Ukraine makes a mess of NATO deliveries of different equipment

NATO countries’ deliveries of armoured vehicles to Ukraine are a poisoned gift. The diversity of weapons makes maintenance and logistics complex. They pose problems of spare parts and ammunition management, as well as training in their proper handling.

The imminent arrival in the Ukrainian theatre of Western-made tanks and armour – and even German Leopard 2 heavy tanks – presents Kiev with the challenge of training its troops in the use and maintenance of a variety of equipment, some of it very complex. Yesterday the US began an expanded training programme for some 500 Ukrainian army soldiers in Germany, which will last between five and eight weeks.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion almost a year ago, Kiev’s European allies have already delivered nearly 300 modernised Soviet tanks, but never Western-made heavy tanks, despite repeated Ukrainian requests.

The taboo that has been in place since the beginning of the war is about to be broken. Last week Poland said it was ready to deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks. This German tank model is widely used in Europe, ensuring access to spare parts and ammunition.

But a tank is the most complex military vehicle to maintain. More than a third of them have to remain stationary for maintenance. The British are to supply Ukraine with 14 Challenger 2 tanks, requiring the mobilisation of an entire training and maintenance network for a limited availability rate and thus minimal effect on the battlefield.

Until now Berlin had been reluctant to supply tanks to Kiev for fear of escalation with Moscow. However, last week, together with the US and France, it announced the dispatch of infantry or reconnaissance tanks: 40 German Marders, 50 US Bradleys and French AMX-10 RCs. Paris could deliver a total of 40 of these highly mobile vehicles… but not for two months.

Delivering all this equipment is one thing, using it is another. It is a logistical headache for the Ukrainian army. The ranges are extremely different, each with its own weapon systems, chassis and engines.

The Leopard 2, like the French Leclerc or the US Abrams, fires 120 millimetre shells. But the British Challenger 2, while also equipped with a 120 millimetre rifled gun, requires specific ammunition.

The intensity of the fighting between the Ukrainians and Russians makes it crucial to maintain equipment that has been severely tested. Western tanks, destined for the front line, do not escape the rule.

Minor damage can be repaired by mechanics deployed close to the front line, but heavy repairs must be carried out in the rear. To help the Ukrainians maintain Western equipment, NATO countries have already begun sending their own technicians and specialists close to the frontline.

The Franco-German KNDS group (consisting of Germany’s KMW and France’s Nexter) opened a maintenance centre in Slovakia in November to repair French equipment, such as Caesar guns, and German equipment, such as PzH 2000 guns, Gepard anti-aircraft vehicles and MARS II multiple rocket launchers.

Translated with (free version)

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