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Published: 11:37, January 17, 2023 | Updated: 11:37, January 17, 2023
West's firepower turns Ukraine into weapons 'test bed'
By Ren Qi in Moscow
Published:11:37, January 17, 2023 Updated:11:37, January 17, 2023 By Ren Qi in Moscow

Soldiers from the Armed Forces of Ukraine take part in a military exercise, during the UK-led basic training program, on a military training camp, in an unspecified location in the North East of England, Britain, November 9, 2022. (PHOTO / REUTERS)

Britain has announced it will send 14 of its main battle tanks along with additional artillery support to Ukraine, a move that may reinforce perceptions aired in US media that the country has become a "test bed for Western weapons".

In a recent CNN special report, experts and open-source analysts said Ukraine has become a veritable battle lab for cheap but effective solutions, mainly because officials from the United States and other Western countries don't always have perfect insight into exactly how Ukraine's custom-made systems work. These limitations stem in large part from the fact that the officials are not on the ground in Ukraine.

The military operation in Ukraine has also offered the US and its allies a rare opportunity to study how their own weapons systems perform under intense use, and what munitions both sides are using to score wins in this hotly-fought modern military contest. For the US military, the conflict in Ukraine has been a source of data on the utility of its own systems, the CNN report said.

Some high-profile systems given to the Ukrainians, such as the Switchblade 300 drone and a missile designed to target enemy radar systems, have turned out to be less effective on the battlefield than anticipated, according to a US military operations officer with knowledge of the battlefield, as well as a recent study from a British think tank.

The debate over the effectiveness of the supplied arms comes as a statement from the office of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the 14 Challenger 2 tanks would arrive in Ukraine within weeks and around 30 self-propelled AS90 guns, to be operated by five gunners, are expected to follow.

The UK will begin training Ukrainian forces to use the tanks and guns in the coming days.

Ambition outlined

The announcement follows a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier on Saturday during which Sunak "outlined the UK's ambition to intensify our support to Ukraine, including through the provision of Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems".

Sunak's office said last week that Britain would coordinate its support with its allies after Germany, France and the US indicated last week that they would provide armored vehicles to Ukraine.

The Russian embassy in London said the decision to send the tanks would drag out the confrontation, leading to more victims including civilians, and was evidence of "the increasingly obvious involvement of London in the conflict".

The Challenger 2 is a battle tank designed to attack other tanks, and has been in service with the British Army since 1994.

Separately, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday praised his forces after their claimed capture of the Ukrainian town of Soledar.

Ukraine denied the claims and said heavy fighting continued in Soledar.

The death toll from a weekend Russian missile strike on military targets in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro has risen to 35, an official said on Monday.

Agencies contributed to this story.


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