As the shock of the Russian invasion of Ukraine subsided and the two belligerents began to prepare for a long and crushing war of attrition, it became clear that the technology and weapons systems advances would play a vital role. The West systematically sends weapons to Ukraine, from the British MANPADS Starstreak and turkish UAV TB2 to American-made tank-busting FGM-148 Javelin, and remained firm in its resolve to tip the scales in favor of Ukraine. But what has also become clear is that this is an artillery war, and there are several Western artillery systems that could really help push the Russian army back along the front.
Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, artillery has undoubtedly proven to be the most important battlefield weapon. High-ranking Ukrainian soldiers said so. An adviser to General Valery Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine, declared that “the anti-tank missiles slowed down the Russians, but what killed them was our artillery. That’s what broke their units. The power of indirect fire on enemy positions miles away cannot be underestimated and if Ukraine is to emerge victorious from this war, an accelerated delivery of modern weapon systems from the West is crucial.
Ukrainian victory is possible
On February 24, when Russian VDV airborne forces began descending on the area around Kyiv, including the airfield at Hostomel just north of the city, Western observers were surprised at the resilience and efficiency Ukrainian defences, as well as the motivation and morale of its defending units.
Despite the interference Ukrainian air defense radar and the use of E95M Target unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) inside Ukraine to confuse defensive anti-aircraft weapon systems, tactical incompetence of Russian units, coupled with Ukrainian artillery strength, blunted the Russian advance and led to their eventual withdrawal from the area.
At the start of the war, Ukrainian artillery divisions achieved tactical victories using Soviet-era howitzers, cannons and mortars, as well as anti-tank missiles. These include the 2S1-Gvozdika, which is armed with a 122 mm self-propelled gun. The Czech Republic has promised to send a load of them to Ukraine, because their forces no longer use them.
Ukraine also has bought a batch of Dana-M2 self-propelled guns from the Czechs, which turned out to be quite effective against the invading Russian army. Other artillery pieces operated by the Ukrainians included the BM-21, D-30, and air defense systems such as the SA-6 and SA-23. These are all lower-tech weapons produced in Eastern Europe mainly during the Soviet era.
This also highlights a problem for the Ukrainian army: its artillery equipment is either outdated or soon to be obsolete and less effective than modern Western guns developed with advanced technology. Despite the good intentions of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and other European countries, Ukraine will need much more to effectively repel Russian forces and emerge victorious from what could be a long and drawn-out conflict. .
Western howitzers could make the difference
If Ukrainian forces are to succeed, they will need to maintain a long-term technological advantage. This cannot be achieved without the continued support of NATO, whose member states possess the technological prowess to swing the war in favor of Ukraine.
An example of Western armament that can really strengthen the defense and counter-attack capability of the Ukrainian army is the French-made CAESAR 155 mm 52 caliber self-propelled howitzer, already used in Ukraine but in small quantities. Indeed, President Macron recently declared that France would send heavy artillery to Ukraine, including the CAESAR, “we deliver important equipment from Milan [anti-tank missiles] to CAESAR [howitzers]in what was seen as a key show of support for Ukraine.
The CAESAR howitzer is tailor-made for conventional artillery warfare in Ukraine. Mounted on a 6×6 truck chassis, the gun is mobile, lightweight, holds up to eighteen rounds, and can be used by as few as three people. It has a firing range of approximately forty-two kilometers (twenty-six miles) using an ERFB (Extended Range, Full Bore) shell and over fifty kilometers (thirty-one miles) using rocket-assisted shells .
Another one advantage of the CAESAR pistol is its price. At around €5 million per gun, it is about two-thirds cheaper than conventional mounted artillery guns produced by other NATO countries. Simply put, this means that three times more weapons can be produced, which is very important in a war of attrition.
American manufacturing M777 howitzer is another example. With a range of forty kilometers when used in tandem with precision-guided munitions such as the M982 Excalibur GPS-guided munition, it is well suited to the terrain of eastern Ukraine. The gun can fire up to seven rounds per minute
American aid is vital
NATO countries are well aware of the technological shortcomings of Ukraine’s military capabilities. President Biden recognized as much when he signed an $800 million arms package for Ukraine that included high-mobility artillery rocket systems, Q-53 counter-battery radars, 155m howitzers, 40 000 artillery shells and other high-tech weapon systems.
“This new assistance package will contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the broader assault we expect Russia to launch into eastern Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement. statement.
Why ammo is important
Of course, providing the Ukrainian army with NATO artillery means providing it with adequate ammunition. “The NATO howitzer and rocket launcher equipment provides Ukrainian forces with the ability to use NATO projectiles, rockets and missiles, which include the best of sensor weapons (such as the German SMArt155mm and the PRIME French), GPS-guided precision rockets and high-yield precision missiles,” according to Michael Jacobson, as Colonel of Artillery in the US Field Reserve Army.
The CAESAR and M777 are among the most technologically advanced artillery guns available today. If the Ukrainian army is to repel the Russians, the continuous flow of armaments and ammunition must continue. Durable weapon systems must be deployed using an integrated logistics structure with operational flexibility involving neighboring countries for maintenance and repair. Jacobson argues that sophistication will win this artillery war, which fortunately NATO has in abundance.
Thomas Anders Bailey is an independent business consultant.