Royal Engineers sappers have delivered explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) training to Ukrainian soldiers to disable mines, munitions and other explosive devices that are being used in Ukraine and are currently one of the biggest threats to the safety of civilians in the country.
Mines present one of the biggest obstacles to the Ukrainian Armed Forces as they seek to re-take illegally occupied land. It is critical to the success of the ongoing counter-offensive that Ukraine has the resources to deal with mines; this thorough and tailored training package teaches soldiers munition recognition, disposal methods, and search procedures to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs), mines, booby traps and trip wires.
Training includes how to conduct a threat brief, plan mine-disposal operations, and practical lessons on how to clear not only vast swathes of land, but also trench systems, bunkers and civilian buildings. Final assessments involve search teams covering a complex area with a designated commander. Soldiers use metal detectors and personnel mine extraction kits and are taught how to adapt the equipment they have available on the front line. They have also been trained on equipment donated by the UK, including VALLON detectors.
Much of the training takes place within an area designed to simulate conditions similar to those on the frontline, where the Armed Forces of Ukraine are encountering minefields, booby traps, and improvised explosive devices.
The training package, which was developed following a request from Ukraine, is delivered in Poland by 35 Engineer Regiment EOD&S and is tailored based on feedback provided by Ukrainian sappers, some of whom have served on the frontline since as far back as 2014.
The UK is also supporting a Canadian-led programme in Poland, teaching basic combat engineering skills to the AFU and both courses have collectively trained approximately 1,000 soldiers with ambitions to train more.
Considerable equipment and training to Ukraine has been provided by the UK to improve their ability to clear mines. This has included over 1,500 sets of both vehicle-mounted and ‘on-the person’ mine clearing and explosive ordnance disposal equipment, including necessary training.
More mine-clearance capabilities are expected to be announced in the next round of funding from the UK-led International Fund for Ukraine, which has raised £770 million from partners to supply military equipment to Ukraine.
More than 23,500 recruits from the Armed Forces of Ukraine have already received training in the UK since the start of 2022, learning essential frontline skills including trench and urban warfare, leadership, and medical training.
At the start of 2023, the UK committed to train a further 20,000 Ukrainian recruits – approximately double the amount trained last year – under one of the largest training programmes of its kind in the world. Beyond teaching combat skills to recruits, the UK has provided a broad package of other skills including medical training to provide pastoral care, spiritual support and moral guidance.
Including both the Op Interflex and the programme for marines, the UK’s training for the Armed Forces of Ukraine is supported by Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.
The UK remains fully committed to supporting Ukraine, with a further £2.3bn already earmarked for further military support through 2023, with additional munitions and equipment to be delivered in the coming months. Further UK government assistance continues in the form of humanitarian support and economic aid.