GLOBAL DEFENSE MARKET
BREAKING: Ukraine to U.S. Defense Industry: We Need Long-Range, Precision Weapons
Stew Magnuson photo
PARIS — Ukraine has a message it wants to convey to the U.S. defense industrial base and the government.
The war-torn nation desperately needs artillery and artillery rounds, but what can truly give it the upper hand over its Russian invaders are long-range precision weapons such as armed Predator drones, loitering munitions and the multiple launch rocket system.
Denys Sharapov, Ukraine’s deputy minister of the defense in charge of procurement, support for weapons and equipment, and Brig. Gen. Volodymyr Karpenko, land forces command logistics commander, spoke with National Defense Editor in Chief Stew Magnuson and other reporters through an interpreter in the Ukraine Ministry of Defense’s booth at the Eurosatory conference in Paris on June 15.
Back in Washington, politicians and pundits debated this week as to whether it was practical to send Ukraine armed Predator drones as part of a $40 billion aid package. Sharapov and Karpenko said such technology may give Ukraine what it needs to gain an advantage in the war.
The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Our readers are about 1,800 corporate members of the defense industrial base in the United States. What message do you have for them? And what do you need from them urgently?
Sharapov: The [Ministry of Defense] is concentrating currently on fulfilling all the needs of the armed forces. You asked a question about needs. First, you have to understand that the frontline is 2,500 kilometers long. The frontline where there is active combat in more than 1,000 kilometers long. That’s like from Kyiv to Berlin. … As of today, all the people in all of our armed forces and within the defense and security sector is up to one million people. And we have to support them all. We have to supply them with small arms, with personal protection gear and with the means of communication.
And of course, to carry out a war in this day and age, we need heavy weapons — that’s primarily artillery systems. As of today, our need for heavy artillery systems is measured by hundreds. That’s why we also need a huge number of rounds for these artillery systems.
I am not going to name the exact number we need. That is information for internal use. I’m just going to tell you I think to fulfill those needs we have to engage the entire military industrial complex of the entire world.
We have received a large number of weapon systems, but unfortunately with such a massively expendable resource, it only covers 10 to 15 percent of our needs. We need artillery, we need artillery rounds, infantry fighting vehicles, combat vehicles, tanks. We really need air-defense systems and the multiple launch rocket system.
Also, high-precision weapon systems, because we believe that high-precision weapon systems will give us an edge over the enemy, the upper hand in this war.
There is a debate in the United States about whether to send Ukraine armed Predator drones. How important are they to your fight?
Sharapov: The party that will win in this war will be the party that will first start using contemporary high precision equipment and weapon systems. And those drones that you mentioned, they are a part of the modernized, highly accurate, highly precise, modern equipment. It gives us an advantage that allows us to accurately strike the enemy.
Gen. Karpenko: Regarding the first question, I want to add something to what the deputy minister has said in terms of the need for equipment and armaments. I just want you to understand the intensity of the conflict. While the deputy minister was talking, I drafted some numbers to just show you the intensity of combat along those … kilometers where the combat is most active.
Think about this: one brigade occupies around 40 kilometers of the fence line. That means that to cover the active combat conflict we need 40 brigades. Every brigade is 100 infantry fighting vehicles, 30 tanks, 54 artillery systems — just for one brigade, and we have 40 of them.
I'm not going to talk about the anti-tank guided missiles or anti-tank guided weapons for now. I’m just talking about heavy weapons. As of today, we have approximately 30 to 40, sometimes up to 50 percent of losses of equipment as a result of active combat. So, we have lost approximately 50 percent. … Approximately 1,300 infantry fighting vehicles have been lost, 400 tanks, 700 artillery systems.
That is a mathematical estimation we can make based on the length of the frontline and the intensity of the conflict. So, I'm giving you this estimate just for you to understand how significant the requirement is based on the intensity of the conflict.
So, think about it. If the current need for artillery systems is 700 vehicles, that needs to be replenished because they were destroyed. And we have only received 100 vehicles for example from [foreign] aid. … Then there [are] medical needs, the air force troops, the special forces and all the other branches and services that are also fighting in this war.
Regarding the heavy armaments and in regard to the drones as you asked about: this is what the war has come down to — using heavy artillery systems. It's close-contact warfare. So that leads to a lot of casualties.
The war that we are seeing in Ukraine right now happened the last time in 1945 when the world won over evil.
Unfortunately, today, we don't have the technologies that would allow us to limit human casualties. We have close human contact within the warfare. And that's why the deputy minister said correctly that the victorious side will be the party that has those [long-range, precision] technologies.
You have to understand that all of the [unmanned aerial vehicles], the armed UAVs that are needed, the kamikaze drones, they are the weapons that will allow us to extend the line of contact. So, the [increased] space between us and the enemy will limit human casualties while still increasing the efficiency of the destruction of enemy vehicles.
We need both the multiple launch rocket systems and the kamikaze drones [loitering munitions].
If we can use long-range items like the drones — like the MLRS — that will allow us to extend the effective range up to 60 kilometers, that will give us the upper hand and that will give us significant success.
And if we can increase the number of multiple launch rocket systems and kamikaze drones that will decrease the rate of consumption of artillery systems.
Why do you think it is taking so long to deliver the weapon systems?
Sharapov: You should understand that any weapon transfer is always a political decision. And very often, it's not up to the government of one country. There are different alliances.
Very often a highly technological, highly precise weapons will contain subsystems from multiple countries. And if they were to transfer that technology, they will need to have permissions from all those countries.
And the other component is that, unfortunately, not all politicians understand the gravity of what is going on in Ukraine. Some people believe that this is not their war. This war is so far away it doesn’t concern them. But in reality, this is a war for the entire world. Unfortunately, we happen to be on the frontline of this.
Yes, we do receive a lot of support, especially the support for many nations being here at this exhibition at Eurosatory. We have heard a lot of kind words. We have heard a lot of people expressing sympathy to our situation. However, unfortunately, it is taking a long time for many people to comprehend what kind of threat Russia poses to the entire world today.
That is why we would like to take this opportunity … to draw the attention of the entire world once again that this is a war not only back in Ukraine, this is the war that impacts the entire world.
The distance from Kyiv to Paris is the same as the length of our frontline, 2,500 kilometers. That is why it is our joint goal to stop Russia advancing in this war.
Our armed forces were forced to learn how to use many weapons from all over the world more efficiently than many other armies. You have seen the proof of that all around our stand and in our videos. But because of the consumption rates, we need a lot of weapons and weapon systems.
Have suppliers here expressed any sort of concern to you that they might not keep up with your consumption rates?
Sharapov: I'll have you know that there is not a single manufacturer or supplier that is able to keep up — only all together [can they keep up]. It has to be a joint effort because there's not a single supplier that is able to do that single handedly.
Over these last three days we've been asking everybody to join this effort together to come together because once again, quite unfortunately for us, we have become the biggest consumer of weapons and ammunition in the world. And we’re hoping to receive support from the entire Europe and the entire world.
Are you getting any contractors to help maintain everything?
Sharapov: It is the first time the armed forces of Ukraine have received this many foreign vehicles and that is why our specialists, our maintenance experts … are doing miracles to be honest, but we still need support.
Gen. Karpenko: You have to understand why maintenance is very important today. Most of the heavy equipment that we use is operated in such grave conditions due to heavy artillery shelling and heavy fires. The equipment doesn't stop being operational because it's used up. It stops being operational because of constant artillery shelling.
Unfortunately, we don't have an opportunity today to have foreign supplied equipment sent back to a restoration facility simply because of time constraints. That is why we are discussing spare parts here so that we can maintain and repair that equipment right in the field.
For example, the M777 artillery systems are really prone to being damaged by enemy artillery. For every battery of M777, there are six pieces.
After every artillery contact, we have to take two artillery pieces and take them back to the rear to maintain them because some of the subsystems are damaged by shrapnel. This happens every day.
Equipment that has gone to the rear of the frontline is maintained solely by Ukrainian specialists that have been trained by different foreign companies for that specific purpose.
At Eurosatory this week, you're meeting a lot of defense companies. What are your expectations since they normally sell through their own countries? What’s the purpose of talking with companies and not countries?
Sharapov: So those are parallel processes. There are constant government negotiations on all levels, diplomatic levels, military levels, ministry-to-ministry — both ministers of foreign affairs, ministers of defense — I believe this is not only an ongoing dialogue, but this is unprecedented dialogue.
It doesn't matter whether we work with private enterprises or government enterprises, any weapon transfer is made upon the decision of the government. So that's why we are really hoping for the support of those governments.
This is the first time in my life that I have encountered such communications between different governments. I know I can call my counterparts from other governments anywhere in the world anytime at all.
The companies I have met, they were very open minded, very worried about what's going on in Ukraine. But we are already cooperating with most of them. And everybody who I've met is willing to cooperate with us in the future.
We have a very difficult task at hand for us. For those companies, we ask them to arrange weapons supplies for us as quickly and as efficiently as possible. We really expect that the governments we're cooperating with will fully support their weapons factories in support of Ukraine.
My first Eurosatory was 20 years ago. And all those years Ukraine was a seller of weapons. And this is the first exhibition when instead of being a seller of the weapons, we have become the largest consumer. This is the first year of Eurosatory where we are represented not by our industry, but instead by our ministry of defense, who is the consumer, who is the client, the purchaser of all these weapon systems.
And the main message that we have for this year's Eurosatory is to show how exceptionally our armed forces of Ukraine are utilizing the available equipment, how our military fights better than everyone.
And we want to show other countries that you can trust us. You can trust us with your weapons, your technologies, to use them to best of our abilities. We know how to use them. We know how to fight a war with them.
And it is largely due to the efforts of the Ukrainian armed forces that many foreign brands are currently on the front pages of newspapers. People are naming their children Javelin.
Topics: Global Defense Market