Ukraine wants to acquire American AH-64 Apache combat helicopters

According to the Ukrainian site ukrmilitary.com, Kiev is reportedly considering acquiring American AH-64 Apache combat helicopters to replace its fleet of Mi-24 Hinds dating from the Soviet era, the majority of which are grounded due to a lack of spare parts since the reciprocal embargoes between Ukraine and Russia following the invasion of Crimea. According to the site, discussions with Washington have already been initiated on this subject, as part of the US assistance program for the modernization of Ukrainian defense capabilities.

At the start of operations in the Donbass, Ukrainian helicopters, like its fleet of fighter and transport planes, paid a heavy price in the face of opposing anti-aircraft defenses, mainly systems in service in the Russian army and transferred to the Donbass discreetly, under the cover of capturing this equipment in the arsenals of the Ukrainian army. This forced the Ukrainian armed forces to renounce the use of air support that could have been provided by its Mi-24 helicopters, as well as its Mig-29, Su-24 and Su-25 aircraft.

mi24 ukraine Defense News | Conflict in Donbass | Construction of Military Helicopters
The Ukrainian Mi24s paid a heavy price during the first days of engagement in the Battle of Donietz.

Like the entry into service of Javelin anti-tank missiles ceded by the United States to kyiv in 2018, the replacement of the Mi-24 Hind by AH-64 Apache could significantly change the balance of power around the Donbass conflict. Equipped with modern avionics and carrying up to 16 laser-guided Hellfire anti-tank missiles, the American aircraft, which also has a reinforced self-protection capacity, could constitute a very significant threat to the secessionist armored forces. supported by Moscow, forcing the Kremlin to intervene in a much more visible way than today, by deploying modern anti-aircraft systems such as the TOR M2, the Pantsir or the latest versions of BUK missiles to cover its armored forces.

If kyiv would benefit for a time from an update on Russian intervention in the Donbass, we can wonder about its effectiveness in the medium term. Certainly, once Moscow is officially militarily involved in the conflict, the Ukrainian authorities can hope for more radical and massive support from Europeans and especially Americans to oppose this Russian presence amounting to the forceful annexation of part of its territory. But the example of Georgia in 2008 calls for caution when it comes to hopes of seeing Westerners engage beyond material and diplomatic support alongside kyiv. Furthermore, once its presence was revealed, nothing would stop Russian forces from reinforcing their positions, this time deploying long-range defense systems like the S350 and S400, as well as armored units equipped with modernized versions of the T72, 80 and 90, without forgetting the use of modern artillery systems supported by air support, combat planes and helicopters. In such a case, the presence of a few dozen Apache helicopters would not change the balance of power in favor of kyiv, quite the contrary.

Normandy format Defense News | Conflict in Donbass | Construction of Military Helicopters
The Normandy format discussions bringing together Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia are today the only ones likely to bring a political solution to the Donbass conflict

In fact, if the acquisition of these helicopters may appear to favor the balance of forces present in the short term; in the medium term, it may have much less positive consequences for the resolution of the conflict in Donbass. In this sense, the political solution brought by the Europeans, and in particular by the Franco-German couple through the discussions in the “Normandy” format, if it seems more conciliatory towards Moscow, also appears the most likely to 'avoid a fire. The fact remains that Ukraine, as a sovereign country, naturally has the right, and even the duty, to strengthen and modernize its armed forces, in order to be able to deter and, where necessary, protect its territory and Ukrainians against potential aggression. This point must be the subject of careful and careful management by all the actors involved in this conflict, so as not to create a rapid and significant upheaval in the current balance of power constituting the status quo. This is probably the part that is lacking in the Franco-German initiative today to establish itself as the only viable global solution to emerge from this crisis without resorting to arms.

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