Ukraine Situation Report: U.S. Warns Of Looming “Catastrophic” Arms Shortage

Amid continued high-profile delays in the delivery of additional Western military aid, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has described the situation on the front lines as “extremely difficult.” Most tellingly, Zelensky has specifically attributed the potential for further Russian advances on the battlefield to delays in getting aid from the United States and other Western countries. Moreover, U.S. officials are now increasingly warning that Ukrainian forces are running dangerously low on ammunition and other weapons.

Citing two anonymous U.S. officials, ABC News recently reported that Ukraine will face a “catastrophic shortage of ammunition and air defenses” by the end of next month unless Congress passes a bill including the next round of funding for Kyiv, valued at $61 billion.

Based on internal U.S. estimates, ABC News added that the current shortage “could effectively turn the tide of the war and lend Russian President Vladimir Putin a significant advantage.”

“The juncture starts now and it just keeps getting worse progressively through the spring and into summer. So, this time period that we are entering is … critical,” one of the senior U.S. defense officials told the same broadcaster.

The worry now is that the recent Russian success in Avdiivka, in the eastern Donetsk region, could be repeated elsewhere if more weapons — and especially artillery ammunition — don’t arrive soon.

“U.S. officials predict similar scenarios will play out elsewhere in Ukraine as the government there is forced to make tough choices,” ABC News said.

Before diving into more developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage here.

The Latest

First off, you can read our coverage of the suspected downing of yet another Russian A-50 Mainstay airborne warning and control aircraft near the Sea of Azov here.

On the battlefield, it appears that the town of Marinka, in the eastern Donetsk region, is becoming a key focus of Russia’s attacks. The Ukrainian Armed Forces today said that Russian pressure across the Donetsk region has intensified, with Marinka being the primary target.

According to Ukrainian Ground Forces spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy, the area surrounding Marinka had become “another hotspot” after the fall of Avdiivka. He added that Russian forces had “tried to break through the defenses of our troops 31 times” in two villages located in the Marinka area.

Elsewhere in the Donetsk region, the Russian Ministry of Defense claims that its troops have taken the village of Pobieda.

For their part, the Ukrainians deny that their forces have lost control of Krynky, a bridgehead on the Russian-occupied side of the Dnipro River, despite claims to the contrary from the Russian Ministry of Defense. The Ukrainian Armed Forces claim that Russian forces assaulted Krynky but suffered “significant losses” and retreated.

The U.S. government has again criticized Iran for supporting Russia and its war in Ukraine. In a memo shared with Reuters, U.S. Deputy Press Secretary and Senior Communications Adviser Andrew Bates said that Tehran was “actively enabling Russia’s war in Ukraine and its attacks against Ukrainian cities.”

Speaking at a virtual briefing with reporters yesterday, White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby said that he was yet to see confirmation that Iranian missiles had been delivered to Russia, although the signs are that this is, at least, imminent.

The Biden administration has meanwhile warned Tehran of a “swift and severe” response if those weapons are shipped to Russia.

Earlier this week, we looked at reports that Russia had begun to receive “hundreds” of Iranian ballistic missiles, to bolster its dwindling ballistic missile arsenal, which has already wrought considerable destruction on Ukraine.

The War Zone has highlighted these same issues in detail before, including after the first reports that Iran might send ballistic missiles to Russia first emerged in late 2022.

Meanwhile, the White House has also accused Republican House speaker Mike Johnson of benefiting Iran and Russia by not putting a national security bill that gives aid to Ukraine for a vote, Reuters reports.

“President Biden is standing up to Iran. But where is Speaker Johnson’s supposed commitment not to ‘appease Iran’ in all this? Nowhere. Instead, his inaction is benefiting Putin and the Ayatollah,” the memo says.

Denmark has approved its next military aid package for Ukraine, the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has confirmed. The package is worth $247 million.

At a news conference, Frederiksen said: “Time does not help Ukraine, only action counts on the battlefield. Ukraine’s fight for freedom is our fight.”

Denmark has also been closely involved in the effort to get F-16 fighters into Ukrainian hands. Today the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and President Zelensky shared videos showing, for the first time, the training of Ukrainian Air Force personnel on the jet at at Skrydstrup Air Base in Denmark.

According to the Danish Armed Forces, the first former Royal Danish Air Force F-16s could arrive in Ukraine before the end of this year: “Since the fall of 2023 specialists from the Danish Defense have been training Ukrainian technicians and pilots in Denmark. The plan is for them to be ready to receive and use the F-16 fighter jets Ukraine is planned to receive in 2024 to strengthen the country in the fight against [an] aggressive Russia.”

Ukrainian officials said that a Russian drone strike on the Black Sea port of Odesa killed four people. Kyiv said the drone struck a commercial area. It was one of 31 drones launched against Ukraine overnight, with the Ukrainian military claiming that its air defenses destroyed 23 of them.

In a post on the Telegram messaging app, the military’s Southern Forces said they had intercepted nine drones, but one struck an area near the port, starting a fire.

The Ukrainian Air Force has announced its latest tally of Russian missile and drone strikes launched against targets in Ukraine since the start of Moscow’s full-scale invasion.

According to Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, Russia has launched more than 8,000 missiles and 4,630 drones at Ukraine since February 2022.

Ukraine has received advanced air defense systems from Western allies, most notably Patriot surface-to-air missiles, but continues to campaign for more to be delivered.

Highly active in the drone war, by all accounts, is the German-supplied Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. The following photos reveal good details of the outside of the vehicle — complete with Shahed kill markings — and, more interestingly, the compartments for the gunner and commander within the armored hull.

The U.K. Defense Secretary, Grant Shapps, has said that the United Kingdom will send another 200 Brimstone anti-armor missiles to Ukraine. The British have also said they will train more Ukrainian troops, as part of a multinational effort. “Together we will train a further 10,000 in the first half of 2024,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said.

In May 2022, a video became available of Ukrainian forces firing ground-launched Brimstone missiles from an improvised launcher installed in the back of a truck.

Comparatively rarely seen is the Su-24M Fencer fleet operated by the Ukrainian Air Force, for strike as well as reconnaissance missions. The importance of this Cold War-era swing-wing warplane has increased since the introduction of Storm Shadow and SCALP EG cruise missiles. This led to the reactivation of previously stored airframes, including this reconnaissance-configured Su-24MR Fencer-E, which is said to have been adapted for the carriage of these air-launched cruise missiles.

Once again, there are growing fears about tensions in Moldova — another former Soviet state, and neighbor of Ukraine — specifically, in Transnistria, a separatist pro-Russian region, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine.

In the past, Russia has sought to push the narrative that Ukraine is poised to make a military move against the region, without any evidence to back those claims. In the latest development, there has been a flurry of reports suggesting that Transnistria may be poised to stage a referendum on its potential annexation by Russia. While that would likely find much popular support in the breakaway region, the actual military reality of Russia conducting an annexation is questionable, with the Black Sea Fleet in a parlous state and airborne forces otherwise heavily engaged in Ukraine.

A series of time-sensitive strikes on Russian formations in the open occurred earlier in the week, potentially severely injuring and killing many Russian troops. The video below shows these strikes and their gruesome aftermath. The Russian soldiers congregating out in the open was taken advantage of by Ukrainian artillerymen, with some of the troops likely paying the ultimate price for the mistake.

First-person-view (FPV) drones continue to leave a trail of destruction on the battlefield.

Among the latest pieces of evidence of this trend is the following video compiled by the Omega Group, a special forces unit that is part of the National Guard of Ukraine.

This shows the destruction of, among others, Russian BTR-80 and BTR-80 series wheeled armored personnel carriers, a veteran T-54 tank, as well as personnel.

More FPV action next, with a pinpoint attack by a Ukrainian drone operator against a Russian BMP-series infantry fighting vehicle. At the start of the video, the drone operator takes advantage of an open door in the rear of the vehicle, to devastating effect.

Further Ukrainian Ministry of Defense imagery released in recent days reveals more details about the Sea Baby, a type of drone boat, or unmanned surface vehicle (USV), that came to prominence when the explosives-laden craft was used for the July 2023 attack on the Kerch Bridge, which connects Russia with the occupied Crimean peninsula. Ukraine has since claimed to have used Sea Baby drones armed with rocket launchers to attack Russian ships near Sevastopol. Normally, these USVs can carry up to 1,800 pounds of explosives.

Drones of another kind to finish the round-up from Ukraine for today. This uncrewed ground vehicle — essentially a sub-scale tracked carrier of the kind that was widely used in World War II — was being used to transport supplies around the trench networks close to Avdiivka.

That’s it for now.

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Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.