11,000 Ukrainians Have Had at Least Some US Training As Spring Offensive Looms
Ukraine also set to start training on U.S. Abrams tanks by mid-May.
About 8,800 U.S.-trained Ukrainian troops are back in their home country ahead of an anticipated spring counter-offensive meant to oust Russia from the one-sixth of Ukraine’s territory they still occupy. Another 2,250 are currently training at U.S. bases in Germany, a U.S. official said Thursday.
That updates a March 30 statement that the U.S. had trained more than 7,000 Ukrainian soldiers.
The U.S. training is just part of the European effort to improve the effectiveness of the Ukrainian army. Britain has put some 10,000 Ukrainian civilians through a five-week boot camp, and plans to train 20,000 more this year. And more thousands received some training from U.S. troops before Russia invaded in February 2022. But foreign-trained troops are just a fraction of the Ukrainian armed forces, which has swelled from its pre-invasion total of 246,445 troops to more than 700,000.
About half of the U.S.-trained troops—some 4,600—are members of mechanized battalions who were trained in combined arms tactics, Cmdr. Lenaya Rotklein, a spokeswoman for the U.S.’s Security Assistance Group-Ukraine, said on Thursday. Combined arms tactics consist of closely coordinating actions between infantry, tanks, artillery, and other combat arms, which Ukraine may be expected to use in assaults during its counteroffensive.
So far, the U.S. has trained seven mechanized battalions: three equipped with U.S. Stryker armored fighting vehicles, three with U.S. Bradley AFVs; and one motorized infantry battalion.
The U.S. has promised to send 90 Strykers and 109 Bradleys to Ukraine, as of April 19. Both vehicles protect troops from small arms and artillery fire as they travel into battle, but lack the heavier armor and weapons of tanks.
The first Ukrainian soldiers to train on combined arms maneuver arrived in mid-January in Germany. The course lasts five to eight weeks at the enormous Grafenwoehr and Hohenfel training facilities. The two have 246 square miles of territory between them; Grafenwoehr alone has more than 70 miles of tank trails and 149 miles of secondary roads.
The U.S. has trained 3,700 Ukrainian soldiers on various weapons, such as the M777 howitzer. A further 500 have completed staff training: “presentations, classroom discussions, and command post exercises aimed at improving the ability to plan, conduct and oversee the full spectrum of battlefield operations,” Rotklein said.
Currently, 2,250 Ukrainian soldiers, enough for four motorized infantry battalions, are amid the combined-arms training, and another 250 are completing weapons and staff training, Rotklein said.
Another Ukrainian motorized infantry battalion has just arrived in Germany to begin training, Rotklein said, meaning that almost 12,000 Ukrainians soldiers will eventually receive U.S. training before they go back to Ukraine’s front lines.
The U.S. also announced Friday that it would ship 31 Abrams tanks to Europe as part of a 10-week training course for 250 Ukrainians. The tanks will not be sent on to Ukraine. Instead, Ukraine will instead use tanks that the U.S. is refurbishing for expected delivery in fall. The U.S. originally said the tanks would not be ready for one or two years from January 2023.