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The Pentagon is now sending a large number of heavy weapons platforms to help support Ukraine as part of a massive, integrated effort to help them stop or even destroy the Russian assault with heavy artillery, armored vehicles and helicopters along with smaller anti-armor weapons.
Pentagon Weapons to Ukraine
The most recent support effort, according to a Department of Defense fact sheet, includes delivery of as many as 18 155mm Howitzers, 200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers and 16 Mi-17 helicopters along with thousands of small arms, drones, ammunition and shoulder fired weapons.
While small arms and shoulder fired weapons have been having a large effect against Russian forces for quite some time now, the arrival of additional heavy platforms may introduce a new sphere of tactical advantages.
Javelins, Stingers and Towed Howitzers
For instance, while Javelins can destroy approaching armored vehicles in ambushes and Stingers can destroy helicopters, mobile Howitzer 155mm artillery could destroy Russian targets at ranges greater than 30km.
Towed Howitzers are mobile systems which can even be slingloaded and carried beneath helicopters in some instances. They can reach higher altitudes and, depending upon the technological configuration, fire GPS-guided precision rounds.
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The key advantage here, or new development it would seem, is that this kind of artillery weapon could enable Ukrainian forces to launch attacks from stand-off ranges. This means that, if empowered by the proper surveillance assets, ground-fired Howitzer artillery could target and destroy Russian launch sites, troop concentrations and convoys from 30km away, therefore avoiding a need to close-in with an enemy in close proximity.
Should the launch points of long-range Russian rockets be identified and destroyed by Ukrainians, offering some small measure of hope for Ukrainian civilians being decimated by incoming Russian ballistic missiles.
Should drones identify the launch sites with overhead surveillance drones and network target coordinates to Howitzer-armed ground forces, launch locations could potentially be destroyed. Concentrations of Russian forces, such as convoys, supply lines or groups of forces could now be vulnerable to longer-range Ukrainian artillery fire, a tactical scenario presenting new complications for already embattled Russian forces.
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However, Ukrainian fighters will need to be trained on how to use US built M777 mobile Howitzers, something the Pentagon is prepared to move on quickly.
“We believe we're going to be able to start this training in the next several days. It'll -- it'll be just the initial -- initial efforts. There -- there may be additional ones in other places and at other times but we said we knew what we needed -- we said that we were going to move out quickly on this,” a Senior Defense Official told reporters April 14, according to a Pentagon transcript. The US artillery will be both Army and Marine Corps Howitzers, the Pentagon said.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.