A fragmented supply timetable for tanks can reduce their efficacy in Ukraine

After a year of begging, the Western partners finally agreed to ship Ukraine some contemporary main battle tanks, something the country desperately needs.

They have been making do with T-64s from the Soviet period, T-72s that were given, and a handful of T-80 and T-84 versions. Over a hundred modernized Russian T-72s and T-80s were also taken by the Ukrainians.

NATO nations have pledged to deliver tanks of a distinct type by the end of January. These include the Leopard 2, Challenger 2, and Abrams. These 60-70 ton vehicles will provide Ukraine with a relative edge over the T-72 and T-80 versions that form the backbone of Russia's armor due to improvements in technology, weaponry, mobility, protection, and troop comfort.

Former Ukrainian officer and Center for Defense Strategies member Viktor Kivliuk remarked, "Surpassing any Russian tank in terms of firepower, sighting and navigation system, and fire control systems, we get a tool that allows, in one operation, to defeat all the assault and shock units that the Russians have in the south."

Large-scale tank fights are unusual in Ukraine, despite the fact that these Western tanks were built specifically to destroy large numbers of Soviet tanks. Tanks are typically used to back up troops or lead an offensive. One of the main benefits of the Leopard 2s is that it can take part in network-centric combat. Lighter Leopard 1 tanks will be delivered to Ukraine as well.

Ukraine's new tank divisions are nearly ready for combat, but there are still some kinks to work out. Logistics and upkeep for so many variants of high-tech tanks, such as the Leopard 2, pose a significant problem.

The problem of actually obtaining them, however, is no less pressing. According to Bloomberg, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on February 15 that Western partners have indicated they may not be able to deliver two complete companies of Leopard 2 tanks.

Also, the Ukrainian armed forces are up to the task, but they will have a more difficult time assembling the troops and making the most of the tanks' technical supremacy because of the slow, disjointed pace at which they are receiving the tanks.

War experts are divided on whether or not Ukraine is receiving the right amount of tanks and whether or not the window of opportunity to penalize Russia for its tactical and strategic errors in 2022 is narrowing because of the delay.

Moreover, tanks' efficacy is limited if they aren't complemented by motorized troops and reliable aviation assistance. Despite pledges of combat vehicles from various nations, the idea of fixed-wing planes for Ukraine is presently being met with the same level of skepticism as main battle tanks were in 2022.

Ukraine is being kept "on a deprivation diet" for the assistance it needs to succeed, according to the Institute for the Study of War's Russia Analyst and Geospatial Intelligence Team Lead, George Barros. A day late and an arsenal short.

Nonetheless, sending the tanks is seen as a good move by those who back Ukraine. Military forces have proven adept at employing Western rifle and gun weaponry. Ukraine's prospective Leopard 2 pilots are currently undergoing training in Poland.

Specifics and a schedule

The foreign minister of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, stated at the beginning of the month that 12 nations are anticipated to deliver between 120 and 140 tanks by the end of March.

There was an announcement that Berlin and its allies would attempt to provide 112 Leopard 2s after Germany changed its mind about deploying tanks to Ukraine. According to a subsequent Bloomberg story, Germany is aggressively encouraging partners to pledge because it is worried there may not be enough troops. Pistorius recently remarked that they might not have enough for even half of that amount.

Currently, 14 have been pledged by Germany and Poland, 8 by Norway, 4 by Canada, and 3 by Portugal. It is unknown how many representatives from Finland and Spain will be sent at this time.

Fourteen British Challenger 2 tanks are expected to come in the next month, per the country's previous commitments.

Due to a number of complications, the United States will not receive the 31 M1 Abrams tanks it had pledged until much later this year or even next.

The Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark will also provide many outdated Leopard 1s to Ukraine. Numerous estimates place the number anywhere from 100 to 178. According to a report citing Pistorius, the first 20–25 of these will make it to Ukraine by the end of the summer. We anticipate their shipments to last well into 2024.

Modernized T-72s will also continue to be supplied by countries like Poland and the Czech Republic.

The Institute for the Study of War estimates that Ukraine will receive Western tanks equivalent to slightly more than two divisions.

The tanks, however, must be pulled from the stockpiles of particular military units, and so they may not be readily accessible in the numbers required. Delays may also result from the fact that vehicles in storage require extensive upkeep and repair.

The firm Science Technology Ukraine's expert, Sergey Berezutsky, believes that by May, Ukraine will have a "restricted" number of operational Leopard 2s.

Plans for a springtime assault

After Russian troops withdrew from Kherson in November, the Ukrainian military forces had a good chance to take advantage of Russia's weakness. Barros claims that a lack of necessary resources was a significant factor in the team's decision to abandon the idea. Russia took the lead again and strengthened its army.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said that the United States hopes Ukraine can gain impetus and break through a stagnant front line this spring.

For starters, it has to stop the huge Russian assault in the Donbas. Prof. Phillips O'Brien of St. Andrew's University's Department of Strategic Studies argues that the Ukrainians can only hope to withstand the onslaught and do as much harm as they can. That could set up a retaliation for which Western tanks would be well-suited.

O'Brien predicted that the Russians would have to devote several months to eliminating the threat.

Based on the fatality reports from Ukraine regarding Russia and footage from the Donbas, it would appear that the Ukrainian troops are making an honest effort. Russia may have lost an entire regiment near Vuhledar a few days ago.

Russia's assault has a limited window of opportunity. Soon it will be March, with its higher temperatures, rainfall, and dirt that make heavier armor impractical to use. Moscow may have once again underestimated the powers of its force, as evidenced by the timeliness of its actions.

With a sufficient number of Western tanks to create groups, Ukraine can do significant damage when the time comes for a response. Experts concur that it would be best to form brand-new divisions, with sections designed to operate the trucks. For example, the combat vehicle companies promised by the United States and Germany, the Bradleys and Marders, may be combined with tank battalions within the divisions.

According to Barros, the Ukrainians are skilled at tactical planning and integrating multiple types of military hardware, including tanks, flames, and possibly fixed-wing planes in the future. But the Russians are "not capable of undertaking combined weapons combat," he said.

This chance for Ukraine may be jeopardized, however, due to the fragmented nature of the military assistance and potential delays.

Making preparations in advance

The earliest that the first of the new tank troops could be ready would be would be April. Multiple specialists agree that they won't be immediately put into action, but will instead wait until they can contribute the most. Berezutsky acknowledged the possibility of an exception in the event of a need to stem a Russian advance in a specific section of the line.

Since both parties are prepared to resist, O'Brien doesn't think there will be any major military advances anytime soon.

Ukraine, meanwhile, retains some of its own outdated tanks. As a result, leaders can prepare with greater certainty thanks to the assurance that they will receive more.

According to Serhiy Zgurets, head of the consulting business Defense Express, "even if we initiate aggressive operations and lose some of the tanks we have now, we have a clear guarantee that the losses will be replaced and not just restored, but expand our tank capacities."

Kivliuk predicted that tank divisions would be assembled in the areas surrounding Luhansk and in Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts because of the abundance of flat, open land there, which would enable tanks to travel at top speed when conditions were favorable.

Berezutsky argued that the earlier and lightweight Leopard 1 tanks could be used as hit-and-run tank hunts. Along the Belarusian frontier, where reliable transportation options are scarce, they could provide efficient border security as well.

Even though Western partners' recent move toward providing Ukraine with stronger weaponry is encouraging, some Ukrainian and Western watchers still see a hesitation to go all the way with military aid.

Berezutsky argued that "this kind of hospice care is not fiscally reasonable." In terms of military assistance, "all at once" is preferable to "drip feeding."

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