January 18, 2023:
The winter weather in Ukraine has made it possible for Ukraine to send more of their troops to NATO bases for training. The United States has set up a training program that trains up to 800 Ukrainian troops a month. Until now the Americans were only training about 300 Ukrainian soldiers each month. Since February 2022 the U.S. has trained 3,100 Ukrainian soldiers. All this training concentrates in teaching Ukrainian troops to use weapons or equipment sent to Ukraine. For example, this program trained 610 Ukrainian artillerymen on how to use the HIMARS vehicle that carries and launches six GMLRS missiles. The fire control system of the HIMARS vehicle is somewhat complex. This HIMARS training enabled the Ukrainian crews to use the GMLRS missiles with devastating effect.
The new expanded program will train infantry units to handle more complex battlefield tactics. From 2015 to February 2022, American instructors trained 0ver 27,000 Ukrainian troops at a Ukrainian army base. After the invasion the American trainers withdrew and the training continued, on a smaller scale, in NATO bases in Germany.
Britain has used a thousand trainers to train nearly 10,000 Ukrainian troops in the last six months. Britain will train another 20,000 Ukrainian troops in Britain this year. Other nations have also contributed trainers to this effort. The Ukrainians appreciate this training effort and it makes a difference on the battlefield. This is especially true because Russia is sending more troops to Ukraine who have had little or no training. That means the Russians suffer higher casualties and the Ukrainian lose far fewer men.
The training program continues as Ukraine receives more complex weapons and equipment. This includes increasingly complex air defense systems like Patriot. More complex armored vehicles are on the way, including the M2 Bradley IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle), the successor to the M113 “battle taxi” that was a lot simpler to operate. The M2 weighs 27-30 tons and not only weighs twice as much as the M113, but has far more onboard equipment you must master to get the most out of what amounts to a mini-tank that weighs half as much as an M1 tank. In peacetime the training courses for M2 operators and maintainers last several months. In wartime the training can be reduced to a few weeks, especially if you select students who have experience operating or repairing similar commercial or military equipment. There are also documents about operation or repair that can be viewed on a cell phone.
Ukrainian troops have been quick learners and know that success learning this material is a matter of life or death. The NATO nations have been making notes of how well and quickly the Ukrainians absorb this training, and used it to improve NATO training methods. NATO has long been getting useful feedback from Ukrainian troops about how well the training and the equipment works.
Britain is sending Ukraine some tanks and several countries are sending IFVs. NATO and the Ukrainians develop shorter courses enabling troops familiar with one model of tank or IFV to transition to another similar vehicle. All this training gives Ukrainian forces a major advantage over the Russians, where most of the troops have little training or advanced tech and suffer from low morale and poor leadership. That sort of thing makes a big difference in combat but is often discounted during peacetime.