Procurement: The Ukrainian Solution

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January 9, 2016: The U.S. government is divided over how much to help Ukraine deal with Russian aggression. The Congress wants to provide more assistance than the president does. Thus $260 million worth of new equipment has been provided. This includes protective vests, radios, radars and such. Congress has found a way to get more gear there, but is has to be “surplus” (used and often very used). This includes a lot of vehicles, which the Ukrainians need but they have to take a lot of the equipment received and use it for spare parts to keep the other stuff going. The Ukrainians don’t appreciate the stalemate in the American government over this aid and wonder why they are getting so many worn out hummers and other vehicles. But they make do and keep the stuff going as best they can. One thing the president is blocking is weapons, lest, the thinking goes, it would anger the Russians to the point where the situation would get even more violent than it already is. It’s not just the United States that will not provide weapons but most Western countries as well. All believe sending weapons would escalate the conflict. The Ukrainians don’t agree and have managed to provide hundreds of armored vehicles and other weapons locally.

Ukraine did this by reviving a lot of its Cold War era military industries. For example Ukraine is refurbishing a lot of existing equipment. This includes the Cold War era armored vehicles Ukraine has lots of. Most of these were little used in the past but can still be effective fighting Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. Even before the Russian aggression began in 2014 Ukraine had begun refurbing decades’ old T-64 tanks. In 2007 Ukraine began rebuilding hundreds of T-64s in storage. This cost about $600,000 per tank and the refurbished vehicles were able to deal with the more modern Russian tanks in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine also revived plans to build IFVs (heavy infantry fighting vehicles) based on the chassis of retired T-64s. This resulted in an IFV that had the T-64 turret removed and the chassis built up to create a 35 ton vehicle. All manner of Cold War era armored vehicles are being refurbished and put back into service.

In 2014 several hundred of these T-64s were in service with the Ukrainian army. Ukraine was also building some new, but upgraded, T-64BVs. Ukrainian factories were also building new T-84s, mainly for export. These cost over three million dollars each and over 30 were in service by the end of 2015 and at least a hundred are expected in 2016. Refurbishing old stuff and building new tanks was possible because while part of the Soviet Union (from the 1920s to 1991) Ukraine was the site of many facilities for building and repairing armored vehicles and Ukraine inherited these when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

This revival of the Cold War era armored vehicle industry was possible because many of the factories were shut down but not destroyed or redeveloped into something else. Moreover Ukraine found that a lot of the former workers in these plants were eager to return to them. Some of the older and more experienced workers came out of retirement to do so. So despite the American reluctance to arm Ukraine, the Ukrainians have managed to do it themselves using local resources and ingenuity.

 


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