Ukraine a test range for Western arms – defense minister
The conflict in Ukraine gives Western arms producers a chance to see which products fare best in a real fight against Russia, the country’s defense minister has said.
“We have a combat testing field in Ukraine during this war,” Aleksey Reznikov explained. “We have eight different 155mm artillery systems in the field … so it’s like a competition between systems” to see which one proves best.
The comments came in an interview with Politico published on Tuesday. The testing ground idea was previously expressed by Reznikov’s deputy, Vladimir Gavrilov, who claimed that some American defense contractors were fielding their prototypes in Ukraine.
Kiev expects military aid from NATO members to continue flowing into the country for years and wants to benefit more from it, Reznikov said. For example, Ukraine could start joint ventures with Poland, the UK, or Germany to produce weapons.
“We have to develop a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) industry not only for aerial drones but also on land and in the sea because it’s the future” of warfare, he noted.
He was also skeptical about restrictions under which Ukraine’s supporters are shipping arms to Kiev. As the conflict with Russia unfolded, the US and its allies have repeatedly reconsidered previous decisions not to send heavier weapons, the defense minister pointed out.
“I’m really optimistic that Abrams tanks are possible in the future and I am sure that fighter jets like F-16s, F-15s, or Gripen from Sweden will also be possible,” he said.
Washington was initially reluctant to provide lethal aid to Ukraine out of concern that Russia would consider it an escalation but gradually reconsidered and supplied increasingly sophisticated weapons, which Reznikov sees as a favorable trend.
Western officials cited logistical issues with training Ukrainian pilots and maintenance of the fighter jets among the reasons why Ukraine can’t get F-16s or F-15s. But according to media reports, Kiev may get them in the long run.
Reznikov said European NATO allies were looking to the US in their aid decisions, so it was up to Washington to up the ante.
“After the first Abrams [arrives] I’m sure we will have Leopards, Marders, and other types of heavy armored vehicles like tanks,” he told the news outlet.
Among the weapons the US most recently designated for Ukraine are the NASAMS air defense systems. Washington is also reportedly considering sending some old HAWK surface-to-air missiles it has stockpiled to see if they are still effective.