Ukraine’s counteroffensive finally started to pick up speed last month, when troops managed to penetrate Russia’s main defensive line in the southeast. While Kyiv’s efforts to recapture territory might be slower than the U.S. and other NATO allies hoped to witness, progress has been made.
However, Moscow recently launched an offensive of its own. Ukraine and its Western backers hope to avoid a stalemate, so additional weapons shipments can be expected to join the billions of dollars-worth of military platforms and aid that NATO allies have sent to Kyiv since February 2022.
From main battle tanks and munitions to anti-tank missiles and howitzers, Ukraine fields some of the most advanced and formidable systems available. Five weapons stand out for their contributions to Ukraine’s defense.
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin designed the Javelin in the mid-1980s to replace the M47 Dragon anti-tank missile. The American-made fire-and-forget system allows its operator to remain undetectable post-launch, which is a critical capability allowing a fighter to survive.
Weighing it at under 50 pounds, the missile launcher is a highly mobile weapon that can perch on a soldier’s shoulder and move from one battlespace to another. An infrared seeker guides the missile, which can be spring-ejected and travel at a rate of 1,000 feet per seven seconds.
Since the Javelin’s arrival in Ukraine, the missile launcher has proven to be a major asset. Ukrainian soldiers took to calling it Saint Javelin for its incredible tank-killing track record. Moscow’s fleet of main battle tanks has been cut by as much as half since Russia invaded, and the Javelin is responsible for many of the kills.
In January, U.S. President Joe Biden revealed that Washington would deliver thirty-one M1A1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine by the end of the year. Along with British Challengers and German Leopard 2s, the Abrams MBT will elevate the quality of Kyiv’s armored corps.
For more than four decades, the Abrams family of tanks has been a mainstay for the U.S. Army. Newer variants help the tank retain a serious edge over its competitors. In addition to a 120mm main gun, the Abrams is equipped with a 1,500 horsepower turbine engine and armor piercing capabilities.
As detailed by Newsweek, “There have been several models of the M1A1, with the later ones including upgrades such as improving situational awareness and increasing the firepower. The “main upgrade” is in the M1A1’s sighting devices, including with a single second-generation Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) sighting system and an additional tactical information system.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has come to be characterized as a “drone war.” Unmanned aerial vehicles are cheap, easy to produce, and extremely lethal. Kyiv and Moscow lean heavily on these aerial weapons to achieve their war agendas.
While Ukraine has a litany of drone types in its arsenal, the Switchblade series of drones designed by Virginia-based manufacturer AeroVironment has performed especially well. Like the Javelin missile launcher, the Switchblade UAV uses a launch-and-forget firing mechanism. These small but mighty drones can singlehandedly destroy Russian main battle tanks.
The HIMARS system is an advanced rocket launcher developed by Lockheed Martin. It fires both GMLRS medium-range rockets and ATACMS long-range rockets. The U.S. has restricted the export of the longer-ranged ATACMS rockets to Ukraine thus far in the hope of preventing further escalation. But the ATACMS munitions Ukraine has received, it has used to great effect.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine have used HIMARS primarily to strike at Russian logistics and supplies. Such strikes are crucial to degrade the Russian army’s capability both to defend against Ukraine’s counteroffensive, and to launch further offensives of its own.
HIMARS has shown its efficacy in crucial battles throughout the conflict, helping Ukraine retake large swathes of Ukrainian territory. As George Barros, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War said: “Without the HIMARS, I don’t think the Ukrainians would have liberated Kherson.”
More recently, the AFU has used the HIMARS system in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast to strike at the Russian “land bridge” to Crimea. Attacks on this major logistics corridor make the Russian position far more tenuous and reduce the Russian Navy’s ability to operate out of Sevastopol and project power in the Black Sea.
Patriot Missile System
As the conflict wore on, Russia turned increasingly to drones to hit targets deep within Ukraine. It also launched several of its vaunted Kinzhal hypersonic missiles from their own airspace. The Patriot is a key piece of defensive equipment to counter these attacks.
Designed by Raytheon in the 1980s, the Patriot system includes interceptor missiles and tracking radars. Despite its advanced age, it has held up well with continued upgrades. The two systems currently in use in Ukraine provide an excellent defense of Kyiv, reportedly shooting down seven Kinzhals.
In August, Germany confirmed it would supply two more of these systems to Ukraine, doubling their arsenal and increasing their capacity to intercept and destroy Russian strikes. These strikes, while not overly devastating so far, have been a constant source of disruption. The Patriot provides a solid defense and greatly reduces the pain Russian strikes can inflict.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.
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