The weakness of the Ukrainian army, in particular, came as a big surprise to many in the West. “We are dealing with the army that is decaying and can no longer fight,” said Wolfgang Ischinger, the Chairman of the Munich security conference. Poroshenko did not inform his Western allies about the weakness of his army. Perhaps, he was not aware about the real situation himself, but that also leaves a bad impression on the Ukrainian president.
Ukraine’s acting Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh described the combat readiness of the country’s armed forces as “unsatisfactory” in his 12 March 2014 report to the acting president. Tenyukh said recent exercises demonstrated a “dismal degree of preparedness among servicemen and lack of military specialists, equipment and weapons” in the Ground Forces, the Air Force and the Navy. According to the report, less than 20 percent of armored vehicle crews had sufficient training. Over 70 percent of tanks and other armored fighting vehicles are “outdated Soviet-made T-64 tanks that have been in service for 30 years and more.”
Tenyukh described the Soviet-made BM-27 Uragan and the BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launchers as “the only effective means to deter aggression and guarantee the defeat of self-defense forces and illegal armed formations in Crimea.” However, he opposed their use because of the “high possibility of inaccurate target engagement” and “numerous potential civilian casualties.”
The Army of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was formed as an organic structure of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the basis of the Decree of the President of Ukraine according to the Article 4 of the Law of Ukraine "On the Armed Forces of Ukraine" in 1996. The Army of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is the main possessor of the combat power of the Armed Forces of the independent Ukrainian country. According to the its designation and tasks, the Army is a decisive factor in peace and wartime.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the declaration of independence in 1991, Ukraine inherited one of the most powerful groups of troops in Europe, equipped with nuclear weapons and enough modern armaments and military equipment. On August 24, 1991 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted a decision to take under its jurisdiction all located in the Ukraine military formations of the Armed Forces of the USSR, and the creation of one of the key agencies - the Ministry of Defence. On 24 August 1991 under the jurisdiction of Ukraine passed: 14 infantry, 4 tank, 3 artillery divisions and 8 artillery brigades, 4 Special Forces Brigades [spetsnaz], 2 Airborne Brigades, 9 air defense brigades, 7 regiments of combat helicopters, three air armies (about 1,100 combat aircraft) and a separate Air Defense Army. At the time of the proclamation of Ukrainian independence the number of troops in the Ukraine there were about 700,000 troops.
The legal basis to develop this Force was the Decree of the President of Ukraine On Ukrainian Ground Forces, signed in May 1996. The Ground Forces Command was set up and the Ground Forces organic structure was developed in accordance with this Decree.
The Ground Forces in the 1990s consisted of 3 Operational commands. Major commands include 5 Army Corps, 11 Tank and Mechanized Divisions, 7 Mechanized Brigades, 2 Artillery Divisions, 2 Training Divisions and 40 combined arms brigades. The Ground Forces include the following branches: Missile Troops and Artillery, Mechanized, Tank, Air Mobile, Army Aviation. The Ground Forces are the biggest (by size) service of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, about 180,000 men.
The Ground Forces are implementing a plan, drawn up in 2000, that called for reducing the forces from its current 300,000 to 240,000 by 2015, switching from a conscript based force to a fully professional military, and putting the military under civilian control. Even though the military received little more than half of the Hr 68 million it was allotted for reform in 2001, officials were able to disband nine regiments and close 21 local military bases.
According to the State Program of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reform and development until 2005, GF would have the biggest ratio of personnel among the others AF services (up to 54%). This ratio is based on the missions assigned to the AF services and also on the fact that current economical situation in the country prevents implementing military and technical achievements in all areas. However, Ground Forces hold the priority in personnel ratio, weapons and military equipment development prioritizes the development of their future systems, which would correspond to modern warfare requirements. The GF closely coordinates their assignments with each AF branches, engaging appropriate military arts and equipment. They also participate in law enforcement activities during emergencies, deal with consequences of natural and technological disasters, provide military assistance to other countries, engage in international military cooperation activities and international peacekeeping operations according to international agreements.
Also, in compliance with The State Program, AF would establish by late 2005 a Rapid Reaction Corps within the Ground Forces, as well as an Aviation Group (operational) in the Air Force and a Combined Squadron in the Navy, capable to operate both independently and in a combined formation, under a unified command.
In the short term, conversion to a professional army would not save money because training and housing professional soldiers costs more than supporting recruits. But in the long term the reduced number of soldiers serving longer terms would not only save the military money, but would also allow better training of its forces. Instead of spending all of its money on feeding and housing ill trained recruits, money would be spent maintaining fewer, but better trained professionals.
As of 2007, troop strength had been reduced to 71,000. At that time it was planned that by 2015, there will be three Army Corps, the brigades and Corps troops lead. The strength of the forces should be then approximately 38 000 soldiers (?). In 2006 the planning of the most cost-intensive combat training measures – large-scale tactical live firing exercises – were reviewed. It was decided to significantly reduce the number of these exercises, thus allowing significant savings of state funds, enabling at the same time to improve field training of formations and units. Brigade tactical live firing exercise were to be conducted at a rate of 1 per 3-5 years, Battalion tactical live firing exercise at a rate of 1 per 3 years, and Company live firing exercise once per year.
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