Western made artillery begins to make all the difference to Ukraine's counteroffensive

John Irvine reports from the frontlines in Ukraine and witnesses the differences western supplied weapons have made for the men on the ground

The Ukrainian artillerymen were spoilt for choice when it came to potential Russian targets.  Dozens of drones provided live pictures of the battlefield that were being beamed back to the artillery unit’s command centre in the Bakhmut sector.

On one monitor we could see a Russian foot patrol, but there weren’t enough enemy soldiers to make a salvo worthwhile.

On another screen, we watched as shells landed close to a static armoured personnel carrier, which had obviously been abandoned by its crew when the first shell struck close by.

We had joined a Ukrainian territorial unit that we first visited a year ago. Back then they were equipped with Soviet-era museum piece 152mm howitzers. In March those guns were replaced by German-made 155mm cannons.

The newer Western guns have twice the range and are much more accurate.

Drones give the Ukrainians a huge field of view for finding Russian targets. Credit: ITV News

That means they can reach more Russian targets and knock them out without using up as many precious shells in the process.

A long trek took us deep into a forest where a gun crew were dug in. We reached them around 4pm and already that day they had fired 90 rounds in support of the counter-offensive that has seen the tempo of battle pick up here in the Donbas.

As was the case a year ago, our host was a charismatic commander nicknamed “The Joker.”

We hadn’t seen him for a year and he hasn’t seen his wife and three children for a year.

When I asked him how morale was affected by such long separations from loved ones he said all his men knew that if they don’t stop the Russians here then their own homes and families will be in jeopardy.

The big guns and the dug-outs deep in the earth nearby look very similar to comparable emplacements set up on the Western Front during WW1.

What is different is the view of the battlefield.  Some of the drones even have thermal imaging and can pick out Russian soldiers at night thanks to their body heat.

With drones, a 24/7 reality for both sides hiding places are few and far between.

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