Ukraine is very grateful for all the cannon, howitzers and rocket artillery the West has sent. But the Ukrainians want more – particularly high tech precision rockets with a lot more reach.

No less than Valery Zaluzhny, Ukrainian army commander and a man rarely given to public statements (much less on social media), in a May 26 Telegram post said: “We badly need weapons that can hit the enemy at a long distance. There should be no delay, because the price of waiting is lives of our people, who are defending the world from Russia.”

The same day, Kyiv spin doctors wheeled out Oleksiy Arestovych, one of the Ukrainian government’s most voluble wartime commentators. In remarks plastered over social media and repeated by most major Ukrainian television channels, Arestovych declared Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF) units in Donbas nearly broken by powerful Russian attacks that only new, better Western weapons could repel.

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“They (Western nations) are taking a test in morality and competence (адекватность), and they are failing it,” Arestovych said. “They are yielding to Putin’s threats…and they don’t want to send Ukraine rocket artillery.”

The Ukrainian allegations about Western artillery stinginess came, incongruously, as news surfaced that recent series of quite bloody Russia defeats was thanks, primarily, to Ukrainian gunners operating American cannon firing NATO-standard shells.

According to multiple sources, massed bombardments by dozens of US-made M777 howitzers deployed in central Donbas eviscerated RF units attempting to bridge the Siviersky Donets River in early May, preventing an RF breakthrough and encirclement of thousands of UAF troops. UAF Brigadier General Oleksy Hromov credited the victories directly to the foreign guns.

“There was an artillery division of 155mm M777 howitzers. The distance from the firing positions to the impact area was around 20 kilometers. The target was an enemy river crossing near the village Bilohorodivka. The result was five direct hits on a pontoon bridge, and the destruction of 40 enemy tanks and armored personnel carriers,” Hromov said.

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The NATO guns backed by modern targeting radars are so accurate, Hromov said, that one M777 can do the damage of four Soviet-era cannon. Hromov’s remarks, made public the same day Arestovych complained the West wasn’t doing enough on the arms supply front, were the UAF’s first public confirmation of massed use of M777 guns, or any foreign howitzer, on a Ukrainian battlefield.

According to Pentagon statistics, the US has sent Ukraine 108 towed M777 NATO-standard howitzers, of which 85 are already “forward” with Ukrainian combat units. Along with the guns, 209,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition have been shipped, of which 190,000 shells are in UAF depots or ammunition dumps, and ready for use. Training UAF troops is another facet of the delivery pipeline, and thus far the US has trained 419 UAF gunners in operating the M777 howitzer, and 30 more mechanics on advanced maintenance, the Pentagon official said.

Canada, Britain and Australia, France and Italy also have donated to Ukraine 155mm howitzer artillery, collectively less than 40 guns, according to news reports.

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Military analysts told Kyiv Post Russo-Ukraine war is a conventional conflict involving more than a half million soldiers and tens of thousands of combat vehicles, and quite simply the 150 modern cannon the West has sent Ukraine so far, probably isn’t enough to force the RF army to retreat.

“I think that one explanation (of continuing Ukrainian appeals for more weapons) is the difference between public expectation (western arms will defeat Russia), and the capacity of what’s actually being delivered,” said Mykola Beleskov, a military and security analyst with the Kyiv-headquartered National Institute of Strategic Research.

“They (NATO cannon) have had a definite effect on the battlefield, but no one can say there is no need for more,” Beleskov said, in an interview with Kyiv Post.

Beleskov said UAF would need to field “at least 500 more” 155mm guns, before truly becoming able to dictate the terms of an artillery battle where and when it wished.

Even more, analysts said, Kyiv could well use rockets or missiles able to strike long range and precise enough to hit dead center of a 12-digit GPS coordinate containing a critical rail bridge or RF army headquarters.

“There is no question that they would be real game changers and it is entire reasonable that the Ukrainians are asking for them,” said Mark Cancian, a senior researcher for the Washington-based Center for International and Strategic Studies (CISS), in an interview with Kyiv Post. “These systems use GPS…once you have a target, you program in the grids, and it lands there.”

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Oleh Izhak, an analyst for the Kyiv-based National Institute of Strategic Studies, said that RF forces are advancing now in Donbas because “Ukraine simply ran out of missiles for the MLRS to destroy the RF rear…the RF has a powerful advantage in terms of the number of barrels and the supply of shells. Western artillery assistance has begun to be provided, but not enough to offset the Russian advantage.”

Cancian said that the UAF may be reaching its limit of its ability to take aboard new technologies, and warned UAF failure to operate a new weapons system competently might “undermine the consensus to send equipment.” The US would likewise be highly unlikely to send Ukraine weapons capable of reaching out hundreds of kilometers, such as the state-of-the-art US HIMARS rocket system, due to concerns of UAF strikes deep inside Russia, he said.

Izhak said that UAF needs more of everything, particularly long-range systems, if it is ever to push the Russian army out of Ukraine, and perhaps, even just to hold present lines.

“The supply of weapons for the (UAF) counteroffensive is the key issue of the day,” Izhak said. “It will decide everything. This is raw numbers of guns in the field, and creating the capacity for long-range (UAF) artillery to destroy the (RF) rear – Ukraine has actually run out of multiple launch rocket systems.”

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The Pentagon official that transfer to Ukraine of one or both of the American rocket artillery systems capable of deep strikes – the track-mounted M270 and the truck-mounted HIMARS – is “under discussion”. The US decision on arming Ukraine with long-range precision rockets, or not, “will be announced when it is announced,” he said.

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