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Russia's invasion of Ukraine: this is what the powerful weapons that can decide who will win the conflict look like


Highlights: Kiev is preparing a counteroffensive with a modern arsenal provided by the West, while Moscow uses its large reserves of weapons to go on the defensive. These are the most powerful weapons in the arsenals of both countries and can thus play a key role in the new phase of the conflict. Kiev now has two U.S.-sent Patriot batteries, which experts say will help intercept Russian missiles and keep its fighters and bombers away. Russia has an air force almost 10 times larger than that of Ukraine, thanks to country's air defense systems.

Fifteen months after the Russian invasion, Kiev is preparing a counteroffensive with a modern arsenal provided by the West, while Moscow uses its large reserves of weapons to go on the defensive.

The drone bombing of Moscow that Russia blamed on Ukraine on Tuesday — the first in a Russian residential area since the start of the invasion — and repeated Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities, including one in broad daylight in Kiev, have highlighted the escalation of the conflict ahead of an imminent Ukrainian counteroffensive to regain lost territory.

Fifteen months after Vladimir Putin entered the former Soviet republic, the war in Ukraine seems at times like a conflict of attrition. But each side's powerful weapons can largely decide who wins and who loses.

While Ukraine prepares a counteroffensive with a modern arsenal provided by the West, Russia uses its large stockpile of weaponry to go on the defensive. These are the most powerful weapons in the arsenals of both countries and can thus play a key role in the new phase of the conflict.

Kiev's new arsenal

1. HIMARS rocket launchers

A HIMARS A M142 rocket launcher fires at Russian targets in Bakhmut, May 18, 2023.Global Images Ukraine / Global Images Ukraine via Getty

Perhaps the most important weapon in Ukraine's arsenal, analysts say, is the HIMARS high-mobility, remote-controlled rocket launcher system: a six-wheeled truck capable of firing up to six medium-range (50-mile) rockets or a single-long-range rocket (190 miles). It is highly mobile and can travel at more than 50 miles per hour after firing, making it a difficult target for Russian troops to hunt. The Pentagon has claimed that Russia has not been able to destroy a single one of these US-made weapons. They are particularly effective at destroying supply depots behind enemy lines.

2. Howitzers Canyons

Ukrainian soldiers fire a Howitzer cannon at the battlefront in Donetsk, April 24, 2023.Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Howtizer artillery piece, also American-made, is known to Ukrainian soldiers at the front as 'The King of Battle'. It fires 155mm explosive projectiles and was a key player in Ukraine's successful offensive last fall. However, ammunition has become increasingly scarce. The Ukrainian parliament estimated in April that it was using between 6,000 and 8,000 rounds a day and would require about a million more, a figure that could be difficult to provide even for NATO allies, according to analysts.

3. Storm Shadow Missiles

A Storm Shadow missile at a weapons show in Dubai in November 2005.RABIH MOGHRABI/AFP via Getty Images

Britain announced in the middle of this month that it will send the advanced Anglo-franca-made Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine. It is an air-to-ground missile (it must be fired from an aircraft) with a range of 155 miles, which would allow Ukraine to attack Russian positions far from the front, including the Crimean peninsula, which it has occupied since 2014. Its price exceeds three million dollars per unit.

4. Abrams Tanks

NATO soldiers train in Poland with M1A2 Abrams tanks, April 12, 2023.NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

M1 Abrams tanks were some of the weapons most requested by Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in February last year. After initial reluctance, the Pentagon has already sent 31 Abrams to Ukraine, according to official sources. The rolling fortress features thick armor, a 120mm main gun, advanced systems to direct its attacks and identify threats, and a jet engine that allows it to exceed 40 miles per hour.

5. Stryker and Bradley Fighting Vehicles

Stryker vehicles for transporting military personnel, at a NATO base in Romania.picture alliance / dpa/picture alliance via Getty I

The United States has sent at least 90 Stryker armored units and about 59 Bradley transport trucks. The former are faster and some models are armed with 105mm cannons and others can carry up to nine soldiers. The latter are slower, have heavier weaponry and can carry up to six soldiers. Experts believe the two vehicles will be instrumental in penetrating Russian defenses with rapid infantry deployments.

6. Patriot anti-aircraft missiles

Patriot anti-aircraft batteries in Poland protect the eastern flank of NATO countries.picture alliance/dpa/picture alliance via Getty I

The fight for control of the skies has been a fundamental part of the war and although Russia has an air force almost 10 times larger than that of Ukraine, thanks to that country's air defense systems the Kremlin has failed to establish superiority in the air. Kiev now has two U.S.-sent Patriot batteries, which experts say will help intercept advanced Russian missiles and keep its fighters and bombers away.

7. Drones

Ukrainian soldiers learn how to use a DJI Mavic drone adapted to load an anti-personnel bomb. Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

Russia accused Ukraine on Tuesday of attacking a residential area in Moscow for the first time with a wave of drones, although a senior Kiev official said his country had "nothing to do directly." The incident illustrates the constant use of drones by both armies, one of the novelties in weapons technology of this war. Media reports indicate that Kiev's forces use a wide variety of these devices, from Chinese-made DJI Mavic drones for commercial use but adapted to carry bombs, Israeli Kvazimachta drones for reconnaissance operations and even Toloka underwater drones, recently used against the Russian fleet in the port of Sevastopol in Crimea.

8. F-16 fighter jets

F-16 jets fly over a Polish air base during a NATO demonstration event, March 21, 2023.LUKASZ GLOWALA/REUTERS

One of the weapons most requested by Ukraine since the start of the invasion, and which the United States had not been willing to hand over until now, could reach the battlefields of Europe by the end of the year. Although F-16 aircraft are relatively old (from the 1970s), they are extremely versatile and widely available in the air forces of NATO countries, so many could be donated to Kiev, which according to its own calculations needs at least 200 of these aircraft. Ukrainian pilots are already training with F-16s in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and other European Union countries.

Russia's most powerful weapons

Despite Russia's initial defeats in Ukraine and the imminent counteroffensive that country is preparing to recover 17% of the territory that the invading troops still control, experts warn that the Kremlin will not give up and that it still has a powerful arsenal at its disposal.

These are some of the Kremlin's most devastating weapons.

1. Iskander missiles

An Iskander-M rocket launcher during a weapons show in Moscow, August 17, 2022.Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iskander missiles, one of the weapons Russia has used most frequently against Ukraine, are lethal for their long range (250 miles) and accuracy. A specially adapted truck as a launch pad can carry up to two of these projectiles, which can even be equipped with nuclear warheads.

2. Kh-47 Kinzhal missiles

A Ukrainian official points to a Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic missile shot down by air defense systems, May 12, 2023.VALENTYN OGIRENKO/REUTERS

The sophisticated Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic missile that is fired from fighter jets at ground targets is considered one of the Kremlin's deadliest weapons. Not only is it capable of overcoming the sound barrier 10 times, but it can also maneuver at that high speed to evade air defense systems (although Ukraine has reported shooting down some of them).

3. Ka-52 Alligator helicopter

A Ka-52 helicopter fires during a military demonstration in Russia in August 2015.SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Ka-52 Alligator helicopters were one of Russia's most advanced weapons before the invasion of Ukraine. However, in the first months of the conflict the Ukrainian infantry neutralized these aircraft with their abundant portable rocket launchers, shooting down at least 25 of them, according to data from the military consultancy Oryx.

4. TOS-1A rocket launcher: the thermobaric weapon

The TOS-1A, a rocket launcher equipped with thermobaric weapons mounted on the chassis of a T-72 tank, at an arms show in Russia, in August 2015.SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Vacuum or thermobaric pumps are fired through rocket launch systems, often mounted on the chassis of a tank. They are considered one of Russia's most brutal weapons, a mixture of chemicals and explosives that when exploded cause supersonic shock waves capable of destroying entire blocks. Media reports indicate that this weapon was used in the recent Russian capture of Bakhmut.

5. Minefields

Ukrainian soldiers defuse Russian anti-tank mines in Kiev region.NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Although not the most advanced weapons, minefields both on land and in the Black Sea have become one of Russia's main lines of defense in the occupied territories with a devastating effect on civilians and commercial vessels. Human rights organizations have denounced Moscow in particular for the use of antipersonnel mines in violation of several international treaties.

6. Kilo submarines

The Russian diesel-electric Kilo-powered Kilo-class submarine sails in the Bosphorus Strait, February 13, 2022.OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images

Russia has so far used its fleet of Kilo-class submarines in the Black Sea mainly as platforms to launch Kalibr cruise missiles, after Ukraine hampered its operations on the water surface by sinking its flagship Moskva. But analysts warn of the danger posed to Kiev by submarine warfare against its commercial fleet.

7. Sahed Drones

An Iranian-made Sahed 136 drone shown by Ukrainian forces during a press conference, April 13, 2023.Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Iranian-made Sahed drone has become one of the most widely reported Russian weapons, particularly for its use against civilian targets. Moscow's forces have launched waves of attack by these kamikaze drones causing extensive damage in residential areas, but they have also been used to destroy artillery positions.

8. The world's largest nuclear arsenal

A vehicle carries the RS-24 Yars strategic nuclear missile in Moscow's Red Square, June 24, 2020.Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

With more than 5,900 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, Russia is the country with the most nuclear warheads in the world, according to data from the Federation of American Scientists. Russian President Vladimir Putin has put his nuclear forces on alert several times during the war in Ukraine and although he has limited himself to using conventional weapons against Kiev so far, he has warned that he will use "all available means" to defend Russian territory.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2023-05-31

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