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Howitzers Proving Very Effective Against Russians, DOD Official Says

The 155 mm M777 towed howitzers supplied by the U.S. and other types supplied by ally and partner nations to Ukraine are having a big impact on the battlefield, a senior Defense Department official said at a Pentagon press briefing today. 

Several howitzer artillery guns are lined in an airfield.
Howitzer Line
Marine Corps 155 mm M777 towed howitzers are staged on the flightline before being loaded onto an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., April 22, 2022. The howitzers are included in U.S. and allied efforts to identify and provide Ukraine with additional capabilities.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Austin Fraley
VIRIN: 220423-M-ME368-1001

"You're already seeing the Ukrainians being willing to go on the counteroffensive in the Donbas [region of Ukraine]. They are taking back some towns that the Russians have taken in the past," the official said. 

For example, the Ukrainians are pushing Russian forces to the east and to the north of Kharkiv, Ukraine, the official said. 

A map shows the geography of Ukraine.
Ukraine Map
An illustrated map depicts Ukraine, its prominent cities and the surrounding regions.
Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 220516-O-D0439-001

"We do believe that the howitzers … are having an impact, particularly in Kharkiv. Now is that the only reason? I don't think we would go that far to say that, but we do believe that the systems they're getting — not just the U.S. systems but the systems from other countries — are absolutely helping them regain some momentum and to take back some territory," the official said. 

Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III had a conversation with Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. Reznikov told Austin that 74 of the 90 M777 artillery cannons that the U.S. supplied Ukraine are forward in the fight, providing long-range, indirect fire capability, the official said, noting that the tubes are being used not only in the Kharkiv area but elsewhere in the Donbas. 

Soldiers drive a vehicle across a river while more soldiers and a tank sit atop a floating bridge in the background.
Tank Crossing
Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, transport a tank across a river during Exercise DEFENDER-Europe 2022 at Dęblin, Poland, May 12, 2022.
Photo By: Army Spc. Javen Owens
VIRIN: 220512-A-EW038-0201

Currently, Russian President Vladimir Putin has committed about 80% of his total battalion tactical groups to Ukraine. "And there's no question that of that 80%, he has lost quite a bit," the official said. 

Putin still has a total of 140-plus BTG available to him, with 106 operational in Ukraine. The ones not in Ukraine do not appear to be near the periphery of Ukraine, the official noted. 

On the Ukrainian side, they still have a majority of their combat power available to them, the official said. 

Soldiers work to get a tank on a ribbon bridge.
Ribbon Bridge
Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division get an M1A2 Abrams main battle tank onto an improved ribbon bridge for wet-gap crossing during Exercise DEFENDER-Europe 2022 in Deblin, Poland, May 12, 2022.
Photo By: Army Spc. Javen Owens
VIRIN: 220512-A-EW038-0192

"That is not to say that losses are not being sustained on both sides. They are, both in terms of forces but also in terms of equipment and weapon systems. It's a real gunfight in the Donbas, literally, with artillery being exchanged every single day and the Russians [continuing] to fly airstrikes, the official said. 

About six of those airstrikes hit a military training facility in Lviv, Ukraine, with minimal damage. It seems likely that those missiles could have been fired from submarines in the Black Sea, the official said. 

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