The 321 main battle tanks that are soon to arrive in Ukraine pose logistical challenges for the country. And they start even before the national border.
The announced delivery of tanks from several countries has been greeted with joy in Ukraine, but this could be spoiled. Because the different tank systems, the lack of training for Ukrainian soldiers and different ammunition versions pose logistical challenges. The Ukrainian ambassador to France, Vadym Omelchenko, announced on Friday that 321 main battle tanks have been pledged. But they come from different manufacturers and have different configurations.
The jumble of different systems makes it “quite difficult from a logistical point of view,” Sonny Butterworth, a tank expert at Defense Intelligence Agency Janes, told the Washington Post. The British Challenger 2S does not use the same ammunition as is standard in NATO. The Leopard tank from Germany will be delivered in a more modern version than stocks from other countries.
“The Ukrainians will be running several different types of equipment and will have to reconcile supporting them with the right spares going to the right units,” Butterworth said.
A question of integration
“No single weapon system or platform can change the game,” Franz-Stefan Gady, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, told the Washington Post. He elaborated that the impact of the “limited numbers” of tanks arriving in March would depend on training and how well the new formations would be integrated on the front line.
Ukraine currently has T-72 tanks that were still designed and built in the Soviet Union. With the deliveries of new models from the West, the Ukrainian army gets a technical advantage. But managing multiple tank systems can be the crux of the matter, said expert Butterworth.
The situation will not be made any easier by the American Abrams tanks, which should arrive in a few months. A US official told the US newspaper that while Ukrainian forces have demonstrated considerable ability to maintain and maintain US equipment on the battlefield, operating Abrams tanks requires significant preparation and training.
At the same time, he expressed confidence that the US will provide sufficient maintenance support. In addition, Poland already has Abrams tanks and can provide knowledge and infrastructure. Another alternative for training is the military training area in Grafenwöhr in the Upper Palatinate. 600 Ukrainian soldiers are said to be being trained there in the use of artillery.
“Contested logistics” could be decisive
In a recent report on the Ukraine war, America’s Modern War Institute examined what it called “contested logistics.” This defines it as: “an environment aimed directly at logistical operations, facilities and activities, both at home bases and en route to the war zone”. In a simulation of Russian resupply, the institute found that “Russia does not have enough trucks to meet logistical requirements more than 100 miles beyond the railhead supply dumps.”
Small streets are easy targets
“Similar problems will face Ukraine when it tries to deploy tanks from the US, UK and EU,” analyzes logistics website Supplychaindigital. Much of Ukraine’s road network consists of narrow roads winding through forests and small towns, with bridges crossing rivers and streams – routes that are easy to disrupt. “Therefore, securing bridges will be crucial for Ukraine not only to use its tanks on the front line, but also to provide them with fuel and spare parts,” the logistics experts said.
So far, weapons have been transported to Ukraine via neighboring countries. Poland plays an important role here: it borders on western Ukraine, which has so far been little shelled. As far as we know, most of the weapons deliveries come from here. Slovakia is also a border country, as are Hungary and Romania. The latter is an important country in NATO strategy, home to Awacs reconnaissance aircraft and French Leclerc tanks, among others. So far, little is known about Russian attacks on western transports inside Ukraine. But that may change: the Polish route could be easily disrupted from Belarus, where Russian troops are already located.