U.S. Troops Can’t Help Ukrainians Fix Their Weapons in Person. So, They Video Chat Instead

 If Ukraine wins, it will be due in part to chat rooms and video calls, which are becoming as important in this new age of war as fuel and ammunition.

Ukraine’s force of American-made howitzers, rocket systems, and other weapons is running smoothly. At least in part, that’s thanks to help from U.S. Army soldiers. The catch: the soldiers aren’t even in Ukraine, where their presence would be a major escalation, but instead they’re hundreds of miles away in NATO territory. Ukrainian and American troops are collaborating to keep the donated weapons running through telemaintenance, a process instantly recognizable to remote workers.

The United States has sent billions of dollars’ worth of military aid to Ukraine, including 126 M777 towed howitzers, 16 M142 HIMARS rocket systems, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Javelin anti-tank missiles, Switchblade 300 and 600 drones, and so on. These weapons were instrumental in halting the Russian invasion, and they’re currently being used in a major counteroffensive west of the city of Kharkiv.

American and NATO-made weapons are often fundamentally different from Ukrainian weapons, many of which were originally built for the Soviet Union. They also incorporate technology that Ukrainian troops were previously unfamiliar with, from GPS-guided shells to advanced propulsions systems. Unfortunately, while the United States has been able to supply weapons, it has not allowed (at least publicly) American troops to accompany them into Ukraine for training purposes. This has caused concerns that the equipment might not be serviced as effectively in Ukraine, and that systems like howitzers might suffer from premature breakdowns.

A major reason not to send American troops to Ukraine is because both countries can use telemaintenance, according to DefenseOne. American weapon maintainers in Poland and Ukrainian maintainers in Ukraine have 16 chat rooms—one per donated American weapon system—to work through technical and maintenance issues. The two sides also use video conferencing. The Ukrainians connect via SpaceX Starlink terminals and can share video clips if necessary. The two armies use Ukrainian linguists to overcome the language gap. If this sounds like the remote work that so many people have become accustomed to since 2020, well, that’s because it is.

The Army first announced the system back in July, identifying the unit leading the American side as the 405th Army Field Support Brigade’s Tele-Maintenance and Distribution Cell-Ukraine, located in Jasionka, Poland. The system on the American side reaches across several Army commands worldwide, drawing in experts on missiles, tanks, communications, aviation, and the logistics units that organize batches of spare parts to send to Ukraine.

The Pentagon was uniquely positioned to bring this system online. The U.S. military has a planetary reach, and units are often deployed thousands of miles from their home forts and bases. If a deployed system like a tank or a radar fails in the field, the most knowledgeable person to fix it might not even be on the same continent. Telemaintenance allows troops in the field to take their service requests global.

American assistance, in both weapons and expertise, has helped Ukraine blunt the Russian tide and launch a devastating counteroffensive. Telemaintenance allows American soldiers to lend their expertise to Ukrainians without actually being on site, keeping the guns firing. Nobody knows how the war will ultimately end, but if Ukraine wins, it will be due in part to chat rooms and video calls, which are becoming as important in this new age of war as fuel and ammunition.

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