Ukraine military aid materiel war Russia
Charles Knight, 436th Aerial Port Squadron materials handler, uses a forklift to move packages of body armor and helmets bound for Ukraine at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on March 8, 2022. (Tech. Sgt. J.D. Strong II/U.S. Air Force via AP)
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By Vincent E. Castillo, The Ohio State University

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, invoking King in his virtual address to Congress on March 16, 2022, said he has a need. “We need you right now,” Zelenskyy told U.S. lawmakers.

Since November 2021, the U.S. has provided three shipments of military aid to Ukraine, sending weapons and equipment from its own stocks held at bases throughout Europe. The U.S. has provided everything from rifles and body armor to Stinger missiles capable of shooting down helicopters or fighter jets, as well as Javelins, anti-armor weapon systems used to destroy tanks.

Once the U.S. approves a request for military aid, how do the weapons get from the U.S. storage sites in Europe into the hands of Ukrainian soldiers? What steps are involved in the logistics of moving US$350 million worth of weapons and equipment from Europe into an active combat zone?

Supply chains

As a logistics scholar who also served in the Iraq War, I see parallels between civilian and military supply chains. To help understand how military goods, or materiel, as it is known, move from storage to soldiers, consider a generic e-commerce supply chain like that of Amazon or Walmart.

First, a supplier sells and delivers raw materials to a manufacturer. The transportation segment of that transaction is known as the “first mile.”

Next, a manufacturer transforms the raw materials into finished goods. These goods are then sold at wholesale to retail customers like Amazon or Walmart and then transported to an e-commerce distribution center over a segment referred to as the “middle mile.”

When the consumer places an order for online delivery, it will be shipped from a distribution center located in the same geographical area. This is the last leg of the supply chain, which is known as the “final mile.”

An important performance metric is the time between order receipt and fulfillment. This is especially essential for a retailer like Amazon or Walmart as they distribute across the final mile because it affects the consumer’s perceived quality of delivery service and consequently, whether they purchase again.

Ukraine military aid materiel war Russia
A Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces member holds an NLAW anti-tank weapon, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

In other words, delivery speed is an essential metric that can make or break the consumer experience.

Similarly, delivery speed is an essential performance metric for the entire military supply chain from U.S. bases into Ukraine, not just over the final mile.

The Ukrainians are fighting a war against a larger invading force, and military aid is needed as soon as possible. What differentiates the military supply chain from commercial supply chains is the need for speedy delivery while also maximizing security.

The weapons and equipment need to be moved quickly while preventing Russian intelligence from identifying or predicting potential routes. Without operational security, the risk of a Russian attack that disrupts the movement of those supplies or prevents them from reaching Ukrainians fighting on the front lines is elevated.

The first mile

Materiel that Ukraine needs is stored at U.S. bases throughout Europe. Once the weapons and equipment are pulled from these U.S. stocks, they’ll be transported by air, truck or rail across the “first mile.” The length of the first mile in this case could be up to 600 or 700 miles to a location or locations in a NATO territory bordering western or southwestern Ukraine, including Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

The movements along the first mile within NATO territory will need to be concealed to maximize security and prevent Russia from predicting the destination of the materiel.

In military jargon, the first destination is known as a “staging area.” To maintain security of the materiel, the staging area will likely be an armory or ordnance depot located on a NATO base before transporting it into Ukraine. An important strategic decision for U.S., NATO and Ukrainian leaders planning the mission is whether to use a single staging area or multiple staging areas.

Whether a single staging area in one NATO country is used or multiple staging areas either within one or across multiple NATO countries are used depends on several factors. Where the materiel is needed within Ukraine is one such factor. The condition of roads and bridges is another, as are enemy activity, the origin of the materiel and, of course, operational security.

Using a single staging area is relatively simple to plan and execute but can create a lot of risk in that Russia only has to find and attack one area across the border inside Ukraine to disrupt the resupply mission.

On the other hand, using multiple staging areas is more complex to plan and execute but lowers the risk of a Russian disruption on resupply since the Russians would have many locations on which to focus.

The middle mile

Once the staging area decision is made, plans are developed to coordinate the transfer of materiel to Ukraine’s military. At that point, Ukraine will be responsible for transporting the materiel from the NATO country along the middle mile to the next set of staging areas within Ukraine. The importance of operational security grows drastically in this segment, and complicates transportation.

Ukraine military aid materiel war Russia
Large caliber ammunition lies on the ground next to a destroyed Russian tank in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

NATO’s refusal to establish a no-fly zone allows Russia to maintain air superiority over Ukraine. This prevents Ukraine from transporting the supplies by air and as a result, Ukrainians are forced to use vehicle convoys to travel from the western border to the next location in the supply chain. Russian air superiority also prevents deploying one large convoy to transport military resupply because Russian attack helicopters or fighter jets could easily destroy such a large target.

Instead, the weapons and equipment will likely need to be broken down into smaller shipments and transported in multiple convoys.

This is one of the first ways to reduce the risk of a disruptive attack by Russia.

Since Ukraine cannot use its air assets, such as helicopters, to protect the convoys due to Russian air superiority, Ukraine must secure convoys transporting the materiel by positioning soldiers with surface-to-air missiles, like the Stingers the U.S. is providing, in key terrain along the routes leading to the next staging areas.

They need to be far enough away from the roads themselves, however, such that they don’t unnecessarily expose the convoys to aerial attacks.

The convoy will also need security elements within it. That includes anti-tank weapons like Javelins, vehicle-mounted weapons and tank or mounted infantry escorts of their own to provide security. This will allow the convoy to defend itself against any ground attacks as it attempts to reach the next staging areas throughout Ukraine.

The convoys will also likely need units that can clear the roads of any obstacles, like burned out cars or destroyed tanks, to ensure the materiel can keep moving toward its destination.

The final mile

The final staging areas are likely within major cities.

Once a convoy reaches these ultimate staging areas, the shipments will be broken down from their bulk packaging into smaller quantities for further distribution to soldiers fighting on the front lines.

Ukraine military aid materiel war Russia
A Ukrainian soldier looks through binoculars at a military check point, in Lityn, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

This “final mile” in a combat zone is more precarious because there are active Russian aerial and ground attacks. As a result, the logistics units traveling the final mile also need protection, including small arms, as well as anti-tank weapons.

Once the military equipment reaches combat units on front lines, it will be distributed to the individual soldiers.

Ultimately, while the materiel supply chain required to fulfill the Biden administration’s agreement to support Ukraine with military aid has some conceptual similarities to that of an e-commerce supply chain in the U.S., the stakes in Ukraine are obviously much higher.

A missed delivery in this case doesn’t just mean a dissatisfied customer. It means that over time, a sovereign nation may not be able to defend itself against an invading force.

The Conversation

Vincent E. Castillo is an Assistant Professor of Logistics at The Ohio State University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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  1. Russia has made it clear they consider advanced weapons like anti-air MANPAD and armor-destroyers like Javelin to be legitimate targets they intend to prosecute.

    Since Russian intel agencies are likely watching in the surrounding countries, they better break up large shipments into very small ones and hope they can get through in numbers large enough to be effective.

    I’d hate to be a Ukrainian truck driver right now… 🙁

    • Geoff PR,

      Since Russian intel agencies are likely watching in the surrounding countries, they better break up large shipments into very small ones and hope they can get through in numbers large enough to be effective.

      I had the exact same thought.

    • Geoff PR,

      This article and your comment magnify the importance of having significant assets in place BEFORE someone attacks.

      And speaking to that point, why on God’s green Earth did Ukraine fail to acquire and stash these supplies back in October of 2021? It was readily apparent back then that Putin was amassing troops and assets at the Ukrainian border for an invasion. It was also readily apparent that Putin would probably wait until the ground was frozen solid to maximize the geography where tanks could operate (negating mud).

      • Because when the US encouraged Ukraine to give up their nuclear weapons we promised to assist them if Russia ever invaded. Like fools, they believed us.

      • The Lusitania was carrying thousands of tons of ammunition. And the United States and the United Kingdom had to lie about it. Civilians carrying War material are legitimate military Targets.

        How many tons of ammunition were they carrying? We’ll probably never know. Because it’s been a complete cover up for over 100 years.

        From 2014

        Many civilian truck drivers were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      • “This is Russia’s, possibly legitimate, excuse for attacking otherwise civilian convoys.”

        Yeah, precisely *why* I ended with “I’d hate to be a Ukrainian truck driver right now… 🙁 ”

        Putin has vowed to restore the old empire. The world had better hope he is satisfied with the gains he has now… 🙁

  2. “A missed delivery in this case doesn’t just mean a dissatisfied customer. It means that over time, a sovereign nation may not be able to defend itself against an invading force.“

    Is this how we define a sovereign nation now?

    We are so far beyond that.

    • Ukraine shoulda woulda coulda prepared a long time ago. Like those who stampeded to purchase firearms and ammo in the US who shoulda woulda coulda have been prepared.

      Huge problemo for putin? He’s made himself an at home and abroad turd in a punch bowl.

      • “Ukraine shoulda woulda coulda prepared a long time ago“

        Perhaps if Donald Trump had not blocked military aid to the Ukraine, they’d be in a bit better position today.

        “President Donald Trump has said he withheld nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine because of corruption in the country, but recently released Pentagon documents undercut that explanation and add fuel to the whistleblower complaint that has launched an impeachment inquiry in Congress.
        Democrats in the House on Friday demanded answers on what prompted the Trump administration to place a hold on the military aid, which was needed to fight Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, even as the president was pressing the Ukrainian government to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.“

        • I like to cut and paste, original thoughts are tiresome, especially when I can be told what to think.

          However, have you noticed my cut and paste skills are reaching new levels?

        • biden owns this. Just like rampant inflation and gas prices through the roof.

          The buck stops here and biden is holding the wallet.

          Trump is just a citizen awaiting the call from his fellow citizens to clean up the mess biden made.

        • Miner, disgusting, again.
          You can’t help but lie. You can’t even recognize when you’re lying. You have no concept of the truth.

          From the same article..”The package of arms and equipment, which eventually was released earlier this month “

        • @ uncommon_sense
          It is very easy to misunderstand things using this medium. I also only get a minute or two at a time right now.

          Ukraine and Russia are not total strangers. Their leaders know exactly who they are dealing with and what they are doing (atleast with each other). I completely agree with Debbie that Putin is making himself into the the worlds most hated but that’s beside the point. There is much that just amounts to playing at heart strings. Ukraine is not a saint and should not be looked at as the poor kid on the block getting bullied. There are reasons why certain things are happening. They have been asking the Biden’s for money for a while. This latest thing with Congress is just an extension of it.

          There is more but I have things to do.

        • @ uncommon_sense
          As I said, we are not talking about strangers here and this thing did not just spring up overnight. Russian leadership used to be Ukraine leadership.

          This is a couple neighborhood thugs in a fight with The Bloods over gangland territory. Those neighborhood thugs just have a few more IQ points and world wide support. No one wants to be directly involved though. Mainly because no matter what happens, we will still be dealing with Russia.

          This whole thing has everyone on edge because of the spectre of nucealer war. Neither Putin nor Biden actually want a shooting war between them. In spite of the fact that the Washington left has been taunting Putin pushing for this very scenario for years.

          If Ammo Inc wants to send ammo to them then fine. It might make me buy some but that’s only because I consider the Ukrainian people to be courageous in their fight for their country. Otherwise, Ukrainian leadership needs to learn a few things from all this. We had to fight for our freedom. It isn’t any different for anyone else

        • @ uncommon_sense
          Have you takin a look at the people around you? The people we see here are the same they have there. We have trailer park trash and so do they. They have drugged up youth just like we do. They have people convinced of lies too. It’s just that their leader pushes the propaganda much harder and the people usually have no foundation of thought with which to combat it.

  3. The difference between civilian and military supply chains is that if the former is disrupted people suffer, whereas if the latter is NOT disrupted people suffer.

  4. Remember, the reverse is true. Russian logistic failures have been causing considerable delays in their operational plan. The Russians may have a questionable air superiority advantage, but Ukraine has the homefield advantage.

  5. Is Ukraine getting it’s money’s worth from Hunter n the Big Guy bribery? 🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄

      • I hear that many, many people are saying that Sleepy Joe is almost as senile and low energy as I am, believe me!

        • Proves my point. Now joe is showing up thinking he’s the next president of the United States,Trump.

  6. Damned interesting article. I was always the end user in the Army’s supply chain. Didn’t know a lot about it except to curse it. It was some mythical thing from which blessings occasionally flowed. Seriously, I know those guys work hard. And it’s dangerous work. Exposed convoy on a hard road. Small foot patrol in the bushes. Let me think. I’ll walk. Thanks.

    • We have just come off of 20 years of experience in moving dangerous stuff from ‘A’ to ‘B’. There are serious logistics skills at work there, should American companies want to exploit it…

  7. I expect that the supply chain for Ukraine’s illicit nuclear weapons and bio warfare programs are doing just fine.

    • “Ukraine’s illicit nuclear weapons and bio warfare programs“

      Do you have any solid evidence, or just more speculations from reporters and politicians?

        • Here’s the only statement from the Ukrainian ambassador regarding nuclear weapons in the article:

          “Ukraine has no other choice: either we are part of an alliance such as NATO and are doing our part to make this Europe stronger, or we have the only option – to arm by ourselves, and maybe think about nuclear status again. How else can we guarantee our defense?”

          The article was published one year ago, do you really think the Ukraine has gone from stating that they need to start speaking about nuclear weapons to actually possessing a deliverable warhead? Just where did the Ukraine develop this deliverable warhead? Especially given the fact that there are many international observers in the country?
          Is this like your bio weapons bullshit, nothing but cloud cuckoo land?

  8. “Large caliber ammunition lies on the ground next to a destroyed Russian tank in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022.”

    I hope the Ukraine troops have the discipline to leave ‘found ammunition’ where they found it, lest Russia has a “Project Eldest Son” program of their own… 🙁

    • Geoff PR,

      Oh, good point. Those discarded rounds of ammunition could be loaded with small charges of explosives with the intent of injuring the rifleman and his/her rifle.

      And why in the f#$% is my two-sentence comment above awaiting moderation?!?!?!?

      • Geoff makes a lot of good points…for a barely sentient traffic cone who subsists off the charity of others 🖕🤡.

    • I doubt they do.
      Finding a few or many around a previously destroyed vehicle would probably be safe, it’s the crates full I’d be suspicious of.
      But you first.
      This is their rifle, not my gunm
      Pull the trigger and you might be done.

  9. “Supply Chain: How Weapons Get to Ukraine to Fight Russian Invaders”

    step 1: Use tax payer dollars to pay for it.

    • Step 2: Only spend a small amount on actual arms
      Step 3: Collect remaining money as grifter payoffs
      Step 4: Intentionally delay shipment and delivery until after arms would be useful so they can be resold and grifters can collect more “donations”

  10. We need to de-escalate our emotional response to foreign wars. We don’t have a dog in the Ukrainian-Russian border conflict. Teddy Roosevelt got the Nobel Peace Prize for helping end the Russo-Japanese War, not for ginning up war fever.

    • Excellent Point! Also:

      -WW1 wasn’t a case of great powers letting a localized conflict get out of hand. It became a world war because great powers decided to “help” in a localized conflict rather than minding their own business.

      -WW2 got off to a bad start for the Western Allies not because Chamberlain forced Czechoslovakia to fight Germany alone, but because he prevented them from doing so.

    • It’s kinda fun seeing college kids protesting FOR war. Kinda Starship Troopersy. Now if only they could step away from their interpretive dance majors and hrt long enough to enlist. That’d be something.

      • Yeah those pierced, tattoed, daily gender choice, purple hairdied snowflakes would make for a GREAT infantry platoon. Saddle up bois.

  11. So that New York senator just lied to us about giving our gunms to the Ukraine, he knew our gov was sending a bunch. No we need the citezens gunms too.

    • They bother with an export permit? Or just talking BS.

      AND how long with the State Dept stall the permit.

  12. Pretty obvious that this dumbass, Vincent E. Castillo, has been too busy to spend any time in US Mil. Certainly not Army log.

    Another CNN commando/chickenhawk.

    • “How does one smuggle weapons into a country?”

      Guile, and a big pair of brass balls… 🙂


  14. After four years of this, it’s not surprising Putin felt empowered to attack:

    “Donald Trump has rowed back on his claim that Nato is “obsolete”, saying his earlier comments were made when he did “not know much about” the military alliance.

    The US President told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer during the presidential campaign that the 28-member state organisation was redundant and overly expensive for the US – a claim he repeated shortly before taking office in January.

    “We are paying disproportionately,” he said at the time. “It’s too much, and frankly it’s a different world than it was when we originally conceived of the idea.”

    Trump advisor linked to Nazi group storms out of panel discussion
    Trump advisor linked to Nazi group storms out of panel discussion
    Asked about his previous comments during an interview with the Associated Press, Mr Trump said they were a result of him “not knowing much” about Nato.“

    • TL;DR – Miner49er apparently doesn’t like President Donald Trump.

      Links to leftist propaganda to support his/her/they opinions.

      • My TDS is worse than my genital warts.

        The warts only flare up once in a while.

        My TDS is in my head nonstop, and everyday., it’s always there!

      • Putin was hoping for a second term with Trump, Putin‘s goal was the abandonment of NATO and Trump was headed in that direction, that’s the point of the post.
        Why do you think Trump said “NATO is obsolete”, he was reading directly from Vladimir Putin’s script.

        I think everybody is sure glad Trump hasn’t had a second term, using the past year to gut NATO so Putin could take Ukraine’s freedom without opposition.

        And in other news, more support for the freedom fighters in Ukraine, I’m sure Tucker Carlson will be so disappointed:

        “Adrian Kellgren’s family-owned gun company in Florida was left holding a $200,000 shipment of semi-automatic rifles after a longtime customer in Ukraine suddenly went silent during Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the country.

        Fearing the worst, Kellgren and his company KelTec decided to put those stranded 400 guns to use, sending them to Ukraine’s nascent resistance movement to help civilians fight back against a Russian military that has been repeatedly shelling their apartment buildings, schools, hospitals and hiding places.“

        I’ve always wondered what it felt like to be on the wrong side of history, now you guys can tell us what it’s like.

        • The wrong side of history? this is bidens watch. No matter how you spin it. And my, how you’ve become a chickenhawk. Your corporate masters bark and you jump.

        • Did you say chickens? jwm you know me to well.

          I love chickens, like really “love” them.

          Some could even call me Miner “ChickenHawk” 49er.

  15. Ukraine destryed/sold 720,000 small arms in early 2000s, around half of all their guns. There used to be a video of senator obama over there encouraging them to disarm. In the vid they are taking SKS rifles and burning the wood to heat the factory that melts the steel into blocks. Next they are destroying millions rounds from 23mm to 152mm and Rockets. It was a UN vid on their channel but was scrubbed from net years ago. Most Mosins in US came from this disarmament along with things like Russian caprure K98ks. They even destroyed stuff like AKs and PKMs, odd things like Hungarian PPSH41s w Russian rebuild marks were found in the heaps of guns destined to the foundry, must be from the 1956 revolt. They literaly beat their swords into plows and now beg for weapons

  16. Daily reminder that the people currently in power could not find 5 billion to fund the border wall but have already sent 15 billion to Ukraine.

    • And negotiate with the enemies of the USA to fill the void in the oil market left by cutting off the enemies of the UKR.

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