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Race against time: Ukraine runs out of ammo, calls for MLRS, artillery – US “willing to provide” everything needed

Ukrainian troops operating a French self-propelled 155 mm gun-howitzer. Photo: Ministry of Defense of Ukraine
Race against time: Ukraine runs out of ammo, calls for MLRS, artillery – US “willing to provide” everything needed
Article by: Yuri Zoria
Ukrainian officials have recently gone public about Ukraine’s drastic lack of ammunition and heavy artillery, imploring for urgent deliveries of MRLS and other heavy weapons. Here is an overview of what Ukrainian officials say they need to win the war.

Initially being cagey about war losses, Ukrainian officials started divulging the numbers

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in his Facebook post that Ukraine desperately needs much more heavy weapons and ammunition including rocket artillery to keep fighting and reclaim the occupied territories. Ukraine has already received 150 artillery pieces and 250 armored vehicles of Western models, and the Soviet-made equipment, which “would have been enough for a victorious defense operation against any army in Europe, but not against Russia,” he says.

Meanwhile, in his interview with The Guardian, Deputy Head of military intelligence Vadym Skibitskyi says that the Ukrainian army has only one artillery piece against 10 to 15 Russian heavy guns.

“We need assistance, quickly,” Oleksii Reznikov told The Economist, “because the cost of any delay is measured in Ukrainian blood.”

Artillery-driven war of attrition

Both Reznikov and Skibitskyi note that at the current stage the Russian invasion has become an artillery war with Russia having a clear advantage in artillery. As Ukrainian stockpiles of Soviet-made artillery ammunition are running low, Ukraine transitions to NATO weapons:

“A key strategic decision of the past period was a change in philosophy: we launched the transfer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to heavy weaponry used by NATO member states. First of all, this applies to artillery, which plays a decisive role,” Minister Reznikov said.

Meanwhile, Skibitskyi adds that now Ukraine relies on Western-made artillery and ammunition:

“We have almost used up all of our [artillery] ammunition and are now using 155-caliber NATO standard shells.”

According to Minister Reznikov, Ukraine was well-aware in early March that Ukrainian resources were incomparable to Russia’s, and relying solely on Soviet weapons was “definitely a losing strategy.” In the wake of the quick depletion of the artillery ammunition stockpiles, Ukraine had to turn to its Western allies for help asking to supply the NATO standard artillery pieces and rounds.

Why long-range Western MLRS can become a game-changer for Ukraine

Mr. Reznikov says that the Ukrainian stockpiles of NATO 155-millimeter-caliber rounds are “already 10% larger than the stockpiles of Soviet-type [150-millimeter] large-caliber shells” that Ukraine had before the full-scale Russian invasion:

“Moreover, these new shells are more effective than their Soviet equivalents, and hence their consumption is lower,” Reznikov says.

Currently, Ukraine operates a total of 150 NATO-style artillery pieces using the 155-millimeter NATO-standard shell.

Additionally, in the first months of the all-out war, Ukraine received more than 50 other large-caliber guns, “dozens of Soviet-type MLRS units,” tens of thousands of shells, hundreds of mortars, and hundreds of thousands of projectiles, Reznikov said.

According to Skibitskyi, Ukraine is spending 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy mentioned last week that 60 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers were dying in fighting each day and a further 500 were being injured.

The heaviest artillery battles are now taking place in Ukraine’s east, where Russia concentrated most of its troops, seeking to reach the administrative borders of both Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Meanwhile, Russian forces are firing about 60,000 artillery shells and rockets a day in the Donbas, according to The New York Times citing an unnamed senior adviser to the Ukrainian military command.

Skibitskyi stressed that Ukraine needs Western long-range rocket systems (MLRS) to destroy the Russian artillery pieces at long distances.

As the US and UK have promised to supply a handful of MLRS pieces, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych says that Ukraine needs at least 60 launchers:

“If we get 60 of these systems then the Russians will lose all ability to advance anywhere, they will be stopped dead in their tracks. If we get 40 they will advance, albeit very slowly, […] with 20 they will continue to advance with higher casualties than now,” he told The Guardian.

Currently, the first Ukrainian crews are training to operate the Western MLRS systems and other types of weapons. Minister Reznikov says that more than 1,500 soldiers are involved in the training process in total,

“I had many discussions with foreign colleagues to launch early training for teams with different types of weapons that do not yet have political decisions regarding their supply. Training with some of those weapons began in March,” Reznikov noted.

The West supplies not only artillery

According to Minister Reznikov, in the course of the full-blown war, Ukraine has also received around 250 lightly armored vehicles of Western models.

“And this is not to mention the MANPADS (Stinger, Starstreak, Mistral, Piorun, Grom, etc), ATGMs (NLAW, Javelin, Milan, etc), and grenade launchers (Panzerfaust, Carl Gustaf, AT4, RGW-90 HH / MATADOR, etc). As you may well know, there are thousands of them,” Reznikov wrote.

The Western allies also supplied hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles, including “several dozen combat drones,” and Reznikov says that Ukraine expects “some serious UAVs in the upcoming aid packages.”

Also, Harpoon antiship missiles strengthened Ukraine’s coastal defenses, although the minister didn’t elaborate on how many missiles and launchers Ukraine has received.

Nevertheless, Reznikov notes, Ukraine receives only light armored vehicles from the Western partners, not necessarily equipped with weapons, while the Soviet-made equipment is “mostly obsolete and needs to be prepared for combat.” At the same time, Ukraine needs heavy armored vehicles to be able to conduct effective counterattacks.

West must avert long-term war in Ukraine – US Gen. Wesley Clark

Ukraine “desperately needs” heavy weapons

As we can see, Ukraine has received a lot of heavy equipment, although it’s still far from being enough to stop the Russian offensive in Ukraine’s east or reverse the tides of war. Outmanned and outgunned, Ukrainian troops slow down the Russian advancement by fighting for every village and road for as long as they can. However, the Russian artillery, missiles, and aircraft are slowly reducing every Donbas settlement to rubble, leaving no place to set up defenses, which makes the Ukrainian troops slowly retreat to the next positions.

The Kremlin continues to press by sheer mass, stalls, faces strong rebuff, and suffers huge casualties. But yet still has forces to advance in some parts of the front,” Reznikov says.

Minister Reznikov urges Ukraine’s Western allies to bolster and accelerate the heavy weapon supplies:

“Ukraine desperately needs heavy weapons, and very fast. We have proved that, unlike many others, we aren’t afraid of the Kremlin. But as a country, we cannot afford to be losing our best sons and daughters,” he says.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry sets the following objectives:

  • obtaining a significant amount of NATO-type MLRS units;
  • the complete replacement of Soviet-era guns with NATO-standard equipment;
  • agreeing with partners on the transition from supplies of separate platforms to “integral organic units immediately ready for combat”;
  • ensuring the supplies of “hundreds” of heavy armored vehicles;
  • obtaining fighter jets, anti-aircraft and missile defense systems.

“I cannot say that I am satisfied with the pace and quantity of weapon supplies. Absolutely not. But at the same time, I am extremely ​grateful to the countries that support us,” Reznikov concluded his Facebook post.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi has called on the US to provide more 155 mm artillery:

“[Russian forces] use artillery en masse and, unfortunately, they have a tenfold fire advantage. I reiterated my request to General Milley – to help us get more 155 mm caliber artillery systems in the shortest possible time,” Zaluzhnyi wrote on his Telegram channel.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podoliak elaborated on the numbers of heavy equipment pieces that Ukraine needs to defeat Russia. According to him, Ukraine needs 300 rocket artillery pieces, 500 tanks, 1,000 155-mm howitzers, 2,000 armored vehicles:

Currently focused on capturing the entire Donbas region, the Russian troops are also building defenses in Ukraine’s southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, where they are now finishing double and in places triple lines of defense.

“It will now be harder to get that territory back,” Skibitskyi told The Guardian. “And that’s why we need weapons,” noting that if Russians succeed in the east, they would switch to launching attacks on the major port city of Odesa, and on the key central-Ukrainian cities of Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia.

“Their aim is the whole of Ukraine and more,” Skibitskyi believes.

With artillery shells in short supply, the Ukrainian troops have to improvise in order to compensate for the lack of artillery support. For example, The New York Times mentioned that on 10 June a Ukrainian T-64 tank was used for indirect fire like an artillery piece lobbing shells at Russian positions while receiving fire adjustment commands over the radio and using a drone.

Ukraine stands ready to switch its weaponry to NATO standards within a month, Minister Reznikov claimed in his interview with The Economist,

As comrade Churchill said, give us the tools and we’ll finish the job,” Reznikov said.


On 15 June, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will host an in-person Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting of defense ministers in Brussels to discuss future weapons donations. It will be the third such meeting since the beginning of the Russian full-scale invasion. Last month, the previous virtual meeting of the group drew representatives from 47 countries, NATO, and the EU.

The US is willing to provide everything and – and to help Ukraine be successful,” Mr. Austin said during his visit to Thailand on 13 June answering the question whether the West is ready to meet Ukraine’s needs.

However, it is not only up to the US to supply the 1,000 howitzers and 300 MLRS that Ukraine needs, but also up to other countries, whose defense ministers are going to meet on 15 June. The meeting will show whether other countries are willing and able to supply the much-needed equipment to help Ukraine win the race against time and repel the ongoing Russian invasion.

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