Friday, 30 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Abbrevations:
 
- CBAF (Carro Blindado de Apoyo de Fuego) = Armoured Fire-Support Vehicle
 
- CBE (Carro Blindado de Exploración) = Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle
 
- CBI (Carro Blindado de Infantería) = Armoured Infantry Vehicle
 
- C-AP (Cañón Autopropulsado) = Self-propelled Artillery
 
- C-AP-AT (Cañon Autopropulsado Anti-Tanque) = Self-propelled Anti-Tank Cannon

Thursday, 15 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The Czech Army is set to undergo a major transformation that will eventually see the replacement of most remaining Cold War-era equipment in favour of modern Western types. Planned to include military hardware such as the Leopard 2A7 MBT, CV90 MkIV IFVs, Caesar 8x8 SPGs, SPYDER-MR SAM systems, AH-1Z attack helicopters and even up to 24 F-35 stealth combat aircraft, the Czech Republic as a result will be in possession of a highly capable and well-equipped military. The latest reported acquisition of three Heron I U(C)AVs from Israel for the Czech Air Force would further expand on these already advanced capabilities. Of course, all this comes with a significant price tag.

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan flared up again on Monday the 12th of September 2022, with both sides engaging in artillery duels that have so far resulted in hundreds of soldiers killed on both sides. Azerbaijani forces struck Armenian forces after what it claims is a buildup of Armenian landmines on the border, while Armenia said that several border towns were being shelled as part of a large-scale provocation by Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has made extensive use of Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) to strike Armenian positions, leading to the destruction of numerous targets including two S-300PS surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries.

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Saudi Arabia has mostly relied on China for the purchase of UCAVs. This has manifested in the acquisition of significant numbers of Wing Loong I, Wing Loong II and CH-4Bs from the mid-to-late 2010s onwards. These supplemented several types of South African, Italian and German-made reconnaissance UAVs already in action over Yemen since start of the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in the country in March 2015. [1] In 2019, Saudi Arabia further expanded its drone arsenal with the acquisition of the Turkish-made Lentatek Karayel-SU UCAV, which is soon to be produced in Saudi Arabia under the designation of Haboob. [2] Saudi Arabia seeks to localise at least 50% of its defence spending by 2030 as part of the country's Vision 2030, providing a stimulus for defence companies to set up indingeous production lines.

Monday, 12 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Like so many NATO member countries Canada has contributed significantly to Ukraine's defensive capabilities after the Russian invasion of the country in February 2022. This aid has so far included 39 brand-new Armoured Combat Support Vehicles, eight brand-new Roshel Senator infantry mobility vehicles (IMVs), four M777 towed howitzers and 4600 anti-tank weapons. Canada was also the first nation to supply Ukraine with guided artillery rounds, with an unknown number of M982 Excalibur GPS-guided shells being sent for use with Western-supplied 155mm howitzers.

Friday, 9 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The Netherlands was one of the first countries in Europe to pledge meaningful military aid to Ukraine as Russia began the build-up of its military forces along the border with Ukraine. Days after Russia commenced its invasion of the country on the 24th of February 2022, further military aid that included 50 FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS launchers with 200 missiles and 50 Panzerfaust 3 anti-tank weapons along with 400 rockets was quickly announced. Not much later, the Dutch Ministry of Defence declared it would no longer provide details on arms deliveries to Ukraine. [1]
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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Iran has set up a network of smuggling routes through Oman and the Arabian and Red Seas to transport arms and equipment to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. This has included anything from small arms to cruise missiles, loitering munitions and even ballistic missiles. The fact that these continue to reach Yemen in spite of a naval blockade in place is a testament to Iran's skill in arms trafficking. Nonetheless, arms shipments are occasionally intercepted and seized by Western and Saudi warships sailing in the area. The volume of these intercepts has meanwhile been enough for Western countries to supply war-thorn Ukraine with at least some of the armament captured. [1]

Thursday, 8 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans in cooperation with Tarao Goo
 
Japan has traditionally maintained one of the strictest armament export policies in the world, which has for the most part prevented Japanese defence companies and government agencies from exporting or even donating military equipment to other countries. The fact that the Japanese government amended its own guidelines to bypass laws that would otherwise have prevented it from supplying Ukraine with military aid should thus be seen as highly exceptional. Although the resulting deliveries have remained limited to non-lethal equipment, the move to supply war-torn Ukraine with military equipment is unprecedented in Japan's modern history. Military aid has so far included 40 small reconnaissance UAVs, 6900 helmets and 1900 bulletproof vests.

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
In addition to supplying Ukraine with large volumes of armament, Germany has also attempted to entice other countries to send their heavy weaponry to Ukraine in a programme known as 'Ringtausch' (which roughly translates to 'circular exchange'). Under this policy, countries can receive German armament free of charge in exchange for delivering tanks and infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) from own stocks to Ukraine. Although this seemed a promising scheme at first, the 'Ringtausch' programme has largely failed to live up to expectations as most countries expect to have their Soviet-era systems replaced by larger numbers of modern weapon systems than what Berlin is currently able (or willing) to offer.

Monday, 5 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Finland is renowned for being the happiest country in the world, having the world's best education system, coolest Prime Minister (Sanna Marin), and not feeling the need to brag about help given to other countries. The latter has made an accurate analysis of Finnish military support to Ukraine relatively difficult. What is known is that Finland pledged its first shipment of military aid already by February 27. Since then, at least six more batches of military aid have been sent to Ukraine. [1] By early July 2022, military aid from Finland was worth more than €88 million. [2]

Sunday, 4 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

The goal of this list is to comprehensively catalogue the current inventory of drones, rockets and missiles of the Houthi rebels as well as clarify their origin. The part within apostrophes refers to the designation given by Houthis to foreign-delivered equipment. A year in square brackers after the designation refers to its perceived date of inception in Yemen. The year is only added to armament delivered or produced after the Houthi takeover of Yemen in 2014/2015.
 
(Click on the equipment to get a picture of them in Houthi service.)

Saturday, 3 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
As many observers of the Russo-Ukrainian War are awaiting the possible debut of Iranian drones with the Russian Armed Forces, relatively few know that Iranian-made and Iranian-procured armament is already in active use on the battlefields of Ukraine since at least April 2022. Rather than being used by the Russian Army, these weapons systems are deployed by Ukrainian forces in their fight against the Russian Army. The story of how these weapons ended up in Ukraine is perhaps just as fascinating as the fact of their actual presence in Ukraine, and requires us to first delve into the topic of Iranian arms trafficking to Yemen and the efforts of Western countries to combat it.

Friday, 2 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Türkiye's unprecedented drone success propelled by Baykar Tech is only set to increase after the effective use and popularity of the Bayraktar TB2 during the 2022 Russo-Ukrainian War. [1] One of the countries that has recently shown an interest in Baykar's products is Saudi Arabia, which already operates a sizeable fleet of Chinese and Turkish unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs). [2] Although this fleet is sometimes reported to consist of hundreds of locally-manufactured Chinese UCAVs, the actual composition and size of Saudi Arabia's drone fleet is largely unknown. What is known is that the country's UCAVs have been deployed intensively against Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen since 2018. [3]
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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
It is not often that a weapon system is proving so popular that countries are waiting in line to buy it. Ironically, this appears to be the current situation with the Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV). Already in service with or on order by 24 countries other than Türkiye, the TB2's commercial success currently looks to be without bounds. With new export agreements being signed with more countries to this day, there is little doubt that the Bayraktar TB2 will go down in history as world's most successful UCAV both in terms of export clients and numbers sold. In this capacity it is now consistently beating its main two competitors on the drone market of China and Israel, whose products though more attractive than expensive (and exclusive) Western wares or underperforming and politically-laden Iranian ones have shown their own deficiencies. The TB2's success should come as little surprise to those that examined the system in combat, as the TB2 is arguably the first UCAV that manages to combine reliability and affordability with devastatingly effective results on the battlefield: a capability keenly looked for in the 21st century.

Thursday, 1 September 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Contrary to popular perception, Germany has delivered significant amounts of arms and equipment to Ukraine to aid the country in its fight against the Russian military. In fact, the volume of arms deliveries by Berlin exceeds that of every other country safe for the United States and the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, Germany has faced severe criticism and even mockery for its perceived lack of support to Ukraine and its ill-fated attempts to keep its relationship with Moscow intact. While ultimately positioning itself as a reliable partner of Ukraine, it can be argued that Berlin's communication to affirm its Ukraine stance and explain foreign policy goals has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.

Saturday, 27 August 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The following photos were taken during a Libyan National Army (LNA) parade to commemorate the 7th anniversary of Operation Dignity at Benina airbase in Benghazi on the 29th of May 2021. Even though the LNA of warlord Khalifa Haftar was to merge with the forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA) as part of the newly-established Government of National Unity (GNU), the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) passed a no-confidence motion against the unity government in September 2021. Khalifa Haftar subsequently announced his candidacy for the presidential election in December 2021 before it was postponed. The May parade was aimed at showing the LNA's (and thus Haftar's) strength to both internal actors and the outside world. In doing so, the LNA showed off a large number of equipment types inherited from the Gaddafi-era and received from Russia, the UAE, Jordan and Egypt since. [1]

Saturday, 20 August 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
While many NATO member states have duly answered Ukraine's call to supply it with heavy weaponry, for other countries President Zelensky's plight has offered a stark realisation what decades of defence cuts have come to. For no country is this true more than for Belgium, which in March 2022 had to come to the painful conclusion that it had no heavy weaponry to send from its own stocks. This staggering feat is the result of years of chronic underfunding that had eroded the Belgian Army to the point it could not even pay to operate man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) any longer, leaving an entire army without any form of ground-based air defences. Although Belgium has since announced additional investments into its military, it will take years for these investments to actually have effect.

Friday, 19 August 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
After years of having to delay new acquisitions due to the Greek government-debt crisis, the Hellenic Air Force has recently enjoyed a series of new acquisitions. In 2018, Lockheed Martin was contracted to upgrade 84 F-16C/D Block 52+s to the latest F-16V Block 70/72 (Viper) standard. Two years later, the Greek government signed for 18 Dassault Rafales from France (with a further six ordered in 2021) along with an advanced weapons package consisting of SCALP cruise missiles and AM39 Exocet anti-ship missiles. [1] In June 2022, Greece's prime minister confirmed that the country had sent a request to the Unites States for the purchase of 20 F-35s slated for delivery in the late 2020s. [2]

Thursday, 18 August 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Few countries have offered Ukraine even half the extent of military support that Poland has provided. Polish military aid to Ukraine has so far encompassed well over 300 armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs), including over 230 tanks and some 110 pieces of self-propelled guns and multiple rocket launchers, amongst a host of other weapon types. Poland also serves the important role of central transit hub for arms donations to Ukraine, and the majority of Western military aid enters through Poland. Even though Poland does not disclose details of most of its arms deliveries, a great number of armament types have meanwhile been spotted or reported on by authorities in Ukraine.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Mali has been in a near constant state of conflict since 2012, when the Tuareg rebellion prompted an Islamist insurgent advance that soon threatened to put the whole country under Al-Qaeda control. The French military intervened in early 2013 in order to halt their advance towards the capital Bamako and to bring back northern Mali back under government control. The French Army, with the support of Malian forces, quickly reversed the enemy's gains and secured much of the country with the exception of the Kidal region, to which Al-Qaeda (and later Islamic State) retreated. In recent years, Al-Qaeda and Islamic State have attempted to further expand their areas of operation by carrying out numerous attacks on Malian and U.N. forces, which remain deployed to Mali. The primary objective of U.N. forces is to combat the extremist groups, cut off their supply routes and prevent them from creating safe havens to which they can retreat training security forces in the region to handle these threats in the future.

Monday, 15 August 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

As much of Europe has rallies behind Ukraine to help it in its fight against the Russian military, plenty of attention has been devoted to the endeavours of the UK and Germany to keep Ukraine in the fight. Far less coverage has been given to the efforts of countries such as Norway, Sweden and Finland in providing Ukraine with military aid. Though this is partly the result of the decision by some governments not to disclose details of arms deliveries to Ukraine, a more general lack of focus in the news cycle on the contributions of these countries cannot be denied.

Saturday, 13 August 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Libya's aerial refuelling programme has only been rarely reported on since its inception in the late eighties, and suffered from a series of setbacks that ultimately led to the abandonment of the programme in the following decade. Nonetheless, this ambitious project has definitely left its traces within the Libyan Air Force, and aircraft once playing a key role in the in-flight refuelling programme are still flying inside the country today.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Support for Ukraine has come from far and wide. Yet while some countries are able to back up their support with military aid or by opening their borders to Ukrainian refugees, others are unable to follow suit because of politics or simply because of their distance to Ukraine. One such nation is the Republic of China, more commonly referred to as Taiwan, which despite not being officially recognised as a country by Ukraine, has delivered humanitarian aid, funds and even small drones to Ukraine. Much of this support has come from private citizens and companies – a clear sign of sympathy for the Ukrainian people and an acknowledgment of the parallels between Ukraine and Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing and has faced its own fears of a foreign invasion over the years.

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
France has been a major source of military support for Ukraine. Like most European nations, France has opted not to disclose details of its arms deliveries to Ukraine with the exception of the Caesar SPGs, the disclosure of which also served the purpose of publicly reaffirming France's support to Ukraine and sending a message of deterrence to Moscow. Though France has delivered far less in materiel support than Germany at this point in the conflict, it has come under less scrutiny than Berlin. Of course, this has much to do with Germany's self-inflicted public communications disaster regarding its support for Kyiv.

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are not new to Southeast Asia. Thailand acquired an unmanned reconnaissance capability already in 2001, when the Royal Thai Army purchased four IAI Searcher Mk. II reconnaissance UAVs from Israel. Several more drone acquisitions would follow (mainly from Israel) in the following decades, ultimately resulting in the expansive unmanned arsenal in service with the Royal Thai Army, Air Force and Navy today. This meanwhile also includes an increasing number of locally-designed UAVs or types produced under license from China.

Monday, 11 July 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The Hellenic Army continues to face great difficulties in replacing its aging inventory of armoured fighting vehicles and other equipment types. Hit especially hard by the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the government-debt crisis that followed, Greece had to cancel or postpone a number of acquisition projects. Although the Hellenic Armed Forces was spared severe budget cuts as a result of rising tensions with Türkiye, the lack of funds led to the curious situation where civilians had to pay for the fuel needed in order for Greece's annual independence parade to take place.

Sunday, 10 July 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans in collaboration with Jakub Janovsky
 
Amongst all the countries that have provided military support to Ukraine, the Czech Republic is often named in one breath with powers such as the U.S. and the United Kingdom. By early April 2022, the volume of military aid provided by Czechia to Ukraine already approached some $430 million, making the country one of the largest contributers of military aid in NATO. This aid has included anything from small arms and MANPADS to heavier weaponry like tanks, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), SAM systems, multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) and even Mi-24V attack helicopters.

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Australia has proven that distance is not an excuse when it comes to supporting a friendly country in need. Having contributed $388 million in military assistance to Ukraine since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Australia is currently the largest non-NATO contributor to Ukraine's defence needs. [1] Considering furthermore that a large part of Australia's military aid consists of bulky armoured vehicles, all of which have to be transported to Europe by air, Australia's efforts at keeping Ukraine in the fight are nothing short of impressive.
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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
It is little known that Bulgaria once operated a significant fleet of reconnaisance aircraft that at one point even included a number of MiG-25RBT 'Foxbats'. Bulgaria was the only Warsaw Pact country to operate the mighty Foxbat, the highly specialised nature of which and prohibitive operating costs were apparently enough to dissuade all other Warsaw Pact members from acquiring the aircraft. Bulgaria itself would only purchase four MiG-25s, which likely did little to improve the operations and maintenance costs per unit while they were in operational service.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
It's no surprise that Istanbul is at the top of so many people's travel lists. From historical sights to atmospheric cafés and restaurants, there's something for all tastes and budgets. As they are more likely to visit an abundance of centrally-located tourist attractions, most visitors are unlikely to learn about two facets plaguing everyday life for İstanbullular: the city's traffic congestion and lack of green spaces. Istanbul is the city with the least amount of green space in Europe, amounting to just 2.2% of its total area (compared to 40% in Helsinki). [1] [2] In fact, only Middle Eastern cities like Baghdad, Cairo, Dubai and Riyadh have less green space. [3]

Friday, 17 June 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Amid the delivery of more than 230 T-72 MBTs from Poland, 126 M777 howitzers from the U.S. and Harpoon anti-ship missiles (AShMs) from the Netherlands, it is easy to overlook smaller equipment donations to Ukraine even though many more countries have contributed in their own respective ways. [1] One of these nations is Lithuania, which in addition to supplying Ukraine with military equipment from its own stocks, has also been the scene of several remarkable crowdfunding campaigns such as those launched by local journalist and TV anchor Andrius Tapinas.

Thursday, 16 June 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

The Republic of Lithuania managed to grab headlines with its successful crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for a Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Almost 6 million euro was raised in just three and a half days mostly by Lithuania – a country of only 2.8 million people. During a visit to Baykar to discuss the delivery of the TB2 (which Baykar decide to donate free of charge) in June, Lithuania's Deputy Defence Minister Vilius Semeška revealed that the acquisition of six TB2s for the Lithuanian Air Force had also been discussed. [1]

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
As much of Western Europe appears to have finally woken up to the necessity of concrete military power for security, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania already realised the requirement to prepare themselves to deal with Russian aggression in the Baltic region since Russia's annexation of Crimea in early 2014. Correspondingly, each country has since drastically expanded the size and readiness of its armed forces. Whilst initially mostly purchasing small arms, ATGMs and MANPADS to equip active and reserve forces, further investments have meanwhile paved the way for the acquisition of air defence and anti-ship missile systems, long-range artillery and hundreds of AFVs.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Transnistria, officially known as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), has churned out a number of highly interesting armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) designs over the past decade. Unable to replace its dated inventory of Soviet weaponry ever since proclaiming independence in the early 1990s, the country has instead sought to supplement its vehicle park with a number of homegrown vehicle designs. Many of these are based on already existing AFVs, which are then modified to suit an entirely new role. Arguably the best examples of this are the MT-LB SPAAG and the BTRG-127 'Bumblebee' APC, the latter of which originally started its career as the GMZ-3 minelayer vehicle. [1]

Friday, 10 June 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. (By Desmond Tutu)

Western countries have scrambled to provide the Ukrainian military with an expansive arsenal of military hardware and ammunition to help it fend off an onslaught of Russian offensives throughout Ukraine. Many of these weapon systems are relatively easy to use and readily available from Western stocks, while others are of greater complexity, in some cases requiring weeks of training for Ukrainian servicemen to master their new mounts. This includes types such as the PzH 2000 self-propelled gun (SPG) delivered by the Netherlands and Germany, as well as M270 and HIMARS multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) donated by the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. [1] [2]

Thursday, 9 June 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Türkiye's Navy is set to dominate the depths of the Aegan Sea and beyond through the introduction of six locally-assembled Type-214TN Reis class submarines featuring air-independent propulsion (AIP) throughout the 2020s. [1] Their entry into service is to be followed by the design and production of the MILDEN class of submarines, a fully indigenous type of hunter-killer submarine that will be armed with indigenous 533mm AKYA heavyweight torpedoes, 220+km ranged Atmaca anti-ship missiles (AShMs) and 1000+km ranged Gezgin land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs).

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Russia's anti-aircraft artillery forces are perhaps best known for operating large numbers of vicious-looking 2K22 Tunguska and Pantsir-S1 self-propelled anti-aircraft guns (SPAAGs). Limited numbers of ZSU-23 Shilkas continue to see service as well, with at least four of them lost during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. [1] Newer fighting vehicles in this category and modernisation packages for them continue to be developed to this day, including newer variants of both the Pantsir and Tunguska. Perhaps it's all the more ironic therefore that the latest addition to Russia's anti-aircraft arsenal is in fact a DIY SPAAG currently deployed with the Operational Group of Russian Forces (OGRF) in the breakaway state of Transnistria.

Thursday, 2 June 2022

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By Joost Oliemans and Stijn Mitzer

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is about to mark its one hundredth day. With its goals unreached, its army struck back, a country in ruins, and the scope of its destruction ever escalating, the Special Operation is increasingly starting to resemble the war that should never have been fought – the one that determines not just the future of Ukraine, but also of Russia and with it the entirety of Europe. The Russian military now finds itself in an entirely new phase of the conflict, wherein the dice of fate are recast as Russian objectives have taken on a much more limited and realistic character, yet stocks of modern weaponry are depleting, and Ukraine is beginning to field ever more advanced NATO-supplied armament. [1]

Saturday, 21 May 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
By now, nearly all EU and NATO member countries have provided varying degrees of military support to aid Ukraine in its fight against the Russian Army. While the transfer of a S-300PMU SAM battery by Slovakia and the supply of Javelin and NLAW ATGMs by the U.S. and UK have garnered much public attention, many more countries have contributed in their own respective ways. One of these countries is Greece, which pledged to provide military aid to Ukraine as early as February 27. [1] This consisted of 20.000 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 815 RPG-18 disposable rocket launchers and an undisclosed number of 122mm unguided rockets. [1] At least two plane loads worth of armament and munitions were dispatched to Ukraine shortly thereafter, where this armament is currently used in action against Russian forces. [2]

Monday, 25 April 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The Netherlands was one of the first European countries to pledge significant military aid to Ukraine before Russia launched its invasion of the country on the 24th of February. This aid consisted of two Thales Squire ground surveillance radars, five AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder weapon-locating radars, two SeaFox autonomous underwater vehicles for mine detection, 100 (anti-materiel) sniper rifles along with 30,000 rounds of ammunition, and 3000 helmets and 2000 flak jackets. [1] After the invasion had commenced, an additional aid package that included 50 Stinger MANPADS launchers with 200 missiles and 50 Panzerfaust 3 anti-tank weapons along with 400 rockets was quickly announced. [2] Not much later, the Dutch Minister of Defence announced it would no longer provide details on arms deliveries to Ukraine to safeguard operational security. [3]

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
As one of the smallest militaries in NATO, Slovakia has nevertheless played an important part in providing Ukraine with the types of armament it requires to hold off Russia's invasion. In addition to 12.000 120mm mortar rounds, MANPADS and ATGMs, this has also included the country's sole S-300PMU surface-to-air missile (SAM) battery. [1] [2] This system essentially constituted the country's only viable ground-based deterrence against enemy aircraft, a capability Slovakia was willing to give up in an effort to bolster Ukraine's battered arsenal of SAM systems. Whilst the resulting gap will be filled by U.S. Patriot SAM systems deployed to Slovakia in the short term, the country will have to acquire a system of its own to replace this capability lost in the long term, or else forgo it entirely. [3]

Slovakia is currently also considering donating its entire fleet of MiG-29 fighter aircraft to Ukraine, a move that would finally give heed to President Zelensky's long-standing request for additional fighter aircraft. [4] [5] While the actual merit of additional fighter aircraft to Ukraine is debatable (along with many of Zelensky's other requests for heavy weaponry), it is certain that the delivery of MiG-29s to Ukraine would be a huge morale boost to both its citizens and military, and finally satisfy Ukraine's most vocal request ever since Russia began its invasion on February 24.

The Slovak Air Force officially operates nine single-seat MiG-29AS fighters and two MiG-29UBS trainers out of Sliac air base in Central Slovakia. Only five MiG-29AS' and one MiG-29UBS are currently believed to be operational to meet a minimum requirement for air policing while the Air Force awaits their replacement by 12 single-seat and 2 double-seat F-16V Block 70/72s in 2023. All of Slovakia's MiG-29s were upgraded by RSK MiG to NATO standards between 2005 and 2008 and designated MiG-29AS and MiG-29UBS (S for Slovakia), but otherwise retain their original capabilities from when they were first delivered to Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s.
 
Unfortunately, this means the MiG-29AS' are actually less advanced than Ukraine's own 60-strong fleet of MiG-29 9.13s and MiG-29MU1s (an upgraded variant of the MiG-29 9.13), which has thus far suffered at least four (visually confirmed) losses during the 2022 invasion. [6] [7] Although Ukraine has been adamant that it needs additional fighter aircraft to defend its cities and ground forces against Russian aircraft and helicopters, such a task would arguably be better handled by additional mobile SAM systems. Despite popular perception, there has been little indication so far suggesting that Ukrainian fighter aircraft have managed to significantly disrupt the daily operations of the Russian Air Force.

Even though the U.S. had previously looked at Poland and Bulgaria to potentially secure a supply for additional MiG-29s to Ukraine, the MiG-29 is interestingly enough not on Ukraine's wishlist. In documents setting out the Ukrainian military's requests that were obtained by these authors, the desired aid would have included the delivery of brand-new F-15EXs, F-15SEs and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. Apart from the fact that the F-15SE 'Silent Eagle' was merely a proposal aircraft that was never built and that the USAF is only just receiving the first of its F-15EX Eagle IIs, such a request also completely ignores the fact that it would take months for Ukrainian personnel to become familiar with these types, let alone for them to learn tactics that would allow them to be effectively used.

Slovakia's MiG-29s wear this attractive pixelated camouflage pattern.

Earlier attempts at providing Ukraine with Poland's and Bulgaria's MiG-29s failed to come to fruition, presumably because such a delivery was judged too (politically) risky and cumbersome, especially when compared with the more simple (and politically safer) delivery of ground-based assets such as ATGMs and MANPADS. It's also possible that Poland likewise views the delivery of MiG-29s to Ukraine as excess to Ukraine's actual defensive needs. Combined with the fact that the Polish Air Force would quickly have to find replacements for the air defence capabilities lost by transferring its MiG-29s as tensions with Russia are at an all time high, it is no large surprise that the delivery never materialised.

The same considerations affect Slovakia, which has previously indicated that donation of its MiG-29s is only possible when guarantees are given that its airspace would still be protected after losing its entire fighter aircraft capability (at least until 2023). Such a guarantee could be realised by having the Polish or Czech Air Force take over Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duties for Slovakia, or by temporarily stationing NATO aircraft in Slovakia to provide air policing duties instead.

If a transfer does take place, the aircraft will likely be stationed on air bases in Western Ukraine. Their dispersal and frequent relocation around the air base could significantly increase their survivability, and thereby force Russia to increase its current efforts to ground the Ukrainian Air Force. As Russia has still failed to do so after two months of war, there is little indication that they would soon be successful. Though the concrete contribution in terms of enemy equipment destroyed may not be substantial, the mere fact that the opposing side will need to adjust its operations to prevent losses can have a very real effect on the situation on the ground.

In terms of logistics and existing knowledge base, the potential Slovakian delivery would probably be the most realistic plan for air assets to be delivered to Ukraine so far. With pilots already trained on the type, and commonality of weaponry and infrastructure, a smooth transition into Ukrainian Air Force service is likely. This is true not in small part because the delivery can be expected to concern no more than a handful of aircraft, making their integration straightforward, but their potential impact limited.In this sense, the symbolism and heartening effect these aircraft can convey might well outstrip their actual combat efficacy.
 

Components of the S-300PMU battery on their way to Ukraine, April 8, 2022.

Slovakia has already proven that you don't need to be a large country with a sizeable military to provide meaningful materiel support. As other NATO countries like Germany and France have so far hold off on delivering heavy weaponry like AFVs and artillery to Ukraine, Central European countries like Slovakia, Poland and Czechia are picking up the slack and keeping Ukraine fighting. Whether Slovakia's MiG-29AS' will soon join the fray remains to be seen, though their inclusion in Slovakia's immaculate record of support is not needed to prove its status as one of the staunchest allies of freedom in Europe.


[1] Slovakia to send artillery ammunition, fuel worth 11 mln euros to Ukraine https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/slovakia-send-military-material-worth-26-mln-euros-ukraine-media-2022-02-26/
[3] U.S. to place Patriot missile defense system in Slovakia to help with Ukraine swap https://www.npr.org/2022/04/08/1091711705/us-missile-defense-system-slovakia-ukraine
[4] Slovakia ready to donate MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine https://kafkadesk.org/2022/04/15/slovakia-ready-to-donate-mig-29-fighter-jets-to-ukraine/
[5] Slovakia in talks over possible transfer of MiG jets to Ukraine https://www.politico.eu/article/slovakia-mig-jets-to-ukraine-prime-minister-eduard-heger-bratislava/
[6] Guardians of the Ukraine: The Ukrainian Air Force Since 1992 https://books.google.com/books/about/Guardians_of_the_Ukraine.html
[7] List Of Aircraft Losses During The 2022 Russian Invasion Of Ukraine   Slovakia in talks over possible transfer of MiG jets to Ukraine

 

Saturday, 16 April 2022

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By Joost Oliemans and Stijn Mitzer

There's little denying at this point that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been an unmitigated military and economical disaster. What was meant to be a quick operation with the aim of surrounding and seize Kyiv and Eastern Ukraine, forcing Western powers to the negotiation table over the future status of the country, has now turned into a bloody war of attrition in the East that Russia is not in a position to sustain. Russia's offensive has laid bare a host of problems with Russian military leadership, tactics and equipment, together culminating in a catastrophe that will surely be analysed for years to come.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
  
Six weeks into Russia's invasion of Ukraine it can be argued that the full array of issues affecting the Russian military and its operational planning have been laid bare. Setting out to first seize Kyiv within days in order to have a strong position in negotiations with the West about the future status of Ukraine in exchange for a reduction of sanctions, it suddenly finds itself a month past that deadline with meagre territorial gains, an army in tatters and severe reputational damage, not to mention an economy buckling under some of the heaviest sanctions ever instated on a nation. [1]

Monday, 11 April 2022

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By Joost Oliemans and Stijn Mitzer
 
The following list attempts to keep track of heavy military equipment delivered or pledged to Ukraine during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The entries below are sorted by armament category (with a flag denoting the country of delivery), and due to the confidential nature of some arms deliveries they can serve only as a lower bound to the total volume of weaponry shipped to Ukraine. Private donations and crowdfunders, ATGMs, MANPADS, mortars and commercial UAVs are not included in this list. This list will be updated as further military support is declared or uncovered.

Friday, 8 April 2022

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By Joost Oliemans and Stijn Mitzer
 
In a conflict that is shaping up to be one of the most intense and rapidly developing of our time, drones have come to play an increasingly important role, and could well end up being one of the pivotal factors in its eventual conclusion. Thus, the delivery of at least 16 additional Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs, on top of the 18 already in Ukraine's pre-war inventory, constitutes perhaps one of the most significant instances of support to Ukraine's plight yet. [1] Now evidence has emerged that Turkey's drone contributions have not remained limited to the TB2, with new combat footage of Baykar's Mini-Bayraktar UAV confirming their delivery to the country. [2]

Thursday, 7 April 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
With modern U.S., Chinese and Turkish UCAVs already operationally deployed in a multitude of nations and conflicts worldwide, Russia has been notably lagging behind in the development and production of such drones. Favouring instead attack helicopters like the Ka-52 and Mi-28 to perform strike missions while loitering over the battlefield, they adhere to a doctrine that disregards the UCAV's carefully executed reconnaissance and strike operations for more aggressive search and assault missions. Each new conflict of the modern age seems to showcase the merit of the UCAV to greater detail however, and Russia has thus increasingly opted to invest in the concept as well.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

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By Joost Oliemans and Stijn Mitzer
 
As a conflict that is quickly becoming established as one of the most ferocious and costly wars of the modern era continues to rage in Europe's East, more and more evidence of staggering losses on both sides becomes apparent. [1] Ukrainian cities are being reduced to rubble overnight in bombardments that are brutal both for their intensity and disregard for civilian life, while equipment losses, especially on the Russian side, are astonishing. Amidst this chaos, Ukraine has been the recipient of a steady influx of armament that nevertheless falls far short from being decisive, with some of its most generous (though involuntary) donations so far in fact coming from the Russian Army. [1]