Ukrainian soldiers will begin training on the Panzerhaubitze 2000 howitzer in Germany next week, after the Dutch and German governments agreed to send 12 of the heavy weapons to the war.
The decision comes after extensive deliberation in Berlin about the extent of Germany’s military assistance to Ukraine. Previously, the administration of Chancellor Olaf Scholz was hesitant to give heavy weaponry, while key ministers from the ruling coalition parties were said to be more forward-thinking than Scholz.
The introduction of self-propelled howitzers follows the predicted logic of heightened warfare in Ukraine’s east, which Western observers have characterised as a battle of attrition via long-range gunfire.
German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht described the quantity of howitzers to be supplied as “militarily reasonable” during a press conference in Slia, central Slovakia. She stated that seven will be drawn from Germany’s arsenal, rather than active Bundeswehr troops. The Dutch will supply five 155mm guns.
As Russian soldiers attempt to advance farther into eastern and southern Ukraine, heavy weaponry have already poured into the country. The Washington-based New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy reported on May 3 that the Czech Republic and Poland had supplied variations of Soviet-era Grad multiple-launch rocket systems, citing open-source information. Furthermore, the United States, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and France have either pledged or provided howitzers, according to the think tank’s tally.
So far, heavy weapons given has been a mix of Warsaw Pact and modern Western technology. The latter, like the Panzerhaubitze 2000, offer larger ranges and higher rates of fire, perhaps giving Ukrainian troops an advantage in resisting Russian incursions as well as regaining Ukrainian land.
Lambrecht and her Dutch and Slovakian colleagues, Kajsa Ollongren and Jaroslav Na, met in Slia on Friday to explore a collaborative attempt to station Patriot air defense troops there. The purpose, they claim, is to secure NATO’s eastern front while the war in neighboring Ukraine rages on.
The Dutch and German armed services each supplied a Patriot battalion for a six-month period, with American assistance.
According to a German military website, the Patriot system can intercept missiles or planes at a range of up to 45 miles. To prevent interference with civilian infrastructure, the system’s strong radar used for identifying and tracking targets would be positioned in a rather suboptimal position at a somewhat low altitude in its present Slovakian deployment, Na said.
He emphasized that this is because the country is still officially at peace. If that changes, the sensor may be relocated to higher elevation, he says, adding that the existing design will still provide enough performance.