. These were in the form of Harpoon and Naval Strike missiles.
The $2,194,000 Naval Strike Missile (NSM) originated in Norway and has been in service since 2012. It is manufactured by Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace and Raytheon. The NSM can also be used for land attacks, as it can climb and descend with the land using its terrain-reference navigation system. In addition, its 276 lb high explosive blast fragmentation warhead can sink whatever the Russian Navy can sail in front of it.
Rather than using radar to track and hit its target, the NSM uses a passive infrared sensor that gives off no RF energy that the target can detect. It is able to fly at very low altitudes and execute erratic high G maneuvers to throw off close-in weapons systems cannons that fire in front of a missile on its predicted flight path. The NSM has a selective targeting system that aims at specific points on a ship, like its bridge, propulsion, steering compartments, or magazines. The Titanium warhead’s design can also be set to explode on contact or deeply penetrate the target vessel’s hull before exploding.
Harpoon missiles are a bit older than the NSM, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are the most successful anti-ship missiles in the world, capable of sinking just about anything in the Russian Navy. The Harpoon is an all-weather, over-the-horizon anti-ship missile system. It features a low-level, sea-skimming cruise trajectory and active radar guidance. The missile can be launched from surface ships, submarines, shore batteries, or aircraft. In case you were wondering, each one costs around $1.4 million. They are either 12.5 or 15 feet long, depending on whether you are using the air-launched or surface/submarine-launched variant. In both cases, their wingspan is 3 feet.
The weapon carries a 488 lb warhead and makes its way to its target at Mach 0.71 out to 120 nautical miles depending on how it is launched.
And then there came the HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System), the M142 HIMARS, more precisely. The first arrived in Ukraine in June as part of a $700 million military aid package. I wrote about how Ukrainian soldiers “pimped their ride,” putting up a strange mish-mash of images of scantily clad women and rosary beads inside the vehicles. I think I even saw one of those fragrant cardboard trees, the kind you can buy at the car wash.
As they asked for weapons with longer and longer reach, the Ukrainian forces appreciated HIMARS because it could, with great precision, put high explosives on targets up to 50 miles away. One condition of sending this weapons system was that it was not used to strike targets across the Russian border. Again we are walking a fine line between helping and escalating. Before they received HIMARS, Ukrainian fighters had to make do with thy Soviet-era Uragan, a self-propelled multiple rocket launching systems with a maximum range of 20 miles. That’s not too bad, but the margin of error on those things is about half a mile either way. One lousy shot could ruin someone’s entire day.
We’ve been sending howitzers to Ukraine since shortly after the war began. To be considered heavy artillery in the military sense, the ordnance must be 155 mm caliber and larger. Before March 16th 2022, we sent over a million grenade, mortar, and artillery rounds. That’s a lot of bangs. After the 16th, we sent 18 M777 155 mm howitzers along with 40,000 rounds of ammunition for them. Those worked so well that we sent Ukraine 72 each 155 mm towed howitzers and 72 artillery towing vehicles the next month. So they had something to fire; we added another 144,000 rounds of 155. Someone thought we better protect all of that firepower, so we included counter-artillery radars in that aid package. We sent hundreds of thousands of 155 mm artillery rounds in the following months.
We have to give credit where credit is due. Many in the global community pitched in and sent artillery of all sorts of configurations and calibers to Ukraine:
- Australia sent 6 M777 heavy artillery pieces in April
- The Czech Republic doesn’t like to disclose exact numbers, but they have announced that they sent self-propelled artillery (122 mm 2S1 Gvozdika and 152 mm ShKh vz. 77 DANA) along with 4,006 artillery shells. Funny how they’ll announce the exact number of shells. They also sent a few multiple rocket launcher systems and surface-to-air missile systems. And over 10,000 RPG-75s, we don’t want to forget those.
- Finland contributed a few 155mm tkr88 artillery rounds.
- France sent 18 of their famous 155mm 6X6 CAESAR howitzers and “tens of thousands” shells. They also sent over a dozen 155mm TRF 1 towed artillery pieces.
- Germany kicked in 10 each 155mm PzH 2000 SPGs, which is self-propelled artillery, and 10,500 rounds of 155 shells to go with them. In June, they sent several SMArt 155 guided artillery rounds for the PzH 2000 SPGs
- Greece provided an unknown number of 122mm rocket artillery rounds for the BM-21 and RM-70 MRL.
- Italy sent FH-70 155mm towed howitzers and an “unknown number” of 155mm shells for them.
- Lithuania dipped into their reserves and sent M101 105mm howitzers.
- The Netherlands sent 8 155mm PzH 2000s self-propelled artillery units.
- Norway provided 22 155mm M109A3GNs, and 16 155mm ShKH Zuzana 2s self-propelled artillery pieces.
- Pakistan sent 50,000 122mm artillery shells.
- Poland contributed 20+ 122mm 2S1 Gozdziks, 42 155mm AHS Krabs, and “large numbers” of 122mm and 152mm artillery rounds
- The United Kingdom sent 20 M109 155mm self-propelled artillery pieces, 36 L119 105 artillery pieces, and 50,000 rounds of Soviet-era artillery
** Please note that these numbers are fluid; pieces in addition to those listed here have probably been sent. Some of those sent have been destroyed. Also, this list concentrates on artillery. Many other forms of lethal aid have been sent by the nations noted above and many others…so much so that one could argue that we are currently in the middle of a proxy world war.
Also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). In a war in which neither side has achieved air superiority, drones have become the “eyes in the sky” for both sides. Fifteen-year-old Andriy Pokrasa is being hailed as a hero for using his personal drone to help target Russian troops in the early days of the war.
Everyone seems to love drones, except the troops being wiped out by them. So we’re sending at least 700 single-use, Switchblade drones. The 300 variant has a range of about 10 miles. The much larger 600 variant weighs over 120 pounds, has a range of over 40 miles, and can take out a tank.
Puma unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are going as well, in addition to the classified, almost brand-new Phoenix Ghost drones. The Pentagon revealed on April 21st that they would provide Ukrainian forces with 121 new Phoenix Ghost tactical unmanned aerial systems (UAS). They are reported to “very nicely” suit the needs of the Ukrainian military in their fight against the Russians. The drones are manufactured by Aevex Aerospace in Solana Beach, California, and are currently in the U.S. Air Force arsenal. An unknown number of them exist, and recent intelligence reveals that as many as 580 may have been sent as of this writing. They are new technology, only entering into service in 2022. The press has referred to them as “low-cost unmanned attackers.” Of course, “low-cost” is a relative term, and I doubt you or I could fund one of these out of pocket.
Fifteen Boeing Insitu ScanEagle UAVs have been provided to Ukraine. These are low-altitude reconnaissance drones originally conceived to help fishermen locate and track schools of tuna. Unfortunately, the government saw them and figured they’d be pretty good at hunting down bad guys, so now they are tools of war. The military version flew in 2002 and went into service with the US Navy in 2005. They currently serve a dual military/commercial mission used by the University of Alaska to monitor the population and behavior of seals in the Bering Sea.
Speaking of seals, have you seen the Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips? DEVGRU SEALs used a ScanEagle to obtain clear images of what was happening on the MV Maersk Alabama and the lifeboat from that ship containing Captain Richard Phillips and the Somali pirates who took him hostage.
Do We Have Any Heavy Weapons Left for Ourselves?
Christoph Trebesch of The Kiel Institute for the World Economy says we do.
The aggregate picture for NATO and the EU is below. We find that 5% of the EU+NATO inventory of multiple rocket launchers (like HIMARS and Mars II) has been committed to Ukraine. The donation share for howitzers is 4% (152 and 155mm), while its 2% of all tanks (EU+NATO) pic.twitter.com/MNetzkyQnc
— Christoph Trebesch (@Ch_Trebesch) October 11, 2022
Kyiv’s Christmas Wish List
With winter looming on the horizon, just weeks away, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ponders the possibility of a nuclear attack on his nation.
60 seconds to hear child's brave and heartbreaking voice…
60 seconds to realize how evil Russia really is…
60 seconds to understand why Ukraine must win…
Video made by: D. Bahnenko, Kherson pic.twitter.com/qp7BLSwYyx
— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) October 22, 2022
Mykhailo Podolyak is a journalist and close advisor to President Zelensky. The video in the Tweet above was from Podolyak’s Twitter feed. It was shot recently in Kherson and gave you an idea of the daily fear citizens have been living with. Finally, he speaks of the future:
“Ukraine has no choice but to liberate all its territories, even if there exists the possibility of strikes with weapons of mass destruction. The question is not what we will do, but what the world’s nuclear powers will do, and whether they are indeed ready to maintain the doctrine of deterrence.”
You see, Ukraine has no nuclear weapons. They used to, but they gave them up in 1994 in a treaty signed by Russia and the United States. At the top of his wish list is a strongly worded statement from the nuclear powers of the west to Vladimir Putin. He asks:
“Send a message to Putin now, not after he strikes—‘Look, any missile of yours will lead to six of ours flying in your direction.’ ”
Personally, I put the odds of Russia using a tactical nuclear weapon against Ukraine at over 50%, and I’ll be writing about that in the near future. However, Podolyak’s fear is justified. Since Ukrainian special operations forces (probably who it was) took out part of the Crimea Bridge a few weeks ago, the Kremlin has been bashing Ukrainian civilian and military targets with rocket, missile, and missile barrage drone attacks.
Kyiv is practically begging us for more and better air defenses. But, according to a senior US defense official who will remain nameless, “There aren’t that many spare air-defense systems to give.” Kyiv has requested Patriot batteries or NASAMS (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems). Both are ground-based.
As reporting in The New Yorker reminds us, the United States isn’t just going to pull our existing air defense systems from where they have been emplaced for many years…areas in the middle east and South Korea, for example. That said, we must have a couple of “spare” NASAMS stored away somewhere (these were among the air defense systems installed around Washington, DC, in 2005 to help prevent the devastation of another 9/11).
Our government has pledged two NASAMS to Ukraine, scheduled to arrive in late October or early November. They may already be in the country by the time you read this. In addition, for our latest weapons package, we’ve agreed to send another 18 HIMARS systems, doubling the number they have to 36. It’s Christmas come early, but they still want more. On their dream list are NATO main battle tanks, US-built fighter jets, and MGM-140 ATACMS. ATACMS is a missile with an effective range of up to 190 miles. It could be launched by the M270 MLRS or M142 HIMARS already in their arsenal. In theory, the Ukrainians could use it to launch attacks directly into Russia or Crimea.
I’m not so sure this would be such a good idea. I have another. Isn’t the Christmas season supposed to be a time when we reflect on peace, goodwill, and reconciliation? Why don’t we, as the most powerful nation on Earth, use this time and our considerable talents to work towards a peaceful resolution to the war in Ukraine? One can’t keep throwing logs on a fire, hoping it will go out.
Ending the war in Ukraine would also have enormous practical implications for the US. While we send increasingly powerful weapons systems to Ukraine, China keeps building up its war chest and threatening Taiwan. Wouldn’t we be better off focusing our time, money, and energy on keeping our real potential enemy at bay?
I think we would.