23 May, 03:25 PM
Military expert explains what weapons West can provide to Ukraine and whether it can change the war
Also, Ramstein 2.0 (the Ramstein U.S. Air Force base in Germany) will take place online on May 23 – the second meeting of the Contact Group on Defense of Ukraine, which more than 40 countries will attend. NV has asked Oleg Katkov, the editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian portal Defense Express, to explain how more active Western support will change the war's course and what weapons it can provide to Ukraine.
NV: What can we get from the US $40 billion in aid?
Katkov: In fact, it's quite difficult to say. For example, the Washington Post's reported that we would receive heavy weapons: long-range artillery systems and Patriot systems. That is, an exclusive list does not yet exist or at least has not been made public. It will be formed in cooperation between Kyiv and Washington, taking into account a huge number of factors.
First, this is what we need now. Now, oddly enough, we need artillery. Due to the fact that neither Ukraine nor the Russians, achieved (superiority) in the air, artillery fire remains the only most effective means of destruction.
We will be provided with long-range artillery systems and not only the well-known M777 (howitzers), but, for example, the Paladin – a self-propelled artillery system with almost the same firing range, but more importantly, it is automated as it has a digital fire control system.
The second stage should concern the creation of new structural units. For example, brigades that will already be armed with Western weapons, i.e. on Western tanks, Western artillery, Western infantry fighting vehicles, or armored personnel carriers – completely on NATO models, from an organizational and logistical point of view. This is very important because it is simply easier to maintain and manage such systems.
As for the Patriot systems. We must understand that this is an extremely difficult, complex system – 10 vehicles in a squadron and more than 50 in a regiment, more than 600 military engineers who service it.
NV: If the Patriot system requires so many people and equipment, then the question arises: what is its functionality?
Katkov: This is a long-range anti-aircraft missile system. For aerodynamic purposes (aircraft), it can operate at a distance of up to 160 kilometers. For ballistic targets (such as Iskander missiles), it operates at a distance of up to 50 kilometers.
For the United States, this system is the last frontier of its air and missile defenses. Airplanes are still at the first level. And it is aircraft in the United States and NATO countries that play the role of air defense.
Patriots are a means of defense, and at this stage, we need to have more universal means.
If we talk about aircraft, the AIM-120 air-to-air missile has a range of 140-160 km, and this aircraft can be anywhere in the country, where it is needed. And Patriot will stand stationary and defend one area. For example, one Patriot should defend Kyiv and another should defend Lviv. We will not be able to transfer them to these areas where we need them now.
NV: What is the probability that Ukraine will receive aircraft? Who may provide them to us?
Katkov: The Pentagon constantly emphasizes in its briefings: "We are working to provide these things ourselves." The United States has huge armaments. If we talk about airplanes, their number is measured in thousands. And they are being re-equipped right now, so they can easily give us the fourth-generation fighter jets, because they are being replaced by F-35s, which belong to the fifth generation.
If we talk about self-propelled artillery, the United States has more than 500 pieces of the Paladins, i.e. the U.S. reserves are pretty huge.
There is another moment when we need a certain system – for example, an anti-ship ground-based missile system, coastal. We just don't have enough Neptun (missile system), we did not have time to produce it in the required amount.
Now the United States is asking our allies from other countries who are ready to deliver (such systems to Ukraine) because the United States does not have a coastal missile system at all. According to media reports, they have now asked the Norwegians to hand over the Naval Strike Missile system. If such an agreement is reached, the United States will just pay the Norwegians money, and the latter will hand over these weapons to us.
NV: That is, anti-ship missiles alone are not enough, do we need a system to launch?
Katkov: If we talk about anti-ship missiles, it's the same as we talk about ammunition – we need a rifle to fire this ammunition. There are such problems now, but the United States is solving them rather quickly. And not just the United States, but all our allies.
A very illustrative example is when the British handed us Brimstone missiles. We had nothing to launch them from. In just two weeks, we designed a ground-based launcher, quite primitive, but it works.
Thanks to these missiles, which hit 12-20 km from the launch point and are automatically aimed at enemy tanks, we are already using it effectively. And the Russians do not even understand what is hitting them since it's a supersonic missile that works on the principle: of fired and forgotten. That is, we launch 12 missiles at once, the vehicle drives away and all our targets are hit.
The entire military-industrial complex around the world is now working for us.
NV: When we get these anti-ship missiles, how can we use them? How will this strengthen us not only in defense but perhaps in the counterattack?
Katkov: We need anti-ship missiles in terms of unblocking seaports. They (both Harpoon and Naval Strike Missile) allow us to close the entire southwestern Black Sea from Russian ships. The Russian Black Sea Fleet will be forced to work exclusively somewhere to the south or east of Crimea. The entire territory from the mouth of the Danube to Cape Tarkhankut will be completely covered and the probability of any action by Russian ships will be reduced to zero there.
Under certain conditions, this will allow us to unblock our port of Odesa and start exporting our products from it.
But, again, those anti-ship missiles that can be installed on aircraft will be much more effective. If we are given any complex system, in my opinion, the stakes will be on aircraft, fourth-generation fighter jets of the F-16 type, possibly F-15, and, alternatively, F/A-18. To my mind, Ukraine will get some of these airplanes.
NV: Defense ministers of more than 40 countries must decide on the transfer of U.S. MLRS M270 multiple rocket launchers to Ukraine. What are these systems and how can we use them?
Katkov: This is a supersystem because it's really not just MLRS, but a universal launcher that can fire both unguided projectiles at 45 kilometers and guided missiles at a distance of 70 kilometers. This is an analog of our Vilkha MLRS.
Most importantly, this MLRS M270 system can be used as a launching pad for the ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) missile. This is a ballistic missile with a range of 300 km. If Ukraine gets the ATACMS, God forbid it happens, the sun will shine down our street.
This is an opportunity to resolve a huge number of issues with such facilities as Russian airfields (both in Russia and in the occupied Crimea), logistics bases (to understand: we will reach Voronezh even without approaching the border), command posts, connections.
That is, (we will deal with) everything that provides their groups and gives them the opportunity to bomb our cities, to harass with their front-line aircraft. We will close a huge list of issues with these ATACMS missiles. This is the "long arm" that we have lacked since the first day of the war.
If such a decision on the transfer of MLRS M270 and ATACMS missiles is made, the rules of the game on the battlefield will change dramatically, because, for example, we will be able to move their aircraft 300 km back, which means that its effectiveness will fall not two or three times, but five or ten times.
They will have larger approach areas, and will have to take more fuel than ammunition; it will be possible to resolve the issue with helicopters because all the enemy's advanced helipads are affected by these ATACMS.
Due to the high efficiency of the system and the fact that thanks to it, we will be able to hit the territory of Russia, the decision to transfer will be collective from all over NATO.