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By Kris Osborn, President - Center for Military Modernization
As Ukrainian forces continue to take back territory previously held by Russia and gain momentum with an advancing counterattack, their needs in terms of weapons, supplies, platforms and equipment are likely to evolve.
Should the force more fully transition from a purely “defensive” kind of hit-and-run dispersed group of fighters fortified by long-range ground rockets, anti-tank weapons and artillery into more of an advancing mechanized force. Such a circumstance, created by Ukraines ability to reclaim and occupy large swaths of territory taken over by Russia, will require additional logistics, sustainment and supplies. Advancing Ukrainian soldiers will also need force protection as they maneuver into and seize back areas.
While Pentagon officials are not offering much detail when it comes to discussing specifics regarding the kinds of new support Ukrainians might require, they are clearly aware that Ukraine’s equipment and supply needs are likely to change.
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Ukraine’s Equipment and Supply Needs
“Ukraine has made some progress but there's still a very tough fight. Certainly we will continue to have that open dialogue with Ukraine, in terms of what their needs are,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon Press Secretary, told reporters, according to a Pentagon transcript.
In a tactical and logistical sense, what might this mean? Certainly advancing forces will need forward positioned food, fuel, weapons and ammunition available as they maneuver, and they will also need portable structures such as tents, bedding and other accommodations for arriving forces reclaiming key areas. This means the Ukrainians may also require a new amount of small forward operating bases from which to launch further offensives into Russian held territory.
To a large extent, the overall nature of their fight may shift in a way that requires more heavy armor and mechanized forces. While they clearly have some already, more may be needed to close in on and “break through” Russian barriers, fortifications and troop positions. Ukrainian forces may need to “mass” to a greater extent and maneuver in different, larger formations than they have thus far. This requires force protection, meaning Ukrainian forces on a counterattack will need built-in ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) in the form of drones as well as certain kinds of base protections such as sensors, interceptors, jammers or other countermeasures. This may mean base protections such as something similar to the US Army’s Counter Rocket Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM) which links sensors to fire control and small interceptor rockets or area weapons such as a Phalanx gun able to fire hundreds of small projectiles per second to knock out incoming enemy fire.
The Ukrainians already have US provided small, hand-launched drones able to operate “organically” in close coordination with on-the-move ground commanders looking to find and anticipate enemy threats likely to emerge as their forces advance. Concentrations of advancing Ukrainian forces will also need a greater degree of command and control to coordinate and deconflict areas of attack, advancement or occupation. While they can still leverage the effective “decentralized” approach they have used with great success thus far to a certain extent, there will be a need for greater coordination and connectivity regarding wider-area maneuvers with larger forces reclaiming territory. This may mean there will be a need for more infantry carriers to move units between forward positions, transport vehicles such as tactical trucks and Humvees and coordinated logistics and command and control.
So far, Ukrainians have been less vulnerable to Russian attacks by virtue of being largely dismounted, dispersed and not bound by linear formations or centralized command and control. A consolidated or “massed” force of any kind of course presents more target opportunities for enemy fire, yet larger coordinated force movements with vehicles, supplies, weapons and personnel will become more necessary.
Ryder said ongoing deliberations and discussions with Ukrainians will “make sure that they have what they need, not only in the immediate term but also in the middle and the long term.”
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and 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 Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.