Norway and Spain are among the few countries that have flown below the radar with their support to Ukraine. Without any drama and unnecessary bureaucracy, Norway has donated some M109A3GN 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzers and is currently used by the Ukrainian forces. Spain is also doing its part by stating that it is ready to send Leopard battle tanks and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine.
Around late April and early on in May, it was rumored that the Norwegian Government would donate and deliver 20 M109A3GN 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine. Before this, Norway had donated some $285 million (€267 million) to Ukraine primarily for humanitarian purposes and military equipment last February 28th. Specifically, it donated some 10,000 sleeping pads, 1,500 bullet-proof vests, 5,000 helmets, 2,000 sleeping bags, and 15,000 field rations.
In terms of weapons, it has delivered 4,000 M72 LAW anti-tank rockets and the 100 Mistral air defense missiles to help them repel the Russian advance. SOFREP’s Guy McCardle reported on these Norwegian missiles being used in Ukraine.
McCardle wrote a piece on the Mistral air defense systems being mounted on some Fiat Fullback 4×4 pickup trucks, donated to them by the Come Back Alive Foundation. It was reported that some 20 Russian UAVs worth some $20 million were taken down by these Mistrals, but these were not verified by independent sources.
Mobility is the name of the game, from what we’ve been seeing. The Ukrainians have been getting a lot of success with their hit and run tactics, from the modded Stug-buggies we’ve seen and those e-bikes that can carry NLAWs. No doubt these Mistral MANPADS have been doing the same, but of course, you will need some of the heavier offensive weapons to stand up to these Russians.
The Norwegian Army reportedly has a total of 48 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzers. This 48 is comprised of 24 South Korean K9 Thunders and 24 M109A3GN howitzers. These M109s were reportedly going to be replaced by the K9 Thunders; thus, it’s a win-win situation for Norway and Ukraine. The Ukrainian Armed Forces can use these howitzers to pummel the Russians, and Norway gets to help the war effort as it was going to withdraw the M109s from active service anyway. Fourteen of these M109A3GNs were upgraded with new intercoms, navigation systems, and positioning systems, but it is unknown whether Norway sent these variants to Ukraine too.
The Norwegian M109A3GNs are actually derived from the German M109A3Gs, which were essentially upgraded American M-109A3s. These howitzers feature a 39 caliber barrel, allowing them to fire 155mm ammunition with a maximum range of 24,700 meters to 30,000 meters with certain projectiles.
These howitzers have already arrived in Ukraine, with photos and videos of them being used by the Ukrainian Armed Forced from the 72nd Mechanized Brigade. This was confirmed via open-source data collectors who filmed the delivery of the howitzers on MAZ-537 trucks somewhere near the capital city of Kyiv. Reports say that the Ukrainians learned how to operate the howitzers in just under a week.
#Ukraine: A battery of three Ukrainian M109A3GN self-propelled howitzers was shelled with cluster munitions (likely 9M27K of BM-27 Uragan MRL) by the Russian army – one of the howitzers can be seen burning, thus highly likely destroyed, others may have sustained light damage. pic.twitter.com/TbcfIyHLmk
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) June 7, 2022
“My people easily mastered the M109A3 within a week. I am sincerely grateful to the Norwegian people for their effective help! I count on the further support of the partner nations in the means of fire destruction of the enemy, whose superiority in artillery and MLR systems is the main cause of our losses,” Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said.
However, it has also been reported that a battery of three M109A3GN howitzers in active service was shelled with Russian cluster munitions. These attacks were verified via video evidence, wherein one howitzer was burning, and the other two sustained light damage.
Spain Steps Up To The Plate
Spain was also one of the countries that had donated some heavy weapons to Ukraine. According to Spanish news outlet El Pais, the Spanish Government is willing to supply Ukraine with anti-aircraft missiles and Leopard tanks. Specifically, the Spanish will be donating Leopard A4 tanks that have reportedly been in storage for about a decade. Germany sold 108 second-hand units to them back in 1995. Estimates say that 40 tanks could be rehabilitated and sent to Ukraine for their use – this will notably take some time to execute. It’s important to note that the Spaniards do not have Leopard 1 tanks, so these are probably Leopard 2A4 tanks, which is a great tank to give to the Ukrainians if the Spanish push through with it.
According to their report, the Spanish Ministry of Defense had already been finalizing the delivery of a battery of Shorad Aspide low-level anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine. The Spanish military was going to replace this system reportedly with something more advanced, so it was not a problem for them to donate them to the Ukrainians.
The donation of the Leopard tanks, which are German, still lies in limbo as Germany needs to grant the Spanish authorization so that they can transfer the weapons. The Germans have been mum on the subject so far, but it is expected that they would grant the transfer as it had already done with German-made weapons being transferred to Ukraine by other countries. Spain will be conducting training sessions for the Ukrainian forces in Latvia, where the Spanish Army has some 500 soldiers and 6 Leopard 2E tanks on standby.
No-fuss, no-frills. Norway and Spain have sent their contributions to the Ukrainian war effort without much drama. Ukraine can definitely make good use of these heavy weapons to repel the Russian forces in the east further as raging firefights continue to inflict casualties on both sides of the equation.