Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this week that Canada would send artillery to Ukraine in response to a request from President Volodymyr Zelensky, which would mark a change in the nature of military assistance Canada offers to the beleaguered nation.
Although Trudeau did not specify what type of artillery Canada plans to provide, he characterized the decision as a response to the changing state of the war as Russia concentrates its forces in eastern Ukraine. .
“We have been in close contact with President Zelensky from the very beginning and we are very sensitive to what they need most,” Trudeau said Tuesday. “Their most recent request of Canada is to help them with heavy artillery, as it is in this phase of the war at the moment.”
What Canada has sent so far
Since the Russian invasion, Canada has largely sent the Ukrainians light infantry weapons such as rocket launchers, hand grenades and anti-armour weapon systems – weapons intended for use by only one or two people at relatively short distances.
“The equipment we sent is pretty rudimentary,” said Dave Perry, defense analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
The rocket launchers and anti-tank weapons Canada has provided are essentially “point and shoot” weapons that require little training, Perry said.
These weapons typically have a range of between 150 and 600 yards, depending on the model, said retired Lt. Gen. Andrew Leslie, now a senior partner at Bluesky Strategy Group.
Canada sent 4,500 M-72 rocket launchers to Ukraine. The weapon has a range of 150 to 200 yards “on a really good day,” Leslie said.
“It’s better to shoot them in several salvos, so five or six people shoot an armored vehicle at once,” he said, adding that they are unlikely to shoot down a modern tank.
Canada also sent 100 Carl Gustaf anti-tank systems to Ukraine. These have a range of between 400 and 600 yards, Leslie said.
Canada also provided protective items such as helmets and bulletproof vests.
What Canada needs to send
Compared to the armament Canada has sent to date, the artillery would be “an order of magnitude larger,” Leslie said.
The United States recently announced an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine. President Joe Biden has said that package will include artillery and ammunition.
Perry said the type of artillery Canada donates will likely depend on what the United States sends.
“If the Americans are going to send a weapon, provide 40,000 rounds to go with it, and train the Ukrainian Armed Forces on how to specifically use that weapon, then it would make a lot of sense for us to send the same kind of equipment,” he said. he declared.
Both Perry and Leslie said they suspected Canada’s most likely option for Ukrainian military aid was the M777 howitzer, which fires a 155mm shell.
The M777 is operated by a team of eight to 10 soldiers, Leslie said, and can fire a shell up to 30 kilometers with a high degree of accuracy.
One of the advantages of the M777 is that it’s very mobile “for a big chunk of metal,” Perry said, and can be transported by helicopter or towed by trucks.
Canada currently has 37 M777s, although it is unclear how many would be sent to Ukraine.
What Ukraine still needs
Last week, President Zelensky issued a call via social media for more weapons, including artillery. He also asked the allies to provide armed vehicles, air defense systems and combat aircraft.
“Freedom must be better armed than tyranny,” Zelensky said in a rare statement in English. “Western countries have everything to make it happen.”
Ukraine’s embassy in Ottawa has said that while the country is grateful to Canada for announcing an additional $500 million in aid in the federal budget, its defenders need “heavy weapons” as soon as possible.
“Ukraine urgently needs heavy weapons to protect the lives of our citizens and counter the Russian offensive,” a statement from the embassy said. “The immediate dispatch of weapons is necessary to support the Ukrainian forces at this time.”
Leslie said Canada could focus on Ukraine’s demand for armored vehicles by sending 50 light armored transports, known as LAVs.
“They’ve got a great weapon on them and they’re doing a lot of useful work,” Leslie said. “And right now Ukraine needs them more than us.”