Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been going on for more than a year. One of the factors that allowed the defenders to survive was the supply of armaments. Three weapons in particular changed the course of the war: Javelin anti-tank missiles, HIMARS missile launchers and Bayraktar TB2 drones.
When a year ago the president of Russia Vladimir Putin sent his troops to attack Ukraine, most observers expected a quick victory for the invaders. However, the initial forecasts did not come true. Experts cite various factors behind this, including higher morale and better military tactics on the Ukrainian side, but also – most importantly – the supply of armaments.
While recent discussions and information in the media space have focused on the potential of Western tanks or Patriot air defense systems to influence the outcome of the war, these systems have yet to be used in combat in Ukraine. But there are other weapons that have already helped to change the course of this conflict.
At the very beginning of the war there was a threat that within a few days Russian armored columns heading towards Kiev would appear on the streets of the city. So the Ukrainians needed something to stop this attack – and they found it in the form of Javelin rocket launchers – guided anti-tank missiles fired from the shoulder by one person.
Part of their appeal lies in their ease of use. As the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, which developed the missile together with Raytheon, explains: “To fire, the shooter places the cursor over the selected target. The Javelin launch unit then sends a lock-on signal to the missile before firing.”
The Javelin is a fire-and-forget weapon. As soon as its operator fires a shot, it can run for cover, and the projectile will find its way to its target. This was especially important in the first days of the war, because the Russians tried to enter Ukrainian cities with armored columns. The Javelin operator could launch a missile from a building or from behind a tree and disappear before the Russians could return fire.
The Javelin is also good at hitting the weak point of Russian tanks – their upper, horizontal armor on the turret – because the shell after firing goes skyward and then falls on the target from above. This could be seen in the photos from the beginning of the war, which showed Russian tanks with “blown” towers, for which, among others, the Germans were responsible. Javelin missiles.
The impact of the Javelins on the course of the fighting was so great that two and a half months after the start of the war, the US president Joe Biden visited their factory in Alabama, where he praised the workers for their help in defending Ukraine.
Javelins had another advantage, especially at the beginning of the war: their delivery to Ukraine was politically acceptable. “Their low cost and defensive use make them politically easier to deliver to other countries,” wrote Michael Armstrong, an associate professor at Brock University in Ontario in Canada. “Governments do not agree on sending more expensive offensive weapons, such as warplanes,” he added.
M142 HIMARS, or High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, is a rocket artillery system with an emphasis on high mobility. It’s combat-proven, all-weather, 24/7, deadly wheeled precision strike system touted by US ground forces.
The HIMARS launcher is a five-ton truck carrying a capsule that can fire six rockets almost simultaneously, sending their explosive warheads far beyond the front lines, then quickly reposition themselves to avoid a counterattack.
“If the Javelin was the iconic weapon of the early phases of the war, HIMARS is the iconic weapon of the later phases,” Mark Cancian, senior adviser for the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in January.
HIMARS launches missiles called GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System), which has a range of 70 to 80 kilometers. And GPS guidance systems make them extremely accurate, hitting at most about 10 meters from the intended target.
Last July, Russian reporter Roman Sapenkov said that he witnessed a HIMARS attack on a Russian base at the Kherson airport in territory occupied by the aggressor at the time. “What struck me was that the whole package, five or six rockets, landed practically within the surface of one small coin,” he wrote.
The use of HIMARS had two key effects, Yagil Henkin, a professor at the Israel Defense Forces Command and Staff College, wrote for US Marine Corps University Press. The attacks forced “the Russians to move their ammunition depots further to the rear of the front, thus reducing the available firepower of Russian artillery near the front line and hampering logistical support,” Henkin wrote. He stated that the use of long-range missiles to hit targets such as bridges had disrupted Russian supply systems.
Bayraktar TB2 drones
Designed in Turkey, the drone has become one of the world’s most famous unmanned aerial vehicles due to its use in war in Ukraine. It is relatively cheap, it is made of ready-made parts. It is highly effective. Like almost every drone, it allows you to record the course of the mission using an optoelectronic head.
These videos showed him destroying Russian armor, artillery and supply lines with missiles, laser-guided missiles and smart bombs. “The popular TB2 videos are a prime example of modern warfare in the TikTok era,” Aaron Stein of the Institute for Foreign Policy Research wrote on the Atlantic Council think tank’s website.
The Bayraktar TB2 wasn’t a “magic weapon” but it was “good enough,” he wrote. As weaknesses, he listed low speed and vulnerability to anti-aircraft attacks. The statistics on the battlefield seem to confirm this. Seventeen of the 40 to 50 TB2s received by Ukraine were destroyed in combat, according to the Oryx website, which collects publicly available intelligence.
But Stein says the number of losses is offset by the drone’s low cost, meaning it can be replaced relatively easily. The plan to create an assembly line for drones in Ukraine was made before the war. And the use of drones has potentially saved the lives of Ukrainian pilots who would otherwise have had to carry out their missions.
Recent reports from Ukraine indicate that the TB2 may play a smaller role as Russian forces have learned to fight it more effectively, but its enthusiasts claim that it proved itself when Ukraine’s war situation was at its most uncertain.
Videos of successful Turkish drone attacks on Russian positions were “a great morale booster,” Samuel Bendett, a Russian specialist at the Center of Naval Analyzes, told CNN early in the war. “It’s a public relations victory,” he added.
The success of the Bayraktar TB2 drones in Ukraine has made them a symbol of effective resistance in the Ukrainian-Russian war. About this machine even songs are madeand in the Kiev zoo a newborn lemur was named after Bayraktar.
Currently, Bayraktars TB2 serve not only in the army of Ukraine, but also in: Qatar, Morocco, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Libya and Poland. Simultaneously the director of the Turkish company producing these drones announced that he would never deliver them to Russia.
The manufacturer of the Bayraktar TB2 drones, Baykar has announced that in 2023 it will start producing the next generation of drones under the name Bayraktar Kızılelma. The new machines are to be even more effective, fly further, higher and be harder to detect by the enemy.
Main photo source: PAP/EPA