Switzerland said no again. At the beginning of November, the government in Bern rejected the Berlin application to pass on Swiss-made 35 mm ammunition for German Gepard tanks to Ukraine. A similar answer, referring to neutrality, had already been given in June. This time, according to media reports, Germany wanted to hand over 12,400 rounds of ammunition for the anti-aircraft tank.
So far, Germany has delivered 30 of the decommissioned Bundeswehr tanks to Ukraine, where they are also used against drones. It was already known before delivery that there was not enough ammunition for this.
The news shows how difficult it is for Ukraine to convert from Soviet to NATO weapons. Kyiv received the first Western arms deliveries in the years before the Russian attack in February, and they were accelerated in the weeks before.
However, the government in Kyiv only spoke of a massive conversion in the spring. “We are in a fundamentally new phase that no one dared to dream of,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Facebook in April. “It’s about converting the Ukrainian army to NATO weapons, NATO standard. It’s already happening.”
Where exactly the rearmament is in the ninth month of the war is unknown. The fact is that Ukraine is receiving more and more weapons from the West. But overall supplies are limited.
In the case of modern heavy technology, the number is in the single digits – such as the air defense systems IRIS-T from Germany and NASAMS from the USA that have been delivered in recent weeks.
Howitzers from NATO countries and the US HIMARS multiple rocket launcher were delivered by the dozens. Older systems, such as the US M113 armored personnel carrier, were received by the hundreds in Kyiv.
“The critical point with Western weapons is a system of maintenance, repair and supply,” says Ukrainian military expert Serhiy Hrabskyj. “It’s much broader than weapon use itself.”
This seems to be one of the reasons why the conversion is happening more slowly than Kyiv would like. Structures for the maintenance of Western technology are not being set up in Ukraine itself, but in neighboring NATO countries.
Another “problem with Western military equipment is the fact that there are several types of the same weapons – American, British, French, German, Swedish,” says Hrabskyj.
The standard is the same, but there are differences in maintenance. This is also confirmed by Markus Reisner, Colonel in the Austrian General Staff Service.
“The Ukrainians have so far managed to deal with the delivered systems in a very sensible way. The challenge is the logistics: You have a whole butterfly collection of different weapon systems,” says Reisner. “There is difficulty in getting the right ammunition to the right weapon, Ukraine is a huge country.”
All weapons from the West have one thing in common – they are short-range systems, the range of which is a few tens of kilometers. Kyiv wants long-range weapons, as well as Western aircraft and main battle tanks. So far this wish remains unfulfilled.
The majority of Ukrainian weapons consists of Soviet war technology, delivered mainly from Eastern and Central Europe – also because the logistics for it exist, military experts told Deutsche Welle.
In the air force, Ukraine has only Soviet equipment, in the artillery there is a mixture, according to Serhij Hrabskyj. The situation with tanks and armored vehicles is similar. There are exceptions, but the majority are “actually Soviet devices”.
The most recent example: The USA announced in early November that it would deliver 90 modernized T-72 tanks from the Czech Republic to Ukraine together with the Netherlands. Previously, Ukraine received hundreds of similar tanks from other countries, primarily from Poland. Ammunition is also supplied. But the war is intense and the wear and tear is high, which is also confirmed by reports from the front.
“There is little technology, hardly any ammunition for Soviet calibers,” wrote the Ukrainian filmmaker and soldier Oleh Senzow on Facebook at the beginning of August about his deployment at Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. “NATO systems are better, but there aren’t enough of them.”
Could a critical moment soon come for Ukraine when Soviet stocks are dwindling and Western supplies are not yet able to replace them? This is being discussed on social networks, but there is no official information because this information is secret.
“One bottleneck could be observed very well, that was heavy anti-aircraft missiles for the systems Buk-M1 and S-300,” says Gustav Gressel, military expert at the Berlin European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). “When the Russians attacked with cruise missiles or something like that, Ukraine only shot down two, three out of eight or ten missiles simply because they’re low on ammunition.”
Since the delivery of the IRIS-T and NASAMS air defense systems, Ukraine has been able to shoot down significantly more. Recently, some NATO countries decided to supply Ukraine with older anti-aircraft systems such as the US-American HAWK.
Another sensitive question is how long the Soviet ammunition will last. Already before the war, Ukrainian stocks were depleted by a series of explosions at ammunition depots that were classified as sabotage. In Eastern Europe there is “not really a lot” of Soviet weapons anymore, says Gressel. “It depends what you’re talking about, but we’re pretty much done.”
However, the arms factories in some Eastern European countries can, for example, produce ammunition for Soviet cannons, even if they cannot produce the cannons themselves. However, this is often not the case: According to Gressel, there is less and less ammunition for the Soviet anti-aircraft systems “Strela” and “Osa”, which Kyiv also received from Eastern Europe.
Gressel calls Kiev’s desire to switch completely to Western systems “a good and justified demand”. This process could go faster if some countries, to which the expert also counts Germany, would make political decisions more quickly.
Serhij Hrabsky currently finds it “uncritical” if there are shortages of Soviet weapons stocks in Ukraine. “Who is the largest arms supplier to Ukraine? Russia,” says the expert on captured war technology.
According to the Ukrainian edition of Forbes magazine, there is more captured technology in Ukraine than supplied by leading western countries.
By the end of September, Ukraine had captured around 400 Russian main battle tanks and around 700 infantry fighting vehicles. However, most of these were old models.
Autor: Roman Goncharenko
Originally Posted by “Is Ukraine Running Out of Soviet Weapons?” comes from Deutsche Welle.