You might recall that American M777 towed howitzers were promised to Ukraine recently. Sometimes promises are broken in warfare, but not so in this case. The Americans indeed donated 90 M777 howitzers to Ukraine. These pieces have already made it to the battlefield, and Ukrainian soldiers have fired numerous 155mm shells downrange at Russian targets.
This video on Twitter is must-see TV – see below. It is a well-produced, high-action spot that shows Ukrainian artillery crews at work. Some of them recently received a crash course led by American training personnel, and the schoolwork is already paying dividends.
The United States took a train the trainer approach. They invited 370 select Ukrainian artillery officers and non-commissioned officers to Germany and gave them a two-week course covering the basics of towed-howitzer operations. Other personnel learned how to maintain the guns. The Ukrainians appear to have learned quickly.
In addition to the howitzers, Ukraine’s armed forces received a remarkable 144,000 155mm rounds, as well as 72 trucks to transport the guns. This is enough to supply five battalions.
The defenders have expressed their appreciation. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander in chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said on Facebook that the artillery pieces are welcome additions. “Special greetings and thanks from our artillerists to the American people for the M777 howitzers. My guys know the price of artillery. First of all, they wanted to convey that this is a high-precision and very effective weapon. Together to victory.”
Australia and Canada sent a total of ten additional M777s to Ukraine. Made with titanium, the guns are lighter than previous models of American towed howitzers. This makes them easier to transport by airplane and truck. Once disengaged by the towing vehicle, it takes just six minutes to lay the gun, then the crew can begin firing.
#Ukraine: The Ukrainian army is currently actively utilizing in combat recently supplied M777A2 howitzers. Oshkosh FMTV M1083 trucks, which are used to tow the howitzers, were also donated by the US. pic.twitter.com/eSRM1VzdEn
— ?? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) May 14, 2022
The U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army have featured the M777 in their field artillery since 2008. The gun saw extensive action against the Taliban in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later against ISIS.
The howitzer showcases a longer-ranged 155mm projectile that weighs about 100 pounds – Ukraine’s Soviet-era guns usually fire 152mm and 122mm projectiles with a shorter range and less accuracy than the M777. Its standard M795 high-explosive shell has a range of 19 miles. This projectile can target everything from tanks and armored vehicles to enemy trench emplacements, supply and ammunition depots, and command and control installations. NATO countries can resupply the shells if Ukraine uses up the original batch sent by the Americans.
Heavy artillery has been on the Ukrainian wish list since the war started. The Ukrainians are also fond of U.S. M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, but they are not likely to get these advanced systems. The Ukrainians are getting self-propelled guns from the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy.
Counter-Artillery Fire Is Needed
As the fight in Ukraine morphs into an artillery duel between Russia and Ukraine, the defenders will need to focus more on counter-battery fire. Here, another NATO member has stepped up to the plate. Germany plans to send counter-battery radar to help the Ukrainians destroy Russian cannons. The Cobra system they will supply can scope out 40 enemy artillery positions, mortars, and rocket launchers within a range of 62 miles, according to the German military.
The Ukrainians will make good use of these artillery systems. They will help the defenders better target the enemy. Additional personnel can also attend the impromptu artillery school in Germany and take their newly acquired knowledge to better prepare Ukrainian field artillery soldiers. This important development could swing the howitzer war in Ukraine’s favor.
Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.