Tags : Ukraine, Russia, Bakhmut, war,
In addition to the panoply of conventional weapons used by the two opposing armies, new ammunition has appeared on the battlefield in recent days.
In recent days, new weapons have appeared “in the theater of operations”, as we say in military jargon. On the Ukrainian side, these are joint direct attack munitions or « JDAM », improved flying bombs, dropped by fighter-bombers, whose range reaches 72 km. Guided by GPS and equipped with fins, they are manufactured by Boeing and cost 56,000 dollars each (about 52,000 euros).
We can add “small caliber bombs” which can travel up to 150 km. This puts Russian targets within firing range, such as ammunition depots located 80 km from the front. Promised to the Ukrainians by the Americans for the end of February, these « Small Caliber Bombs » have not yet been formally identified on the ground. « They will not change the course of the war, but they can do damage and change the situation », analyzes Kris Quanten, of the Royal Military School. “The manufacturer Boeing-Saab has added a small engine to them and they can be launched by Himars on the ground. It is artillery ammunition. »
While waiting for the hundred or so modern assault tanks promised by several Western countries, some of which have already been delivered (notably the 14 Leopard 2s supplied by Poland), these two types of bombs can make the difference.
On the Russian side, several Western experts were surprised by the use of hypersonic Kinjal (« dagger » in Russian) missiles during last week’s massive strikes on energy infrastructure. None of these six hypersonic missiles could be shot down by Ukrainian air defense. “They have a range of 2,000 km and can reach Mach10 speed (12,000 km/h, editor’s note) in the terminal phase”, explains Kris Quanten. “We don’t know how to shoot them down… When Putin said he had missiles capable of reaching Paris in a few seconds, these are the ones he was talking about. What is amazing is that the Russian army uses it to hit tactical targets like power plants. »
7.4m long and 4 tons in weight, the Kinjal can only be dropped from specially modified aircraft. It is more maneuverable than a traditional ballistic missile and can change course, making it unpredictable. Capable of flying over the planet in low orbit, it is almost undetectable by current defense systems.
« Using the Enemy »
The new American bombs should enable the Ukrainian army to hold out as long as possible in Bakhmout, so that Russia can use a maximum of men, arms and ammunition there. “We need to buy time to accumulate reserves and launch a counter-offensive,” Ukrainian ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrsky said on Monday.
« This is called ‘shaping’ in military terms: wearing out the enemy, » confirms Kris Quanten. “The Ukrainians have an interest in holding out as long as possible in Bakhmout to weaken the enemy. The casualty ratio would be one Ukrainian to seven Russians, according to the Ukrainians. So even if it’s only one for five, it’s huge. »
According to various sources, Ukraine intends to attack the Russian army in the weeks or months to come to retake the occupied territories, after initial successes in 2022 in the south, north and east. For that, it counts on the delivery of Western armaments, in particular a hundred modern tanks. But their delivery is slow and difficult.
Arms imports on the rise
On the international level, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused a surge in arms imports into Europe, which will almost double in 2022. This is what emerges from a report by the International Institute for Research on the peace of Stockholm (Sipri) published on March 13.
Until then a negligible importer, Ukraine has suddenly become the world’s third largest destination, concentrating 31% of arms imports in Europe and 8% of world trade, according to Sipri. Imports from kyiv, including Western donations intended to help repel the Russians, have thus multiplied by more than 60 in 2022.
With a surge of 93% over one year, European imports also increased due to the increase in military spending by several European states, such as Poland and Norway. And things should still accelerate, according to the annual report of Sipri.
Germany: one year after the « change of era », the Bundeswehr is still at a standstill
The report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces of the Bundestag, presented Tuesday in Berlin, is concerned about the « deplorable » state of the Bundeswehr while the war in Ukraine has changed the situation in Europe. According to Eva Högl, the German army will not be operational before 2030.
Where is the “change of era” ( Zeitenwende ) promised by Olaf Scholz? Three days after the invasion of Ukraine, the Chancellor announced a « turning point » in Germany’s defense strategy by releasing a special fund of 100 billion euros for the modernization of its army. “We need planes that fly, boats that can take to the sea and equipped soldiers,” he declared to the deputies.
Its objective is not the most modest: to make the Bundeswehr “the largest conventional NATO army in Europe”. But a year later, the project is still at a standstill. The Bundeswehr is still in a « deplorable » state, criticized Eva Högl, the Bundestag’s parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, also nicknamed « the soldiers’ lawyer ». « The military has not yet seen a single cent of the 100 billion special fund, » she insisted.
« The German army lacks everything », confirms Eva Högl, who took as an example the catastrophic state of certain barracks which date from the 1930s: the toilets do not work, the showers are not clean, the kitchens are dilapidated… “The problem is not the money. It’s bureaucracy. Everything is going too slowly to order equipment in this institution, ”she explains, taking the example of students from the Bundeswehr University in Munich, who still do not have wifi in their room. Some Air Force soldiers wait ten years to get their new pilot helmets, she says.
“At the moment, Scholz’s change of era is like a racing car waiting for an engine,” confirms Christian Mölling, defense expert at the German Institute for Foreign Policy.
The equipment is so old that tank drivers still use radios from the 80s or have to communicate with each other from their turrets. “The Bundeswehr lacks tanks, boats and ships, but also planes,” lists Eva Högl. And ammunition! The reserves would make it possible to last only two days in the event of war. Not to mention the worsening staff shortage, with a dropout rate of more than 30% among young recruits after six months of service.
All this means that the German army will not be able to be operational… « before 2030 », advances thea parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces of the Bundestag.
More vulnerable than before the war
The situation even deteriorated with the war in Ukraine. By offering tanks to kyiv, including the soon to be operational Leopard 2s, the Bundeswehr has deprived itself of important equipment. With the Ministry of Defense still not placing orders to replace them, the shortage has worsened further. Result: Germany is currently even more vulnerable than before the war!
The task of the new Defense Minister, appointed at the end of February by Olaf Scholz, is immense. Boris Pistorius is demanding at least 10 billion euros more per year, out of the 50 billion budgeted, to buy tanks, howitzers, but also air defense systems, a weak point of the German army. A difficult mission while the Liberal Minister of Finance, Christian Lindner, calls for the return to the « debt brake » inscribed in the constitution.
Last week, Pistorius fired the chief of staff, who had raised doubts about the Ukrainian army’s ability to repel the next Russian offensive. He will be replaced by Carsten Breuer, the former head of the crisis unit at the chancellery, nicknamed « General Corona » and known in military circles for having written a reference work on the reforms of the German army.
“Boris Pistorius has done flawlessly so far,” observes Christian Mölling. The Minister of Defense is at the top of the popularity rankings, far ahead of the Chancellor and the Ecologist Minister of the Economy, Robert Habeck, the former darling of the polls. But his position is high risk. It is nicknamed the “ejection seat” in Berlin political jargon.
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