Western tanks are heading towards Ukraine, but will they be enough?

Britain, Germany and Poland have each committed to sending 14 tanks, with London predicting delivery of its Challenger 2s within weeks. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius predicted that Berlin would need three to four months to deliver its Leopard 2 tanks.

Poland has signaled that it is already ready to send its own Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Portugal has announced it will deliver four Leopard 2s and Norway has said it will send eight more. Other pledges to give Leopard 2 – without specifying the number – were made by Spain, Finland and the Netherlands. And France is considering giving Ukraine an unspecified number of its Leclerc main battle tanks.

A wrecked Russian tank covered by snow stands in a forest in Kharkiv region, Ukraine,

A wrecked Russian tank covered by snow stands in a forest in Kharkiv region, Ukraine,Credit:AP

In addition, Denmark has announced that it will send 20 Swiss-made Piranha tanks to Ukraine once the government in Bern agrees they could be exported again – a process that was pushed ahead last weekend after stalling for months was.

Altogether this means that at least 105 western tanks were used – at least in principle.

Is that enough?

Ukrainian military officials have long said they need at least 300 Western tanks to make a difference in the war. That “is a lot of tanking nationally,” according to an analysis Wednesday by Janes, the London-based intelligence firm.

European militaries hold at least 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks – and hundreds of other Western main battle tanks. The Russians also have thousands of tanks left in a war of rapid attrition, said David Silbey, a military historian at Cornell University who specializes in battlefield analysis.

“The West will never create a one-to-one match for these numbers,” Silbey said. “But given the Leopard or Abrams’ quality advantage over even the most modern Russian tank, if the West could supply 500 to 1,000 tanks, it would make a huge difference to the Ukrainians and the war.”

When will the Ukrainian troops be ready to use them?

Some will arrive at UK training camps in the coming days to begin training on the Challenger 2 tanks that London committed to this month, according to Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UK.

Ukrainians need training to use US-made M1 Abrams tanks.

Ukrainians need training to use US-made M1 Abrams tanks.Credit:.

Some former military officials and experts have questioned claims – mainly by the United States – that it could take months to train Ukraine’s armed forces to use the tanks. They note that the Ukrainian troops chosen to man them will already have been trained on Soviet-era tanks. So learning to operate the Leopard 2 tanks, which run on diesel fuel and are easier to operate than M1 Abrams, could take as little as three to four weeks “to achieve a baseline level of proficiency,” the International Institute for Strategic Studies said this month .

US officials, who briefed journalists on condition of anonymity, described a far more complicated process for the M1 Abrams, which involved training not only in operating the tanks but also in maintaining them. Part of this process will involve building a robust supply chain to ensure tanks get the fuel, parts and other support they would need on the front lines.

While the Abrams may not arrive on the battlefield for what one US official described as “some time,” training of Ukrainian troops for their deployment will begin quickly. Already, US troops in Germany are training Ukrainian forces on a range of combined and coordinated arms, including armored fighting vehicles.

Will they have enough ammo?


Dwindling ammunition supplies have been a bane on Ukraine’s armed forces almost since the beginning of the war, as they rely on less and less ammunition to match their tanks and other Soviet-era weapons. Captured Russian tanks were an important stopgap measure for Ukraine, but spare parts for them are often difficult to come by, according to Ukrainian soldiers.

Western-made tanks use ammunition compatible with NATO stocks, meaning they could be refilled by any of the military alliance’s 30 member nations or their partners. The tanks come with some additional ammo supplies. Still, the war has so depleted western supplies that some allies are getting nervous about whether they’ll have enough for other potential conflicts, or even for their own self-defense.

While the new Western tanks are essential to any future Ukrainian offensive operations, they may present a headache for the Ukrainian legions of supply officers. The German and American tanks have different parts and maintenance systems, and both types of ammunition differ from those of the Soviet-era tanks currently deployed by Ukraine.

How do they get on the battlefield?

The process of supplying Western arms and other military equipment to Ukraine was one of the war’s most closely guarded secrets.

Concerns that Russia will target roads, railroads or staging points for the material, officials and experts have described as clandestine convoys, which are usually camouflaged or camouflaged in darkness to evade an attack. Former Western military officials and pundits have described a patchwork of supply routes, mostly emanating from hubs in Poland, Slovakia and Germany, that will be crucial in getting tanks, armored fighting vehicles and huge guns to the front lines.

Most weapons are shipped on either railroad cars or flatbed trucks strong enough to support their enormous weight. Rail is generally the fastest and safest way to transport armaments, experts said, as long convoys of flatbed trucks would most likely draw Russia’s attention. It would take too much time, fuel and spare parts to drive the tanks and other armored vehicles onto the battlefield, experts said. They would also essentially become a moving target for Russian warplanes.

The risks are so daunting — and the concern of provoking Russia is so great — that Ukrainian troops have to get the weapons from depots on NATO territory, rather than having Western forces or contractors deliver them to the conflict zone.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/western-tanks-are-heading-to-ukraine-but-will-they-be-enough-20230126-p5cfrh.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world Western tanks are heading towards Ukraine, but will they be enough?

Callan Tansill

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