When Russia initially invaded Ukraine, it was daily news, almost incessant. As we move along, it’s not in the news as much as it had been. The media’s attention span with most subjects is about one week. Sometimes it gets drawn out longer, but their rabid coverage often wanes, even with protracted events such as the war.
We often hear about the aid that the US is supplying to Ukraine. But what, exactly, have we sent as far as weapons are concerned?
In January of 2023, the US Department Of Defense (DOD) announced that it would be sending 50 M2-A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine as part of an aid package to help drive Russian forces from the country. These vehicles will come with 500 TOW (Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-Guided) anti-tank missiles, along with 250,000 rounds of 25mm ammunition for the vehicles’ main guns.
This is part of a package worth a few billion dollars. The water gets muddy because it’s difficult to ascertain how much the vehicles and weapons cost and what portion of the billions of dollars they represent. We would assume that there are other weapons and assets included within the billions of dollars, but the announcements are rather ambiguous, which leaves a lot of guessing room.
Some of this nearly $3 billion is earmarked for “foreign military financing to contribute to the long-term capacity and modernization of Ukraine’s military,” according to the DOD. We’ll assume it’s for “beans, bullets, and bombs”, but who really knows?
In addition to the Bradley vehicles, there are also 100 M113 armored personnel carriers and 50 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles. Also, 138 Humvees will be in this package.
Aside from the US, Germany, France, and the Netherlands are sending military vehicles to Ukraine.
Since artillery is necessary, 18 Paladin self-propelled 155mm howitzers and 36 105mm towed howitzers will be included. And because those guns are useless without ammunition, thousands of rounds will be included with the guns.
To bolster Ukraine’s air defense, RIM-7 missiles will be sent, as well as 4,000 Zuni rockets.
Also on the list are: “Night vision devices, sniper rifles, machine guns, spare parts, clothing, and more.” However, the list does not specifically state which small arms will be shipped to Ukraine.
The DOD also mentioned “expanded US-led training” beginning in January. Naturally, they did not say which unit(s) would be training Ukrainian forces. Although we can take a wild guess at which US Military forces go behind enemy lines to train people in guerilla/unconventional warfare. Now I’m not saying that any of those units are or aren’t involved, but you do the math. It’s a little ironic because before I began researching earnestly for this article, I had wondered if we had any units over there training Ukrainians.
Thus far, the US has sent a total of approximately $30 billion worth of gear to Ukraine.
This package includes additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, more 155 and 105mm artillery rounds, and additional 25mm ammunition.
Bridges that can be launched from armored vehicles are also being included to bolster the ability to cross streams, ditches, trenches, and other obstacles.
Equipment for obstacle clearing and demolition munitions is being sent as well. To help the Ukrainians in sustained combat, there is equipment for vehicle maintenance and repair in addition to spare parts and other equipment. It takes a lot of support gear to keep armored vehicles operating, especially in combat.
Aside from huge, expensive missile systems, armored vehicles, and artillery, the US has also supplied small arms to Ukrainian defenders.
M240 GPMGs, M2 Heavy Machineguns, 60mm mortars, MK-19 automatic grenade launchers, and Barrett M82 sniper rifles, among others, have been sent to help the cause.
I read an account of Ukrainians using an MK19 automatic grenade launcher mounted on a truck as a “shoot and scoot” weapon. They’d dart into position, let loose an entire belt of 40mm ammo on full auto against the Russians, and then scoot. After they were gone, mortars would begin to fall on the position that they had just occupied. It was an effective way to engage the enemy while minimizing danger to themselves.
The MK19 weighs 77 pounds and is often mounted on vehicles because of the weight. The practical rate of fire is approximately 60 rounds per minute. It is fed by belts of 32 or 48 rounds. Muzzle velocity is 241 meters per second. The M383 high-explosive shell has a blast radius of 10-15 meters. There is also the M430 dual-purpose round, which can penetrate up to three inches of armor plate but has a smaller blast radius of five meters.
The Soviet AGS-17 30mm automatic grenade launcher is also being used by Ukrainian forces.
Ukrainians are also using the 60mm mortar to good effect. Despite it not being as powerful as medium or heavy mortars, it is very portable. It can provide pinpoint, indirect fire for infantry units and allows users to change positions quickly. What makes them even more valuable is the fact that Ukraine doesn’t have a lot of heavier artillery, so mortars being organic to infantry formations is even more important.
The M224 60mm mortar has been supplied by the US and weighs 47 pounds (the M224A1 weighs 37.5 pounds). It has a range of 2.1 miles and a rate of fire of 20 to 30 rounds per minute.
Other models of mortars are being used in Ukraine, including the LM60D and LMP2017 commando mortars from Poland. Some other models in use are Croatian M84 mortars, Bulgarian M60CMA, and Chinese Type 63, which are all 60mm mortars. Ammunition for these mortars appears to be coming from China, Japan, Albania, Iran, Croatia, and the US.
Aside from all of those, Ukraine developed its own mortars. The KBA-118, which weighs 27.5 pounds. There is also the M-60A Kamerton, which weighs 44 pounds and has a range of up to 3.4 miles.
All of this is not to say that heavier mortars are not being used, because they are. It’s just that the 60mm is more plentiful and portable.
In April, 2023, the Biden administration announced another package for Ukraine, worth around $500 million.
Included in the package is ammunition for: Patriot air defense systems, 105mm and 155mm artillery, 120mm mortars, 120mm and 105mm tanks, 25mm ammunition, TOW missiles, and more.
In addition, there are 400 grenade launchers and 200,000 rounds of ammunition, 11 tactical vehicles to recover equipment, 61 heavy fuel tankers, 10 trucks and trailers to transport heavy equipment, and equipment for vehicle maintenance and repair.
Other items from the DOD include:
- Additional munitions for National Advanced Surface-To-Air Missile Systems.
- Nine Counter-Unmanned Aerial System 30mm gun trucks.
- 10 mobile c-UAS laser-guided rocket systems.
- Three air surveillance radars.
- 23mm and 30mm anti-aircraft ammunition.
- 122mm and 130mm artillery rounds.
- Javelin anti-armor systems.
- 120mm, 81mm, and 60mm mortar systems.
- Approximately 3,600 small arms with 23 million rounds of ammunition.
- A massive amount of additional gear.
The US Department Of Defense has announced that there have not been any recent shifts in territory as this is written, with the front lines being rather static. At this stage, there are “significant exchanges of artillery,” according to the DOD.
The US is hoping that the additional weapons and equipment will help turn the tide in favor of the Ukrainians for a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Currently, the US has expanded the training of Ukraine’s forces to focus on combined arms and joint-maneuver operations. The DOD also mentioned that maintenance and support are being provided. All that equipment is nice, but if it can’t be maintained, it becomes worthless very quickly.
According to the US DOD, 54 countries worldwide have pledged more than 1,000 tanks and other armored vehicles, over 800 artillery systems, and more than two million rounds of artillery ammunition. Also, more than 50 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems have been given.
The Bottom Line
At this juncture, it’s difficult to even arrive at a bottom line because things in the region are still somewhat fluid. There’s no telling at which point the lines could shift. Russia is persistent and Ukrainians are doggedly hanging on. It’s anyone’s guess how this entire thing is going to pan out.
Many in the US are of the opinion that we should completely stay out of the fracas, advancing an agenda of isolationism. Apparently, they hope the problem will go away and that Putin will be mollified with a victory.
As a counterpoint, I’ll point out that the very same attitude of isolationism is precisely what allowed Europe to boil over and what got us into World War II. It seems that Hitler was not mollified by victories and power grabs. And I don’t believe Putin will either. In both cases, the problem will either be dealt with in the early stages or after it is allowed to fester at length. We know how the former war turned out.
That’s just my opinion, though, and I could be wrong.
Suffice it to say that the US and other countries are pouring billions of dollars into the Ukraine. Weapons, equipment, and training may turn the tide, or they may merely prolong the inevitable.
Only time will tell how it will turn out.