(CNN) When Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his troops into Ukraine a year ago, most observers expected a quick victory for the invaders.
Those early predictions of Russian success have not materialised, for which experts cite a variety of factors, including higher morale and better military tactics on the Ukrainian side, but also – crucially – the availability of Western arms. supply.
While recent headlines have created considerable potential for Western battle tanks or Patriot air defense systems to influence the outcome of the war, these systems have not yet been used in combat in Ukraine.
But there are other weapons that have already helped turn the tide of the war. Here are three key things Ukrainians use to devastating effect.
At the start of the war, fighters on both sides were expecting Russian armored columns to begin rolling into the Ukrainian capital Kiev within days.
The Ukrainians needed something that could blunt that attack – and found it in the form of the Javelin, a shoulder-fired, guided anti-tank missile that can be deployed by one person.
Part of its appeal lies in its ease of use, as manufacturer Lockheed Martin, which co-developed the missile with Raytheon, explains: “To fire, the gunner places a cursor over the selected target. The Javelin The command launch unit then sends a lock.” – Signal to missile before launch.”
The javelin is a “fire and forget” weapon. As soon as the operator takes the shot, they are able to run for cover while the missile finds its way to the target.
This was especially important in the early days of the war as the Russians tended to remain in columns when trying to enter urban areas. A javelin operator could fire from a building or from behind a tree and before the Russians could fire back.
According to Lockheed Martin, the Javelin is also good at targeting Russian tanks’ weak spots – their horizontal surfaces – because its trajectory after launch sees it curve upwards and then drop onto the target from above.
This can be seen in the images of the beginning of the battle of Russian tanks, whose turrets were blown off. Often, it was the spear that did the damage.
In fact, the Javelin’s influence was so great that two and a half months after the war, US President Joe Biden visited the Alabama plant, where he is said to have praised the workforce for helping defend Ukraine.
Biden said at the time, “You’re making a huge difference for these poor sons of a gun who are subjected to such enormous, enormous pressure and firepower.”
There was another advantage to the Javelins, particularly relevant at the start of the war: they were politically acceptable.
“Their low cost and defensive use make them politically easier for other countries to provide,” Michael Armstrong, an associate professor at Brock University in Ontario, wrote on The Conversation. “In contrast, governments disagree with sending more expensive offensive weapons such as warplanes.”
The full name of the US military is the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. The US military says, “It is a full-spectrum, battle-proven, all-weather, 24/7, lethal and responsive, wheeled precision strike weapon system.”
That’s a mouthful, but to put it more plainly, HIMARS is a 5-ton truck with a pod that can launch six rockets almost simultaneously, delivering its explosive warheads well beyond the front lines of the battlefield. Can send, and then quickly change position to avoid counterstrikes.
“If the Javelin was the iconic weapon of the early stages of the war, HIMARS is the iconic weapon of the later stages,” Mark Cansian, senior advisor for the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in January.
HIMARS fires an ammunition called Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which has a range of 70 to 80 kilometers (about 50 miles). And their GPS guidance systems make them extremely accurate to within about 10 meters (33 ft) of their intended targets.
Last July, Russian reporter Roman Sapenkov said he witnessed a HIMARS strike on a Russian base at the airport in Kherson, at the time occupied by Moscow’s forces.
“I was struck by the fact that the whole packet, five or six rockets, fell on practically a penny,” he wrote.
HIMARS has two major effects, Yagil Henkin, a professor at the Israel Defense Forces Command and Staff College, wrote for the US Marine Corps University Press.
The attacks “have forced the Russians to move their ammunition depots to the rear, reducing the available firepower of Russian artillery near the front lines and making logistical support more difficult,” Henkin wrote.
He said Russian supply efforts have been hampered by the use of long-range rockets to hit targets such as bridges.
The HIMARS system is manufactured and patented in the United States by Lockheed Martin.
Bayraktar TB2 Drone
The Turkish-designed drone has become one of the world’s most famous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) due to its use in the Ukraine war.
It’s relatively cheap, built with off-the-shelf parts, packs a deadly punch and records its kills on video.
Those videos showed it taking out Russian armor, artillery and supply lines with missiles, laser-guided rockets and smart bombs.
“TB2’s viral videos are a perfect example of modern warfare in the TikTok era,” Aaron Stein, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, wrote on the Atlantic Council’s website.
The Bayraktar TB2 was not a “magic weapon”, but it was “good enough”, he wrote.
He cited its lack of speed and vulnerability to air defense as its weaknesses. The battlefield statistics seem to bear this out. According to the Oryx open source intelligence website, 17 of the 40 to 50 TB2s that Ukraine has received have been destroyed in combat.
But Stein says the low cost of drones has kept the number of disadvantages low, meaning they can be replaced relatively easily.
Indeed, plans to set up an assembly line for drones in Ukraine had been in the works since before the war. And the use of drones has potentially saved the lives of Ukrainian pilots who would have otherwise had to carry out the mission.
Recent reports from Ukraine indicated that TB2 may be playing a lesser role as Russian forces figure out how to counter it, yet its admirers say the situation in Ukraine was at best uncertain.
Samuel Bendet, an assistant senior fellow at the Center for Naval Analysis Russia Studies (CNAS), told CNN at the start of the war that the videos of the Russian kills were “great morale boosters”.
“It’s a public relations victory.”
TB2 also had a music video made about it. This is the status it has gained among Ukrainians.