Difficult situation with Western tanks on the Ukrainian battlefield

The US, Germany and the UK agreed to transfer main battle tanks to Ukraine, but the small number and logistical challenges made it difficult for these tanks to be effective.

After nearly a year Ukraine asked its NATO allies to transfer Western-made main battle tanks, the alliance has finally accepted. The decision to supply the Challenger 1, M1 Abrams and Leopard 2 tanks comes in the context of Russia strengthening its defenses in the controlled territories in the Donbass, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.

US M1A2 main battle tank at Fort Benning base, Georgia, July 2021.  Photo: US Army.

US M1A2 main battle tank at Fort Benning base, Georgia, July 2021. Photo: US Army.

According to Brandon Weichert, an expert at the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies in Pennsylvania, USA, Western countries decided to transfer tanks to Ukraine to prevent the scenario that Russia is preparing to launch a major offensive campaign in the spring. Russia has completed mobilizing and training more than 300,000 reserve soldiers and is ready to launch into new, more fierce battles.

He agreed to send a Challenger 2 company of 14 ships. Germany will also deliver a Leopard 2 company with 14 tanks, while the US is committed to providing 31 M1 Abrams tanks.

These are all powerful Western tanks, but Weichert believes that the decision to transfer a limited number of tanks to Ukraine may be a futile move, in the context of the Ukrainian military struggling to fend off advances. Russia’s current small-scale public sector.

When Russia sends hundreds of thousands more troops to the front lines, it will be difficult for a few dozen Western main tanks to be effective against Russia’s large armored and infantry forces, Weicher said.

Images published on Russia’s NTV channel in December 2022 show that the Russian army has moved about 200 T-90 main battle tanks to the Lugansk region.

Ukraine then asked the West to provide at least 300 tanks to deal with, but this scenario is considered quite far-fetched, as Washington and its European allies do not have enough tanks in service to deliver to Ukraine. Kiev.

T-90 tanks were delivered by Russia to Lugansk in December 2022.  Photo: NTV

T-90 tanks were delivered by Russia to Lugansk in December 2022. Photo: NTV

The Pentagon has admitted that it lacks the required number of M1 Abrams variants to send to Ukraine, while the US defense industry cannot soon increase production capacity as it used to, Weichert assessed.

The M1 Abrams is America’s flagship and iconic tank, so the country can hardly accept the risk of losing this large amount of equipment to Russia in a fight.

“The US cannot risk transferring M1 Abrams tanks equipped with top-secret technologies in their service to Ukraine. They will have to convert and order new production of Abrams tanks before delivering them to Ukraine, so they are difficult to use. can be delivered in the next 12-18 months, even longer,” this expert said.

Even if Western countries fulfill their commitment to deliver tanks, they are only enough to help Ukraine establish a few armored companies, which can hardly cope with a large number of tanks and artillery and air force fire. of Russia in the Donbass.

NATO has repeatedly refused to transfer F-16 fighters to Ukraine, making Western tanks when fighting in this country will not receive effective support from the air force. At that time, NATO tanks can easily become targets for Russian aircraft.

“Without air cover, Western tanks in Ukraine’s small number are difficult to resist all of Russia’s armored tanks and a force of up to 350,000 soldiers,” Weichert assessed.

In addition to limited numbers and cooperation, Western tanks when transferred to Ukraine also face huge challenges in terms of logistics, training and maintenance.

Features of American and German tank models transferred to Ukraine.  Click to see details.

Features of American and German tank models transferred to Ukraine. Click to see details.

Basically, the US is asking Ukrainian soldiers to control tanks that they have almost no training in operation and no experience in maintenance in the fierce times of the war.

Unlike the FGM-148 Javelin and FIM-92 Stinger anti-tank missiles, the tank is a complex weapon system that requires months of training to operate, as well as a higher level of maintenance skills than conventional weapons. is different.

During that time, Russia can send all T-90 tanks to penetrate Ukraine’s defenses, before Western main tanks reach the country, Weichert said.

According to him, Ukraine’s resistance is much better than Russia ever expected, but they are not “supermen” when under great pressure from the enemy for a long time.

Russia initially launched a military campaign with about 160,000 troops, lacking the means and command capacity to carry out the strategy of “hit fast, win fast”. But after nearly a year of hostilities, Russia is slowly changing its strategy.

Moscow seems to be massing its forces to launch a new offensive, which is expected to be much more fierce. Faced with that wave of attacks, a few companies of Western tanks are unlikely to help Ukraine turn the tide on the battlefield.

“Logistics, geography and numerical factors still need to be taken into account in operational plans. Sadly these factors are working against Ukraine,” Mr. Weichert assessed. “Supplying only a few dozen tanks could lead to more Ukrainian deaths and the risk of a large-scale conflict between Russia and the West.”

Nguyen Tien (Theo AsiaTimes)

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