STUTTGART, Germany — It takes a village to help Ukraine fight the Russians.
Consider a recent shipment of 105-millimeter howitzers.
Britain donated weons and New Zealand trained Ukrainian soldiers on how to use them and provided spare parts.
Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire a US-supplied 155-millimeter M777 howitzer at Russian positions in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on May 22, 2022. Photo Ivor Prickett/The New York Times.
USA it supplied the ammunition and the vehicles to tow them and took the cargo to a base near the Ukrainian border.
The choreogrhy for the sequence was the work of dozens of military logistics specialists ensconced in a large, secure loft at the US European Command headquarters in Germany.
The little-known group is playing a critical role in keeping the Ukrainian military armed and equipped as its needs on the battlefield becomen more complicated.
Think of the cell as a cross between a wedding list for bombs, bullets, and rocket artillery, and a military version of FedEx.
Uniformed officers of more than two dozen countries trying to meet Ukraine’s requests with donations of more than 40 countries and then organize the transfer of the shipments by air, land or sea from the donor countries to the border of Ukraine for collection, all in about 72 hoursyes
“The flow has been continuous,” Rear Admiral R. Duke Heinz, chief of logistics for European Command, told a small group of reporters who visited the logistics center last week.
US Navy Rear Admiral R. Duke Heinz, chief of logistics for US European Command, in Stuttgart, Germany. Photo Lena Mucha/The New York Times.
As the five-month war pears to be entering a new phase, with Ukraine laying the groundwork for a major offensive in the south of the country, Ukrainian political leaders and commanders are pressing the United States and its other allies to speed up and widen the flow of weons and ammunition.
“Ukraine needs the firepower and ammunition to withstand its bombardment and strike back at Russian weons launching these attacks from inside Ukraine’s own territory,” said Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austinlast week in Washington.
“So we understand the urgency, and we are pushing to maintain and intensify the impulse of the donations”.
More US-supplied weons, such as High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, top Ukraine’s wish list.
But so are armed drones and fighter jets.
General CQ Brown, the Air Force chief of staff, suggested last week that the United States or one of its European allies could send fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming weeks or months.
The US European Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, on July 20, 2022. Photo Lena Mucha/The New York Times.
The United States recently said it would send four more M142 HIMARS to Ukraine, adding to the dozen mobile rocket launchers already in the field.
Ukrainian soldiers have used them to destroy dozens of Russian command posts, air defense sites and ammunition depots, Ukrainian and US officials say.
“This has slowed down significantly the Russian advance and has sharply decreased the intensity of its artillery bombardment,” Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in an online interview last week for the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.
“So it’s working.”
Heinz said the cell was trying to meet Ukraine’s demands for more weons faster, acknowledging that “if the roles were reversed, the comments would be the same.”
The arms distribution nerve cell, formally called International Donor Coordination Centeris where it hpens.
For such a high-profile mission, the room has a distinctly basic feel.
Officers sit at long folding tables, typing on their ltops or chatting on their phone headsets with their colleagues in several different languages.
Like much of Europe that suffered from last week’s heat wave, the attic room is not air-conditioned.
Only a few open windows in the roof offered a slight breeze.
The center began operations 24 hours in March, combining British and American efforts to coordinate the flow of weons and equipment.
The process is simple.
Ukraine submits plications through a secure and classified database.
Military officials sift through the online list to determine what their countries can donate without endangering their own national security.
Nations also contribute training and transportation.
A Ukrainian three-star general who works at the center answers questions and clarifies the priorities of his country.
The center can send a technical teama military version of the Geek Squad, to check the status of a potential donor’s contribution and help organize perwork for delivery.
Once a match is proved, the planners find the best way to deliver shipment.
About 75% of the weons are shipped to operating bases in Poland, where Ukrainian troops pick up their cargo and take it across the border.
Heinz declined to identify two other neighboring countries where the shipments are delivered, citing security concerns of those nations.
The planners use different border crossings to Ukraine for weons and humanitarian assistance, he said.
In nearly five months, the hub has moved more than 78,000 tons of weons, ammunition and equipment worth more than $10 billion, US and Western military officials said.
Many Baltic and Eastern European countries have donated standard Soviet weons and ammunition that have long been used by the Ukrainian military.
But given the intense fighting, those stocks are running low, if not already gone.
A factory in Europe is making some standard ammunition including howitzer shells, and is operating 24/7, Heinz said.
The shortage has required Ukraine to begin the transition to standard Western arms and ammunition, which are more abundant.
Once the weons are in Ukraine, the US and other Western military officials say they can’t trace them.
They are based on Ukraine’s accounts of how and where the weons are used, although US military and intelligence officials, including Special Operations forces, are in daily contact with their Ukrainian counterparts, US officials said.
U.S. and Ukrainian officials have downplayed reports that some weons are being diverted from the black market in Ukraine, but Heinz acknowledged that “we are not tracking the serial number once they cross the border.”
Russia has attacked Ukrainian train depots and warehouses, but has not shown that it can attack effectively. moving targetslike weons convoys, with its arsenal of precision-guided munitions ridly diminishing, US officials said.
Initial shipments of weons, including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles, were flown to Poland and quickly moved across the border.
But as larger, heavier and more complex weons are donated, military planners are also sending shipments by sea, rail and truck.
The center also arranges for Ukrainian soldiers to receive training on how to use and keeping weons, like the HIMARS, which require at least two weeks of training, military officials said.
The United States has trained some 1,500 members of the Ukrainian military, mostly in Germany.
A group recently arrived in Britain to attend a new program that officials there say will eventually train up to 10,000 Ukrainian conscripts in weonry, patrol tactics, first aid and other skills.
When Ukrainians encounter a problem, the sites of “remote repair” established by the center can help keep equipment running and check the maintenance status of weons.
The move to this comprehensive program of equipping, training, and keeping weons flowing and timing shipments with training has posed increasing challenges for the coordination center.
“It is definitely a more complex task,” said Brig. Christopher King, the leading British officer in the center.
“What I would say is that they are very easy to train and very committed”.
The coordination center typically works on shipments two months in advance, Heinz said.
In addition to the weons and ammunition the Pentagon announced last week, the 16th round the Biden administration has proved since August, Heinz said two more shipments are on the way.
The admiral did not provide details of future shipments, which will require the president’s proval. Joe Biden.
For now, top officials say the allies are standing firm behind Ukraine’s fight.
“The goal is for Ukraine to win the right to defend its country’s sovereignty and to take back that land,” said Heinz, a veteran of the Ukraine wars. Afghanistan and Iraq.
“I cannot define what it is like to win for Ukrainians,” he said, adding that it was up to the president. Volodymyr Zelensky and of the Ukrainian people.
“The United States and our allies and partners are involved until he tells us he doesn’t need any more help.”
Kitty Bennett contributed research.
c.2022 The New York Times CompanyY