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Anti-terrorist operation in eastern Ukraine (War Ukraine) (Source: Ministry of Defense of Ukraine/Wikimedia Commons)
The military of Ukraine is creating new mechanized brigades. This is a difficult task for the Kyiv administration, which must simultaneously keep up the battle with existing forces and be ready for further warfare.
The 88th Mechanized Brigade is the most recent Ukrainian mechanized formation. Its table of organization and equipment (TO&E) has a strange composition of elements, with Soviet anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns from the early 1960s, up-to-date Swedish air-defense missiles, and state-of-the-art Emirati armored trucks.
In early 2023, the 88th Mechanized Brigade was formed, composed of personnel “from various parts of Ukraine, with a variety of ages and backgrounds,” as the unit reported on Telegram.
The Ukrainian land forces consist of many mechanized brigades, up to forty. Each Brigade typically comprises three or four battalions on the front line, each containing a few hundred soldiers and an array of armored vehicles. Additionally, artillery, air defense, and engineering battalions and companies are usually included in the formation of a brigade.
The Ukrainian armed forces have grown at a faster rate than the country’s industrial capacity can keep up with, resulting in the need to acquire newer and more advanced weaponry from abroad. This new equipment is a combination of contemporary and older Soviet-style armaments.
The 88th Mechanized Brigade is an embodiment of a uniquely Ukrainian force combination. Its personnel has AK-style assault firearms. Nevertheless, the crew-served weapons and their vehicles mix Eastern and Western styles.
According to their Telegram account, the MT-12 100-millimeter anti-tank gun has been the subject of training for the Brigade.
The MT-12, a legendary weapon from the Soviet Union in 1960, is still employed by Ukrainian forces, not only for its original purpose of engaging enemy tanks from a distance of two miles but also as an improvised howitzer of limited range. To increase its versatility, Ukrainian technicians have utilized excess MT-12s by mounting them onto MT-LB armored tractors.
The 88th Brigade is not limited to the MT-12 for anti-tank defense. They have also acquired the Ukrainian-made Stugna-P anti-tank guided missiles, with an effective range of approximately three miles.
The 88th Mechanized Brigade is instructed to use the ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun, equipped with two 23-millimeter cannons mounted side-by-side. This type of gun was first introduced to the Soviet Army in 1960.
Due to its 1.5-mile range and manual sights, the ZU-23-2 is an average anti-aircraft gun. However, it can inflict severe damage to the infantry when aimed toward terrestrial targets.
To shield itself from air raids, the Brigade does not need a ZU-23-2. Instead, they are equipped with RBS-70 (Robotsystem 70) shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles from Sweden. The missile is guided by a laser and can reach up to five miles. The initial RBS-70 was released in 1977 but has since undergone upgrades that have enhanced its speed, range, and guidance.
The 88th Mechanized Brigade has yet to reveal the exact type of vehicles they use. However, their Telegram page has put up pictures of modified American Humvees and fresh Panthera F9 mine-resistant armored personnel carriers from the UAE.
The vehicles used by the 88th Mechanized Brigade can be employed to transport infantry; however, they need more protection and firepower for direct engagements. Generally, Ukrainian mechanized brigades utilize a combination of T-64s and T-72s and BMPs. In this case, the 88th has modified T-64BVs, and aged BMP-1s tracked infantry fighting vehicles, though that cannot be definitively confirmed.
In a March 3 Telegram message, the 88th Brigade suggested they may be in line to receive the approximately 60 Leopard 2 tanks promised to Ukraine by Germany, Poland, Spain, and other European countries. “The first 14 Leopard 2 tanks from our Polish friends are now on Ukrainian soil,” the Brigade announced. “Who do you think will be next to receive them?”
The message was intended to be a joke. Nonetheless, the Ukrainian Army’s 4th Tank Brigade, which has seen much fighting in the Donbas region during the past year, will be re-equipped with Leopard 2s, as indicated here.
It is uncertain when and in what area the 88th Mechanized Brigade will be used in combat. However, it is a possibility that Kyiv is keeping the Brigade in readiness for an anticipated offensive that may take place in the spring.
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