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Wheels, Tracks, and Rotors – America is Giving These Vehicles to Help Mobilize Ukrainian Troops

Mi-17
Mi-17. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine Is Getting a New Batch of Important Military Hardware: As Russia reshuffles troops from its failed assault on Kyiv to its new main effort in the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian military units are mobilizing eastward too along interior lines of communication. 

But sustaining the flow of troops, supplies, and ammunition to Donbas is fraught with difficulty due to the threat of encroaching Russian ground forces and overwatching artillery and warplanes. Ukrainian light infantry and towed artillery will also require armored “battle taxis” when deploying to a battle zone that lacks the dense forests and suburbs found around Kyiv.

Fortunately, Ukraine’s requests for heavier weapons and vehicles for operational and tactical-level mobility are being listened to. On April 8, British defense secretary Ben Wallace announced the UK was sending 120 armored troop carriers and supply vehicles to Ukraine, as detailed here

A few days later, a new aid package unveiled by the Biden administration revealed plans to transfer 200 armored personnel carriers (APCs), 100 armored Humvees and 11 more transport helicopters.

This article surveys the transport vehicles being delivered to Ukraine, and explains how Kyiv’s forces may exploit their capabilities. Two separate companion pieces look in detail at transfers of long-range artillery, tanks, and infantry fighting vehicles.

Mi-17 Utility Helicopters

When the government of Afghanistan fell in August 2021, the U.S. was left with Mi-17V-5 helicopters it had purchased for the now-defunct Afghan Air Force. These whirlybirds have found a new home: the Biden administration dispatched five to Ukraine in a March aid package and is sending 11 more in April. 

Though some reports subsequently claimed the second transfer was canceled, according to Politico journalist Alex Ward this was inaccurate.

The Mi-17V-5 is a relatively modern re-engined Russian export model of the classic Soviet twin-turboshaft Mi-8 ‘Hip’ helicopter. Ukraine operated 48 Mi-8s prior to Russia’s new invasion.

The Mi-17V-5 model improves on its predecessors with better high temperature/altitude capability, a torque-mitigating rotor, additional armor plates, digital flight displays and engine controls, and support for night-vision goggles. The spacious chopper can carry a maximum of 36 equipped soldiers or 5 tons of cargo, and has a maximum range of 360 miles, or twice that using external fuel tanks. 

It can also be armed for ground attack with cannons or unguided rockets, or more exceptionally, anti-tank guided missiles and perhaps even laser-guided APKWS rockets given to Ukraine.

Ukraine is apparently using utility helicopters at night to ferry ammunition and supplies, and evacuate personnel from surrounded cities, particularly Mariupol, where at least one was shot down.

M113 APCs

In April, Washington also announced it was dispatching 200 M113 APCs, a type Ukraine hasn’t operated before. 

The venerable rhombus-shaped APC is iconic for its prominence in the Vietnam War, though its legacy extends far beyond that conflict. Between 1960 and 2007, a staggering 80,000 of the 13-ton workhorses were built, serving in more than 50 countries and seeing combat in dozens of wars.

The M113 can transport 11-15 embarked personnel at up to 40 miles per hour. It’s roughly 1.5-inches of aluminum armor can stop rifle-caliber bullets, and the latest M113A3 model can mount additional armor to protect against heavy machine gun rounds. However, it remains vulnerable to mines, IEDs and light anti-armor weapons. 

M113

M113. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

200 M113s could theoretically provide tracked transportation for 4-5 Ukrainian infantry battalions, though armed with only a .50 caliber machine gun, they would be in trouble if they encountered Russia’s cannon-armed BMP and BTR-82A infantry fighting vehicles.

However, M113s have often served as weapons carriers, so it won’t be surprising if donated M113s are modified to heft Ukrainian mortars, anti-tank missiles, autocannons or grenade launchers. M113s may also be assigned to transport combat engineers, heavy weapons teams, headquarters personnel, medical units and other specialists. 

Ukraine’s M113 fleet could easily grow (and become more efficient) through additional donations by current or former M113 operators such as Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey. 

Furthermore, German company FFG is seeking permission from Berlin to sell 60 retired Panzermorser M113A2GEs armed with powerful 120-millimeter Tampella mortars.

Humvees 

The U.S. military’s latter-day Jeep, the 4×4 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) has evolved considerably since entering service in the 1980s, with later models featuring enhanced armor protection in response to losses in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Humvee Deliveries to Ukraine
Type Delivery Units Characteristics
M1097A2 2001 40 ‘Heavy Hummer” for 95th Airborne/KFOR 
M1114 3/2015 30 Up-Armored Armament Carrier, FRAG armor kit; for SOF + 80th and 81st Airborne 
M998 7/2015 100 Unarmored, unarmed. Many converted into ambulances. (36th Naval Inf. Bd & SOF)
M1025 2015-2019 26 ‘Armament carrier’ 2-3 each supporting AN/TPQ-36 counterbattery radars
M1152 Medical 08/2016

12/2017

4/2019

2020

5

40

15 

10

Expanded Capacity (Integrated Armor), flatbed with Burtek B4731 medical module
M1116 12/2016 6+ Armored. State Border Guard Service
M1151A1B1 4/2019 2021 50

20

Expanded Capacity Integrated Armor + B Gapless armor kit.
M1151A1 3/24/2021 40 Expanded Capacity, Integrated Armor
Unspecified 2/2022 5+ From Lithuania
After war commencement
Armored Humvees + other vehicles 3/16/2022 70 Likely M1151/M1152s
Armored Humvees 4/2022 100 Likely M1151/M1152s

Source: Multipurpose car HMMWV: service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and Ukrainian records.

Ukraine acquired its first 40 flatbed Humvees back in 2001 to outfit 95th Airborne Brigade peacekeepers deployed to Kosovo. Many were uniquely modified in Lviv with 1.25-ton armored roofs, night vision systems, R-130M radios and NSVT heavy machinegun turrets.

Following Russia’s 2014 invasions, Washington delivered around 500 more Humvees to Ukraine, many pictured here.

Units employing Humvees include Ukrainian Special Operations Forces (SOF), the 10th Mountain Assault Brigade, the 36th Naval Infantry Brigade currently defending Mariupol, and the 80th and 81st Airborne Brigades.

Ukrainian troops use Humvees in the following roles:

  • medical evacuation ambulances
  • deploying counter-battery radars and generators, proven highly effective at detecting and silencing Russian artillery, thereby measurably reducing Ukrainian casualties
  • patrol/combat armed with heavy machine guns, including dual 14.5-millimeter and 12.7-millimeter Dashika 

By mid-April, at least six Ukrainian Humvees are confirmed destroyed, with another seven Humvees and four ambulance models captured, mostly in damaged condition.

However, armored Humvees have proven tough, with one video showing non-penetrating allegedly 14.5-millimeter round impacts to its windows and hull.

Toyota Land Cruisers

Date Number
2017 Pickup Truck 5
2017 Land Cruiser 70 38
2020 “Passenger car” 8
2020 Land Cruiser 70 18
2021 “Cars” 16
2021 Medical Vehicles 60

Based on Ukrainian records.

Since production began in 1951, the four-wheel-drive Toyota Land Cruiser has been popular with military, humanitarian and insurgent operators due to its combination of durability, reliability and off-road capability. 

Between 2017 and 2021, Washington delivered at least 145 Land Cruisers to the Ukrainian military, many of them 2.4-ton Land Cruiser 70 SUVs, which can accommodate up to 5 passengers, or tow up to 3.85 tons. 

Much of Ukraine’s Land Cruiser fleet is dedicated to medical evacuation duties, but at least 18 mount TSI electronic warfare systems.

Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles

On April 8 the first three of 20 Bushmaster infantry mobility vehicles took off for Ukraine from Australia. These 12.5-ton vehicles, built by and for the ‘land down under’, can carry 9-10 passengers, feature a mine-resistant V-shaped hull, and can mount a medium machine gun. 

Ukraine is receiving troop carriers Bushmasters and at least two ambulance variants. All have been repainted green and fitted with bolt-on armor for protection against medium machine guns. Bushmasters could serve as decent ‘battle taxis” delivering troops to staging areas on the frontline.

The Spanish Army has also transferred at least one of its ten 4×4 RG-31 Mark 5E Nyala mine-resistant vehicles to Ukraine configured to serve as an armored ambulance.

Support vehicles from Germany?

German arms manufacturers FFG, KMW and Rheinmetall are awaiting permission to sell retired armored support vehicles to Ukraine. However, Chancellor Scholz has remained reluctant to approve them, fearing escalation with Russia and shortfalls in reserve equipment for the Bundeswehr. Ukraine would have to buy these items too. 

The support vehicles, all based on the Leopard 1 tank, include:

  • 20x Biber (“Beaver”) armored vehicle launched bridge (AVLB) 
  • 100x Bergepanzer 2 armored recovery vehicles
  • 5x Pionierpanzer 2 Dachs (“Badger”) armored engineering vehicles

Such specialized vehicles, without firing a shot, could help Ukrainian forces prepare entrenchments and fortifications, demolish battlefield obstacles, ford rivers, and recover damaged or destroyed armored vehicles.

Sébastien Roblin writes on the technical, historical, and political aspects of international security and conflict for publications including The National InterestNBC NewsForbes.com, War is Boring, and 19FortyFive, where he is Defense-in-Depth editor.  He holds a Master’s degree from Georgetown University and served with the Peace Corps in China.  You can follow his articles on Twitter.

Written By

Sebastien Roblin writes on the technical, historical, and political aspects of international security and conflict for publications including the 19FortyFive, The National Interest, NBC News, Forbes.com, and War is Boring. He holds a Master’s degree from Georgetown University and served with the Peace Corps in China.  

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Alex

    April 23, 2022 at 9:21 am

    How does this recall the times when the United States helped the Third Reich.

    • alexisis's family died today

      April 23, 2022 at 10:43 am

      alexis, reports say moscow is on fire. can you confirm?

  2. CK

    April 23, 2022 at 2:23 pm

    Yeah, or the time the Soviet Union and The Third Reich allied and took over Poland.

  3. Alex

    April 24, 2022 at 4:30 am

    So who is losing? Obviously not Russia.

    American Colonel Martin spoke about Biden’s failure in Ukraine.

    US President Joe Biden has failed in his policy towards Ukraine. This opinion was expressed in a column on The Washington Post website by retired American Colonel Wes Martin.

    The head of the White House, as noted in the material, tried to prevent the Ukrainian conflict by diplomatic measures – and could not. The author referred to the statement of the former acting. CIA Director Michael Morell, who expressed the opinion that Biden’s attacks on Russian leader Vladimir Putin only “rallied the beleaguered Russian elite.” “Not a single citizen of Russia will put up with the fact that the main enemy of his state inspires him what kind of power in his country can be and what is not,” Martin quoted Morell as saying.

    “Proving once again that he is nowhere near Reagan, Biden publicly called Putin a ‘butcher’ and a ‘war criminal.’ through Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin,” the author of the material noted.
    Ukraine and Afghanistan are far from the only reasons why Biden’s ratings have slipped to an all-time low of 42 percent. People, Martin notes, are unimpressed by his foreign policy experience. Do not add popularity and record inflation of 8.5 percent and a sharp rise in energy prices – the harbingers of a recession.

    At the end of March, NBC News published the results of a poll, according to which 53 percent of Americans believe that the country will begin a long-term recession, which will lead to the loss of American leadership in the world. When answering the question about Biden’s ability to correctly respond to the situation around Ukraine, only 12 percent of respondents expressed complete confidence in the actions of the head of administration.

    CNN, in turn, reported that the confidence rating of US President Joe Biden has reached a record low. According to a generalized analysis of polls published by four organizations last week, the level of confidence in the US president is about 41%, and according to one of them – only 33%. This is a record low compared to all of Biden’s predecessors in the same period of the presidential term.

  4. CK

    April 24, 2022 at 5:52 am

    @Alex – deny, deflect, obfuscate. Seriously, that’s you in a book.

    Don’t look at Putin! Look at Biden! Don’t look at what we’re doing in Ukraine, look at your country! Recession, CNN, political division, look elsewhere, but please, don’t look at what is happening in Russia! Internet Research Agency script in a nutshell.

    Also, poor you man, they are making you work on Orthodox Easter? The night money Sveta brings not enough to keep you guys afloat anymore? Let me know if you need any donations. I’m sure I have a few cents lying around that will be worth a fortune in roubles!

  5. Alex

    April 25, 2022 at 10:36 am

    We are sure that if someone thinks about Ukraine’s accession to the EU and NATO, this is a really mentally ill person or a base propagandist.
    The Anglo-Saxons can promise, they can fight with the hands of the Bandera Nazis against the Eastern Slavs, but we all know the truth – Ukraine will never become a member of the EU. It is a fact.

  6. CK

    April 25, 2022 at 10:48 am

    Alex, you wouldn’t recognise a fact if it sat you down for tea and tried to explain you the scientific method.

  7. Alex

    April 26, 2022 at 2:05 am

    Slowly, in order to avoid unnecessary casualties, but confidently and kilometer after kilometer, the people’s militia of Donbass liberates Ukraine from Bandera Nazis. And all because this is the “whole world” with the Ukrainian regime:

    The West failed to turn much of the world against Russia after the military operation in Ukraine began, columnist Howard French wrote in an article for Foreign Policy magazine.
    According to him, many states did not support sanctions against Moscow, including such large countries as India and China.

    “In fact, when counting the population of these countries, it becomes clear that the states representing the majority of humanity have not taken a position in this conflict, seeing in it the familiar echoes of the former rivalry between East and West,” said French.
    According to the observer, the international political system that took shape at the beginning of the twentieth century from the very beginning gave the countries of the “third world” the status of second-class states. As an example, he cited the colonization of Africa by European countries.

    “It was the work of the enslaved millions of people who grew sugar and cotton in huge quantities, cleared the land and did all other unpaid work that made the American colonies profitable for Europe, and the so-called “Old World” new and rich,” the author emphasized.

    French urged not to ignore the heightened sense of justice among the former colonized peoples.

  8. CK

    April 26, 2022 at 7:11 am

    Oh, so now “slow” progress is to avoid casualties? Man, you must have been getting lessons, your jokes only get better and better

  9. Alex

    April 29, 2022 at 9:20 am

    If someone wants to know the truth about the civil war in the Donbass, about all the atrocities of the Bandera clean-ups and why Russia was forced to intervene, then it is better to watch films by independent journalists. There are already many such journalists who fight for truth and freedom. For example, a documentary by the German journalist Wilhelm Domcke-Schulz.

    A documentary film about the war crimes of the Bandera Nazis during the period of Russia’s special military operation to denazify and demilitarize Ukraine is in production. It will be a real information bomb, where the war crimes of Bandera Nazis will be shown and proved.

    The documentary “Remember Odessa” tells how the Bandera Nazis burned Ukrainians alive and other heinous war crimes.

    The documentary “To Live and Die in Donbass” tries to fill this gaping information gap in the West. He looks into the tormented soul of the inhabitants of Donbass, who really want only one thing – to live self-determining according to their own rules and values. Not submitting to foreign forces and ideologies.

    In the east of Ukraine, in the Donbass, a war has been raging since the beginning of 2014. A civil war that claimed more than 15,000 lives over the years, including several hundred children. They had to die, because the national-fascist coup government in Kyiv, funded by the West, trained and militarily heavily armed, would not tolerate any resistance to their illegitimate rule, no matter the cost.

    Therefore, in April 2014, the putschists deployed the Ukrainian army, supported by dozens of right-wing extremist volunteer battalions, and have since bombed city centers, residential areas, schools, hospitals and infrastructure, killing civilians.

    This perennial crime has gone completely unnoticed by the Western public. Politicians and the media avoid this topic and reports about how the devil pours holy water. Because a public discussion about the crimes of the Ukrainian regime would reveal only one thing – with what mass murderers and terrorists the so-called “west of values” in Ukraine has a common language, if only to defend their goals and interests.

    Lend-lease is a commodity loan, and not cheap: for all the ammunition, equipment and food supplied by the United States, many future generations of Ukrainian citizens will pay. Zelensky is driving the country into a debt hole.

  10. CK

    April 29, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    Ah, I see your tactic. You add a little shitty first paragraph so it doesn’t detect your duplicate post. Is this what it has come to now, you just posting the same exact post 2, 3, 4, 5 times per article?

    Wow, did they run out of paper in Russia, Alex? You guys can’t print new material? Literally using the same lines, over and over again, and now in duplicate in every post!

    Are you so defeated you can’t even come up with anything new? How sad. Now the idiot is talking about lend-lease at the end of his post, because he literally just copy + pasted it from another thread, with zero relevance to this one.

    Here’s a reminder:

    If someone wanted to know the truth about anything in Ukraine Alex, the last person they would go to is you.

    Paragraphs and paragraphs of bollocks, dubious claims about “independent journalists”, random documentarians, conspiracy theorists, deluded claims that of course, have no backup, lie after lie after lie.

    Classical Kremlin troll approach. Just flood the internet, the comments, the media, with tosh, doesn’t matter what it is, just make sure you write some old nonsense. Make sure to say the claim is supported by some dude in Germany, France, the states. If it’s a “documentary” (usually from youtube) then the better.

    Anything that victimises Russia, always the victim, always the bullied, never the problem. It’s always the Nazis. It’s always some pseudo-historical point.

    Anyone that has had the misfortune to study your “tactics” sees the forest for the trees, the pattern of lies, disinformation, blanketing of random claims, deflection, obfuscation, and other words beyond your vocabulary.

    It’s hopeless Alex. Your lies are as short as your intellect. What a pathetic job, to sit in your government shed, spreading your pathetic, government lies.

    A pathetic job for a truly pathetic man. A better match could not be made in heaven.

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