The Ukrainian large-scale counteroffensive has finally begun after months of waiting.
Leading the way are some of the Ukrainian military’s most elite units that have been trained and equipped by NATO.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has stood up several new units to take part in the large-scale counteroffensive.
The 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade is one of them. The unit is equipped with Western weapon systems, and its leadership has undergone tactical and operational training in Germany.
Another elite unit taking part in the offensive is the 37th Marine Brigade, which is equipped with the AMX-10 RC tank destroyer, courtesy of the French military.
The Ukrainian military leadership is throwing these and other elite units into the fray with the goal of finding and taking advantage of weaknesses on the Russian frontlines. Once they have created a gap, then the Ukrainian military can throw additional forces in an attempt to create an operational breakthrough.
Militaries from across NATO have helped train the Ukrainian forces for the upcoming counteroffensive. The United Kingdom, in particular, has played an important role. Ukrainian volunteers have been participating in a five-week program in the U.K.
Up until the first week of May, the British Military had trained more than 14,000 Ukrainian recruits. And that is just one of the programs all around NATO that has been training Ukrainian forces.
Combined Arms Warfare
One key concept that will make or break the Ukrainian counteroffensive is combined arms warfare. As a force of the Soviet tradition, the Ukrainian military has struggled to shed obsolete doctrine and adapt to the modern age of warfare.
Starting in 2014, after the Russian invasion and illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the start of the pro-Russian insurgency in the Donbas, the United States and NATO started working with the Ukrainian military. In the eight years before the full-scale Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, the Ukrainian military changed a lot.
To begin with, the Ukrainian military doctrine didn’t require a strong non-commissioned officer corps. Known as NCOs in the West, these tactical middle managers lead smaller tactical units, such as squads. Ukrainian (and Russian) doctrine called for centralized decisions on the tactical level by junior officers. But that model is problematic. If an officer isn’t adequately trained or charismatic or is killed, the unit immediately loses direction and purpose. However, through a strong NCO corps, a unit has much more flexibility on the ground and can withstand casualties on its leadership. The Ukrainian military today is using more NCOs and is thus more tactically agile than its adversary.
Another obstacle that the Ukrainian military has faced is combined arms warfare, or the combination of different arms, such as artillery, tanks, mechanized infantry, and air power, to maximize the effectiveness of each.
Ukrainian units trained by NATO have focused a lot of field and classroom time on combined arms warfare. Whether they have been good students will be shown on the ground in Ukraine in the following days and weeks.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.