Foreign weapons systems are measured against each other in real combat with Russia, Aleksey Reznikov told media
The conflict in Ukraine gives Western arms producers a chance to see which products fare best in a real fight against Russia, the country’s defense minister said.
“We have a combat testing range in Ukraine during this war,” Aleksey Reznikov explained. “We have eight different 155mm artillery systems in the field…so it’s like a competition between the systems” to see which is the best.
The comments came in an interview with Politico published on Tuesday. The proving ground idea was previously voiced by Reznikov’s deputy, Vladimir Gavrilov, who claimed that some US defense contractors were fielding their prototypes in Ukraine.
Kyiv expects military aid from NATO members to continue flowing into the country for years to come and wants more of it, Reznikov said. For example, Ukraine could create joint ventures with Poland, the United Kingdom or Germany to produce weapons.
“We need to develop a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) industry not only for aerial drones but also on land and at sea because that is the future” of the war, he noted.
He was also skeptical of the restrictions under which Ukraine supporters ship arms to kyiv. As the conflict with Russia unfolded, the United States and its allies repeatedly reconsidered earlier decisions not to send heavier weapons, the defense minister said.
“I’m really optimistic that Abrams tanks are possible in the future and I’m sure fighter jets like the F-16s, F-15s or Gripens from Sweden will also be possible,” he said.
Washington was initially reluctant to provide lethal aid to Ukraine for fear that Russia would view it as an escalation, but has gradually reconsidered and provided increasingly sophisticated weapons, which Reznikov sees as a favorable trend.
Western officials have cited logistical problems with training Ukrainian pilots and maintaining fighter jets among the reasons Ukraine cannot get F-16s or F-15s. But according to the media, kyiv could get them in the long run.
Reznikov said European NATO allies look to the United States in aid decisions, so it was up to Washington to up the ante.
“After the first Abrams [arrives] I’m sure we will have Leopards, Marders and other types of heavy armored vehicles like tanks. he told the media.
READ MORE: Ukraine unlikely to get US F-16s anytime soon – Politico
Among the weapons most recently designated by the United States for Ukraine are the NASAMS air defense systems. Washington is also reportedly considering sending in old HAWK surface-to-air missiles it has stockpiled to see if they are still effective.