The UK has expanded Operation Interflex, the UK-led multinational programme currently training thousands of new Ukrainian recruits in combat infantry skills, to include a platoon commanders’ course to teach tactical battlefield techniques.
Responding to questions in the UK House of Commons on 11 May, UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said that the platoon commanders’ course had “just started”, with plans to train a total of 20,000 Ukrainian military recruits through Operation Interflex this year.
The figure builds on the 9,000 Ukrainian personnel trained through the programme in 2022, with further training also provided outside of Interflex on the operation of granted armoured vehicles such as the Challenger 2 main battle tank, AS90 155mm self-propelled howitzer, the M270 multiple launch rocket system, among others.
Some 750 UK military personnel are assigned to Operation Interflex, which uses a condensed version of the British Army’s basic infantry programme to prepare Ukrainian recruits for the frontlines of the war in Ukraine. Techniques taught include drills in urban combat, clearing built-up areas and house-to-house operations, as well as battlefield medical applications.
Joining UK troops in the training programme are around 750 military trainers from the JEF grouping of European countries, which includes representatives from the Scandinavian states and the Netherlands, as well as personnel from New Zealand and Australia.
Has Ukraine’s counteroffensive begun?
Ukraine’s long-awaited 2023 counter-offensive has shaped much of the discourse around the near-15-month-long war against Russia, following Moscow’s full-scale invasion in February last year.
While Russia has been focusing its efforts in and around Bakhmut in 2023, resulting in significant casualties on both sides’ front lines solidified, Western allies of Ukraine have been attempting to deliver hundreds of promised weapon systems, including armoured vehicles, long-range missiles, ammunition and other war materiel, with Kyiv widely expected to attempt to conduct Nato-style combined arms manoeuvre warfare when it does decide to go on the offensive.
Reports within the past 24 hours suggest that some elements of the counter-push could have already begun while the US Institute for the Study of War stated on 11 May that Ukrainian forces “likely broke through” some Russian lines in the localised counterattacks near Bakhmut.
When pressed on whether the UK had delivered all of its promised equipment to Ukraine, Wallace told parliament on 11 May that the main heavy armoured vehicle such as the AS90 and Challenger 2s had been handed over to Kyiv.
However, Wallace was keen to emphasise that the decision to commit Ukrainian forces to any counterattack rested with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Wallace told MPs: “If [President Zelensky] delays [the counter offensive] because he is waiting for the equipment, I would understand that fully. We will do everything we can to make sure that everything gifted is in the right place at the right time so that when he makes that decision, those [Ukrainian] men and women have the best chance of survival.”