Despite repeated requests from the Ukrainian government for the United States for F-15 and F-16 fighter planes to be included in military aid packages to the country, the U.S. government has so far refrained from doing so. Soviet-era fighter planes have, however, made their way to Ukraine in recent weeks as some European countries stepped up their support.
As Soviet-built aircraft and weaponry become increasingly difficult for the West to procure, however, the United States and NATO allies are increasingly sending more modern, Western weapons and vehicles that Ukrainian soldiers are mostly unfamiliar with.
In April, the United States offered a deal to several Eastern European countries that had Soviet-era munitions that they could spare for Ukraine. The U.S. promised to replace those munitions with NATO-standard guns, aircraft, artillery, and more. Rather than gifting Western weapons and aircraft to Ukraine, which the Biden administration has previously warned would be “escalatory,” the U.S. would instead encourage other countries to donate their own equipment and replace them with newer equipment.
Mark Cancian, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, described the situation as a “win-win” for NATO.
“It makes the logistics easier, and the supplying of weapons easier because you have a broader sort of set of suppliers,” he said.
As those Soviet-era weapons and vehicles become increasingly difficult to find, however, training Ukrainian soldiers has become more urgent.
During negotiations this week, Ukraine requested that Western countries begin training Ukrainian pilots to use Western aircraft.
“We say: let’s send pilots to learn to fly your planes. Because soon they will still fly here anyway, even though you resist,” Zelenskyy said.
According to a report by Ukrainska Pravda, some Western partners were initially hesitant to agree to supply Western weapons to Ukraine. With no more 152mm caliber ammunition for Soviet howitzers left, Western howitzers are now being provided to Ukraine – and Ukrainian soldiers aren’t familiar with many of the NATO weapons headed their way.
Ukrainian Troops Already Training in Germany
While the only Ukrainian troops to receive training in the United States were those already present in the country before the war began, many troops have received training from Western soldiers in Poland. On Tuesday, however, more than 60 Ukrainian troops arrived in Germany for training on the Panzerhaubitze 2000 artillery system.
Government sources in Germany revealed on Tuesday how Ukrainian troops are learning to use the German-manufactured self-propelled howitzers recently gifted to Ukraine. The howitzers are operated by five soldiers and can fire ordinance as far as 30 kilometers.
Soldiers who will soon begin using the howitzers for themselves on the frontlines in eastern Ukraine arrived in Germany to train at the Bundeswehr artillery school.
The training is expected to take quite some time, too, meaning that the howitzers themselves may not be helpful to Ukraine for several more weeks. Troops are expected to undergo at least 40 days of training.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.