First NLAWs, then Starstreak, now AS-90s? Britain may Supply Ukraine with Latest Artillery

March 31, 2022

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The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has apparently stated that he wants to further support the Ukrainian military fighting against the Russian invasion by supplying additional weapon systems that are much more significant than what has already been sent.

 

According to The Times Newspaper, Johnson has said that he wishes to provide both armoured vehicles and long-range artillery to the Ukrainians.

This would be a substantial step up on previous arms transfers. The UK has been one of the leading nations in supplying arms to Ukraine, even before the invasion occurred. In the run up, as tensions mounted, Britain transferred considerable quantities of NLAW light anti-tank weapons. This has been followed up recently by the transfer of Starsteak anti-aircraft missiles.

But his latest announcement, should it come about, is an escalation. Up until now, Western nations have shied away from suppling what is designated as offensive weapons, articles such as armoured vehicles and artillery.

Instead, they have limited themselves to so-called “defensive weapons”, such as anti-tank missiles and short-ranged anti-aircraft MANPADS. And though these have flooded into Ukraine, and wrought devastation on the Russian invasion force, they are by their nature not suited to high tempo offensive operations such as the Ukrainians now wish to conduct to push the Russians out.

This has long been recognized, with President Zelensky of Ukraine pleading with the West for tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery that would allow the Ukrainians to go properly on the offensive – pleas that have largely fallen on sympathetic, but deaf, ears – until possibly now.

Though this does raise the question of just what Britain, if it does go ahead with a transfer of offensive weapons, would send. After all, the British Army is hardly the largest or most lavishly equipped that it can spare much.

In terms of artillery, it seems that the system most likely to be sent would be the AS-90 self-propelled gun. This has a 155-mm cannon with a range of 25km with standard ammunition and further with rocket-assisted shells. As the calibre is the NATO standard, supplying these guns with ammunition would not be a problem.

What might be is their limited numbers. Only 179 were built, and should significant numbers be sent to Ukraine they would be drawn from British stocks that are already quite limited. However, a system essentially using the AS-90 turret with a new hull, the Krab, is currently in production in Poland for their military. Should the Poles and British cooperate it may be possible that both systems could be supplied in worthwhile numbers.

Regardless, any of these systems that could be sent would represent a powerful new addition to the Ukrainian military.

In terms of armoured vehicles, things are far more limited.

Though President Zelensky has called for tanks and armoured fighting vehicles, Britain really doesn’t have many of these to spare. The UK currently has barely over one hundred Challenger tanks in service, and problems with the new Ajax IFV mean that the old Warrior vehicles are likely to have to soldier on for some time more.

It seems likely that the UK will send stocks of light armoured vehicles such as Jackals that it accrued during the War in Afghanistan. Though no doubt the Ukrainians could find a use for such vehicles, they are not what is required for the prosecution of a large-scale conventional war.

Because despite the doubters, for that only tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicles can do that. The British would likely buy stocks of tanks from other countries that the Ukrainian’s could use that are already in service with them, such as the T-72.

But to be honest, there is only one country with a stockpile of modern heavy equipment large enough to likely make a difference in this war – the United States.

And whether they are willing to start supplying the Ukrainians with such items, along with all of the logistical and training requirements that go along with operating such specialist weaponry, remains to be seen.

Related:

Russian “Cope Cages” and how Bar/Slat/Mesh Protections Broadly Work

U.S. to Supply Switchblade “Kamikaze Drones” to Ukraine?

Ed Nash

Ed Nash

Ed Nash has spent years traveling around the world. Between June 2015 and July 2016 he volunteered with the Kurdish YPG in its battle against ISIS in Syria; his book on his experiences, Desert Sniper, was published by Little, Brown in September 2018.
Ed Nash

Ed Nash

Ed Nash has spent years traveling around the world. Between June 2015 and July 2016 he volunteered with the Kurdish YPG in its battle against ISIS in Syria; his book on his experiences, Desert Sniper, was published by Little, Brown in September 2018.

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goodidea
goodidea
1 month ago

the best idea is to deliver 100 howitizers AS-90 155mm to Poland (which use similar howitzer Krab based on AS-90 license) and Poland could deliver to Ukraine 200 howitzer Gozdzik 122mm used also in Ukraine army

James B
James B
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed Nash

Eastern Europeans all want to send Soviet equipment to Ukraine IF they can get modern replacements. And the only source right now is the US. YET there is real resistance from Biden himself to this even though 80% of Americans support sending equipment to Ukraine. We could fairly quickly meet the needs from existing war stocks in storage. When even his cabinet supports doing that yet he vetoes it, then questions concerning Biden rise to the fore front. See my other two comments.

The real issue is the major gaps in capability in NATO due to 30 year long draw downs. Look at Germany. They literally liquidated their armor forces in a going out of business sale. Turkey snapped up nearly new tanks for a fraction of the price. However, in truth after battle experience, the Turkish Army questions if the Leo 2’s are in fact “turkeys” off the discount rack. Turkey is actually putting money into upgrading old M-60’s and sidelining some of the Leo’s.

James B
James B
1 month ago
Reply to  goodidea

I think the issue here is the UK simply has so few vehicles to spare. The draw down by Cameron and his predecessor is now coming home to roost. Realistically, the UK needs to order far more just to meet their own needs. The issues with the Challengers is different. Most of the older Challengers are in storage and have not been disposed of. However, there are not enough of them to make any effort to supply tanks to Ukraine worth the headaches. BUT Poland might be willing to “Lease them” to replace T-72’s they can send to Poland.

The huge question in all of this is the Biden Administration. Biden shot down the Mig fighter deal because Poland wanted 30 US F16’s to replace them. Considering that fact the US has about 1200 F-16’s in storage and could easily provide the jets in 1-2 months, it makes no sense unless the Biden administration does not want to support Ukraine. Question needs to be asked. Biden’s offered to fly Zelensky and the Ukrainian government out of the country on Day 1 can only be interpreted as a decapitation move to collapse resistance. It backfired when Zelensky issued his “Churchill ” declaration that galvanized Western Public opinion and forced the hands of the political classes across the west. Biden cut off military aid last year. Biden has been a follower on supplies and defensive systems all along. WHY? The simplest explanation is Biden in private is perfectly OK with Putin carving pieces out of Ukraine.

James B
James B
1 month ago

Poland signed a deal with Trump in 2020 to buy 250 M1A2 tanks of the 70 ton variety that was still in production. However the Biden administration hung up final go ahead approval in red tape until that model dropped out of production. In fact they only signed off final approval AFTER the Ukrainian invasion. General Dynamics though has to retool and restart production and that will take 3 years for the first tanks. However, with the emergency declared by NATO, Poland is exercising a treaty clause that requires the US to fill the order from reserve war stock vehicles. Currently there are well over 1500 of that model M1A2 tank in the desert reserve that were fully remanufactured after service in the middle east. They are virtually new and by the treaty the US Army has to ship them. The tanks are in fact being prepared by the US Army though the Biden team is trying to delay . Once the 250 M1A2 tanks are in Poland (who has had personnel training to use and to service them) , Poland will release at least 400 to 500 Soviet T-72’s from storage or active units. Poland currently has about 850 T-72’s and wants to replace all of them with about 5-600 M1A2’s. Reports are the Polish Army is pulling out the T-72’s in storage and preparing them for shipment to Ukraine. Ukraine is collecting things like reactive armor kits off the newest Russian T-72/80/90 tanks that have been knocked out and are usable for retrofitting on to un-modernized T-72’s it is quietly getting or anticipates getting.

Suggest an inquiry to the US Army about if they are going to ship from war stocks.