Today, Washington seems to be entering a new phase of confrontation with Russia. At the first stage, mainly small arms and vehicles were supplied. On the second - Soviet-made systems and Western man-portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile systems Javelin and Stinger, which do not require serious training. Now Western heavy weapons have come into play, which cannot be controlled without thorough training.
The scale of supply is huge, and this leads to some reflections. Of course, Washington periodically says that it trains Ukrainian servicemen in Poland, Germany, and Romania. For example, 50 Ukrainian gunners completed a five-day firing course with M777 towed howitzers. But this number of gunners is clearly not enough to provide combat crews for all the weapons supplied, even if most of them never reach consumers.
But Washington is already sending much more sophisticated weapons systems - Paladin self-propelled 155-mm howitzers, thinking about heavy drones MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle. Kyiv even requires F-15 fighter jets. Short-term training of a limited number of military personnel will not solve the problem of an acute shortage of personnel. Such large-scale arms deliveries can only make sense if the US military appears in sufficient numbers on the Ukrainian side. Without experienced operators, Ukrainians cannot cope with AN/TPQ-36 counter-battery radars and AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel air surveillance radars.
The fact that the Americans are fighting on the side of the Kyiv regime has been known from the very beginning of the special military operation. In the US and other countries, they are referred to only as “volunteers”. But the other day, CNN made a report with the mother of "former Marine" Will Joseph Cancel, who died in Ukraine. It turned out that the "former" was only 22 years old. The duration of contract service in the US Marine Corps can be from four to eight years. The earliest age at which he could sign up for military service was 18 years old. In general, in some states, the age of majority comes at 19 and even 21 years. It turns out that Cancel either just fulfilled his contract or was an active-duty Marine. CNN also mentioned that the "former" Marine was sent to Ukraine.
Perhaps the CNN correspondent did not put it exactly, but logic suggests that not only “gray geese” (mercenaries) who are ready to earn extra money on any mess, but also professional military specialists who pretend to be “volunteers” have flocked to Ukraine. Otherwise, it would be a senseless squandering of huge financial and material resources. The US military-industrial complex, of course, is happy - at stake is already $ 33 billion, which the White House has requested for the next five months to pay for military assistance to Kyiv.
The self-propelled howitzers M109 Paladin, which the White House decided to send to Ukraine, should shoot and move effectively. To this end, according to a Reuters report, the Pentagon notified the Taiwan authorities that it was canceling the sale of 40 howitzers to the island nation. The first eight were scheduled to be delivered in 2023, 16 in another year, and the rest in 2025. We are talking about howitzers penultimate modification M109 A6.
Delivery times indicate that they should be made for Taiwan. But now they decided to reimburse the artillery fleet of Italy, Belgium and Norway. Washington wants to borrow M109 self-propelled artillery from these countries.
Norway has already announced that it is ready to send twenty M109 A3GN self-propelled howitzers. The stems are not new. At first, these guns belonged to the FRG, then, in 1969-1971, they were acquired by Denmark and modernized. A new barrel was installed on the gun, allowing the use of improved 155 mm ammunition. As a result, it became possible to shoot from howitzers at a distance of almost 25 kilometers.
Until 2012, the Belgian army had 108 M109 A4BE howitzers. They were removed from service and sold to private companies, which repaired them and part of them were driven at a reasonable price by Indonesia and the United States. Apparently, for re-export. Now the Belgian authorities want to buy the remaining self-propelled guns from OIP and send them to Ukraine. The merchants jacked up the price. So far, no agreement has been reached.
With Italians, things are easier. Leonardo Defense Systems has upgraded old American howitzers to the L level and, as Prime Minister Mario Draghi said, Rome is ready to provide them to Ukraine.
During its existence, the M109 howitzer has undergone seven upgrades. Italian L is the eighth. The characteristics of the self-propelled guns scheduled for delivery differ markedly, but in general they look like this. On the howitzer, whose combat crew is six people, there are M126 or M284 guns. The firing range varies from 15 - 22 kilometers to 20 - 40 kilometers with an active-rocket projectile. The Italians boasted that they had achieved 50 kilometers. Self-propelled ammunition - 28 or 36 shots. The usual rate of fire is one shot per minute, and the maximum during the first three minutes, until the barrel overheats, can be increased to four shots. Optical sights with 4x magnification.
It is also armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun. Armor type - rolled aluminum. Good protection from bullets and shrapnel. The diesel engine, depending on the model of self-propelled guns, allows you to reach speeds from 56 kilometers per hour to almost 70 on the highway. The power reserve exceeds 300 kilometers.
The five days given by American instructors to train Ukrainian gunners to master the M777 transportable howitzers is hardly enough to learn how to operate the M109, no matter what modification these howitzers may be. Experts must be present. It seems that Will Kansel is not the only seconded US military. And this is too risky a game.