Pentagon deals Ukrainians a new hand with Nato weapons playing cards
Twenty years ago, US forces were issued with playing cards bearing mugshots of Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants to aid in the manhunt for the Iraqi dictator.
Now the Pentagon has dealt soldiers a new hand to help them with another problem - the dizzying array of Nato weaponry sent to Ukraine.
The new deck features 52 weapons systems including tanks, helicopters and rocket launchers, plus two jokers, reported The New York Times.
A Pentagon spokesman told the paper that the deck focuses on “Nato equipment that has proliferated to non-Nato countries”.
And while he did not mention Ukraine, its contents track closely with the vehicles, aircraft and weapons Western countries have donated since the war began.
The ace of clubs is the M270 MLRS, an American-built tracked equivalent of the Himars precision rocket launcher that Britain sent to Ukraine last year.
The eight of diamonds is the Dana SPH self-propelled Howitzer, produced by Czechoslovakia in the Cold War, which the Czech Republic and Slovakia are believed to have provided.
Not all the items in the deck have made an appearance on Ukraine’s battlefields, however.
The nine of diamonds is Britain’s soon-to-be-retired Warrior infantry fighting vehicle, which the UK has not announced it is sending, despite some public debate about doing so.
A similar French vehicle, the AMX 10P, is also in the deck, although there have only been unconfirmed reports France is considering sending them.
In 2019, the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command began issuing “Worldwide Equipment Identification” packs featuring Chinese, Russian and Iranian weapons systems US soldiers might encounter in combat.
They proved immensely popular among soldiers, and the latest pack featuring friendly forces’ equipment is a spin-off.
Armies have used playing cards to train soldiers at least since the Second World War, when packs were produced in Britain to identify Allied and Axis aircraft.
The practice resumed in the First Gulf War, when troops were issued with cards showing Iraqi equipment they would be fighting against.
The infamous “most wanted” deck issued in 2003 featured high-ranking officials in the Saddam regime, rather than tanks or aircraft.
Western countries donated or pledged more than €62 billion (£55 billion) in military aid between January 2022 and January 2023, according to figures compiled by Kiel university's Ukraine Aid Tracker.
Nato countries have donated so many different weapons to Kyiv that some officials and soldiers there have complained of major logistical headaches.
They include at least six different types of self-propelled howitzer, more than five air defence systems, and a plethora of tracked and wheeled armoured vehicles.
Britain alone has donated hundreds of vehicles including Bulldogs, CVR(T), and six Stormer vehicles.
On Monday, Ukraine announced it had received the first of 14 British Challenger 2 main battle tanks. It has also received its first German-made Leopard 2 tanks and is expecting American Abrams.