Ukrainian army needs more heavy vehicles
    Analysis by Forbes

    WORLD  27 March 2023 - 02:01

    David Axe, a journalist, author and filmmaker based in Columbia, South Carolina, has written an article for Forbes arguing that the Ukrainian army has grown fast in the 13 months since Russian widened its war on Ukraine. Caliber.Az reprints the article.

    The 110th Mechanized Brigade is one of the Ukrainian army’s newest brigades. It’s been holding one of the most dangerous sectors of the Ukraine front.

    Its vehicles—a combination of Soviet, Czech and Dutch models—are pretty old, on average. But the brigade is making do. Its expert tactics, on display in a video that circulated online in mid-March, could help it to compensate for a lack of heavy firepower.

    This dynamic—middling equipment, advanced methods—could define the Ukrainians’ operations if and when they shift from defense to offense in the coming weeks.

    In the video, apparently shot by a 110th Brigade trooper from a trench somewhere north of Bakhmut, some of the brigade’s ex-Dutch YPR-765 armored personnel carriers perform a seemingly odd dance—advancing then reversing then advancing again while attacking across a muddy field, firing their heavy machine guns at nearby Russian positions.

    The Ukrainians for months have been fighting a mobile defense against increasingly disastrous Russian assaults. Kyiv’s strategy obviously is to bleed the Russians. Weaken them ahead of the Ukrainians’ planned counteroffensive.

    The YPRs’ dance complicates enemy targeting, potentially protecting the thinly-armored APCs from the Russians’ return fire. As a tactic, the back-and-forth assault suits the 1970s-vintage, 14-ton YPR, which is a slightly upgraded version of the American M-113.

    The aluminum hulls of M-113s and derivates offer minimal protection. But their automatic transmissions and high speed in reverse—atypical for contemporaneous APCs—makes them easy to drive and nimble. Ukrainian crews who have transitioned from Soviet BMPs to M-113s and YPRs have praised the Western vehicles for their user-friendliness.

    But let’s not kid ourselves—an M-113 or YPR should not be charging unsupported at enemy trenches. That’s a job for a much heavier, better-protected and better-armed vehicle: a German-made Marder or American-made M-2.

    As it happens, the Ukrainian army is getting scores of Marders and more than a hundred M-2s. But these vehicles and their new Ukrainian crews aren’t yet ready. The 110th Brigade is helping to buy time for other brigades to reequip with heavier weaponry, and at great risk. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on Jan. 25 praised the 110th for its “resilience and courage.”

    It’s apparent not every Ukrainian brigade will get new vehicles. The Ukrainian army has grown fast in the 13 months since Russian widened its war on Ukraine. The army has stood up dozens of new battalions and brigades—enough to double its front-line strength.

    But every brigade needs nearly 200 armored vehicles—30 or so for each of four battalions. Do the math: the Ukrainian army ideally would have around 2,000 infantry fighting vehicles in the class of the M-2 and Marder.

    Its allies so far have pledged a little over 200. Three hundred if you count the 90 wheeled, American-made Strykers as IFVs.

    So most brigades are deploying their much lighter—but much more numerous—APCs as IFVs. Tactics like those that the 110th Brigade employed around Bakhmut in mid-March are how the Ukrainians compensate for their lack of heavy vehicles.

    Barring some big pledges of additional IFVs in the coming weeks, that equipment shortfall almost certainly will persist through the Ukrainians’ planned counteroffensive. So expect to see more complex tactics like were on display during the 110th Brigade’s Bakhmut assault.

    They’re the only way the Ukrainians can win.

    Caliber.Az

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