Why are U.S. weapons failing in Ukraine?

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India, Flicks Town and D2Mobi. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Twitter: @chackojoseph *views are Personal Twitter: @chackojoseph *views are Personal.

On May 18, Russian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and artillery reconnaissance near Podgornoe in Sevastopol detected the firing position of the U.S. supplied 155mm the M777 towed howitzers firing position of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF). The UAV operators fired a missile at the firing position causing damage to several guns. Being a lightweight gun, the UAF gunners quickly towed the M7772A guns into a wooded area to conceal. A video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense, shot by an ariel platform, shows these concealed guns were destroyed by artillery fire, possibly a multiple rocket launcher (MRLS). The failure of the M777 gun is too early to predict. But it does show a pattern of failures of the American weapons, both operational and in doctrine. 

Javelin was supposed to burn all Russian equipment

The United States has delivered about 7,000 Javelin anti-tank missile systems (ATGM) to Ukraine. According to the American Insider Magazine, the ATGM stocks in the U.S. reserves were reduced by about a third and now 20-25 thousand sets are left. At the same time, the fighting in Ukraine showed the insufficient effectiveness of this so-called man-portable weapon.

The FGM-148F Javelin anti-tank missile system was developed in 1989 to destroy armoured vehicles and low-flying low-speed targets like helicopters, drones and light aircraft. An infrared homing head (GOS) detects the target and ensures its capture at any time of the day. After firing the Javelin missile, the shooter can immediately change his position to avoid being hit by return fire.

The target is hit by a tandem HEAT warhead capable of penetrating 600-800 mm of armour. The rocket hits a tank or other armoured vehicle in the upper part, where the armour is the weakest.

Javelins did live up to a fraction of its fearsome reputation as it managed to knock off an unspecified number of tanks. However, it was the Ukrainian ATGM Skif or Stugna-P, developed by the Luch Design Bureau, that did the most damage. While it should be a surprise for most analysts, Ukrainian soldiers are well trained in Skif ATGM handling. N-LAWs from the United Kingdom were comparatively better performers as they were lighter to carry around in urban combat. Another issue was the limited space, and tall buildings interrupted the Javelin firings. One unverified issue is that the Javelins couldn’t distinguish the targets in the urban scenario. It was not a surprise for Ukrainians as one of the opposition members, just before the war, had stated that junk was being poured into the country, and Skif’s could perform better. 

The problem with Javelins is both tactical and doctrinal. The Ukrainian Prisoners of War state that the U.S. help was overhyped. The Javelins were either outdated or unkempt and often misfired. The instructors ignored the misfires and gave them basic information on how to fire the missiles. The heavy Javelins were unsuitable for urban combat, as well as in rural and remote areas. In rural and remote areas, the possibility of meeting Russian armour was remote, and the operators were exposed to spying Russian UAVs and helicopters.  

The Javelins, which ended up as trophies with the Russians and Donetsk Militia, were termed ‘junk’. In fact, in the initial days of the war, the Russians spoke about the U.S. establishing an office in Lviv to prevent Ukrainians from speaking out on Javelins’ issues.

Russian tankers soon developed tactics against these man-portable ATGM’s. Russians argue that Javelins are weapons for infantry and not for large tanks. 

After the initial hype, even the Ukrainian propaganda department, which churns out ridiculous statistics, stopped talking about Javelins. 

The U.S. assumption that the Javelins alone were enough to burn the Russian armour and military vehicles many times over was busted. Soon the U.S. started dolling out M777 155mm guns as their next doctrinal experiment. 

As a side note, the Switchblade 300 loitering munition supplied to Ukraine for anti-armour uses is not much talked about, and the mythical Pheonix Ghost remains a myth. 

Stinger Missiles that didn’t sting

Stinger MANPADS, which received fame in Afghanistan, were of very little effectiveness in Ukraine. 

Just like the T-72’s on the ground, the Russian helicopters rule the air in Ukraine. There are few videos of Stingers shooting Russian helicopters, but largely they have been ineffective. The Russian MoD released a video of a Ka-52 gunship pilot who explained how to avoid a Stinger. 

M777 Howitzers are too lightweight for this war

M777 howitzer represents a new high for the Ukrainian decision-makers as they often said in the past that the 155 mm was the ticket to NATO. Ukrainians used WW II era 152 mm guns before the U.S. donated the M777s. 152mm was the Soviet standard, and 155 mm was the U.K. standard used by the U.S. and NATO. The difference is just 3 mm, and they both fire the similar weight to a similar distance with similar types of explosives. 

The United States has supplied Ukraine with 155-mm M777A2 towed howitzers. In total, 89 guns out of 90 donated were delivered. Some of the guns are already in the Donbas, and a few of them were promptly busted by the Russians today. 

On May 7, the Pentagon reported that more than 200 Ukrainian troops were trained to use these howitzers. The deliveries are a part of the $800 million aid package to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The package includes 180,000 shells for the M777s, out of which 120,000 are reportedly delivered. 

The videos and images from the UAF propaganda department show that the M777A2 howitzers delivered by the Americans to Ukraine are a simplified version of the gun, from which the digital fire control system (FCS), which made this howitzer a truly highly effective artillery piece with high accuracy, was removed. In the Armed Forces of Ukraine version, aiming is carried out in the old fashioned way, using optical sights and tables. The Americans removed the FCS from the howitzers, knowing that some of the guns would fall into the hands of the Russian army.

It means the M777 version delivered to Ukraine can’t fire the M982 Excalibur guided round and can’t use the M1156 guided fuze. 

As per the visuals from Ukrainian positions, the gun fires M795 High Explosive projectile with M739A1 Point Detonating Fuze and M232 MACS charge, which aren’t the most modern M777 combination. M777 are regular artillery guns but with a lower weight for easy transportation. 

It remains to be seen if the M777s will make a difference in the war or will be a myth buried in the Ukrainian propaganda books. 

10 COMMENTS

    • Notice how it says “Ukrainian prisoners of war said …” Then proceeds to trash U.S weapons and support … Lol they expected P.O.Ws to trash talk the Russians & be like “We’ve been SLAUGHTERING Y’ALL!!” & then be killed by them ! No shit they’d talk down their side !!

  1. Pro Russian troll as far as I can tell, no weapon is perfect and 1000 burning tanks can’t all be wrong. If in was Indian I would be very concerned that the 80% of my armed forces equipment was absolute rubbish.

  2. Some of this is definitely wrong. Some may have an element of truth. None of it is definitely true.

  3. The author is basically correct. The Javelins sent are the very oldest in US inventory. You can see pics on Uki sites of past-use-by dates on these items, and operational batteries long past capability to hold their charge. Explosive are perishable devices, and a Javelin is just an ATGM launcher and missile, with an IR homing targeting system rather than a wire guided targeting system. The explosives in these rockets perish and degrade with time just like any other, and therefore using them when very aged is unpredictable, it can easily result in a Pfffhhhttt! upon impact, and NOT the intended Bang!

    If US fanboys can’t deal with such reality that is their problem. Remember kids; Don’t. Believe. The. Hype.

    Because it ALL comes from the Marketing Departments of Corporation trying to sell their products, and in case of Javelins, these have never been truly assessed in REAL combat before.

  4. I’m uncertain why this website denigrates American weapons but I have been on the frontlines in Ukraine and seen these weapons in action.. Both British and American weapons are extremely reliable and exceptionally effective when used by properly trained soldiers. Western weapons, in general, require more complexity to achieve their outstanding accuracy. This necessitates more training.

  5. interesting who complaints about a non existent bias then proclaims a bias through their criticism without backing that up. typical response of a twitter brain.

  6. EU and US weapons are failing so much in Ukraine that:
    – After 7 months of Putin’s 3 days war, Russia has lost as many servicemen as USA in Vietnam over 10 years.
    – Putin declared in February that the operation will only use professional militaries, now Russia does a general mobilisation of 1.2 million, even grabbing people in the streets.
    – The Ukrainian kill ration is already 10:1 despite being a draft army vs. professional military. Ru mobilized conscripts are sent to the front into 3 days with no training, Ukraine has so much voluntaries willing to kill invaders that in fact, they even refuse most of these, and they’re trained in NATO countries for as long as it takes to be really efficient.
    – Russia is UNABLE to achieve air superiority, and they had 20 combat aircraft for 1 Ukrainian at the start of the full invasion.
    – Russia has near lost ALL its modern tanks! T-62 (built 60 years ago!) are being taken out of museums. More and more Russian soldiers are being captured with WW2 equipment and even WW1 riffles like the Mosin-Nagant M1890 !
    – The Kharkiv counter offensive has demolished 5 months of territorial grabbing into a week…

    BU YOU MUST BE RIGHT : WESTERN WEAPONS MUST BE FAILING.
    2021 Ukraine’s military budget was less than $5 billions.
    2021 Russia’s military budget was about the same as India’s

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