Artillery vehicle

For the first time, Ukraine will receive US artillery in a new $800 million arms package

Paratroopers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct a shooting exercise in northeast Syria on December 9, 2020. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sidney Perry)

WASHINGTON: US government expands types of weapons it supplies to Ukraine in latest $800 million weapons packagee to include howitzers, artillery, unmanned boats for coastal defense and other equipment not included in previous support sets.

“This new assistance package will contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the broader assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine.” , President Joe Biden said in a statement. today following a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

For the first time, the United States will provide 18 155mm howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds to meet Ukraine’s fire support needs, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said during a briefing. a press briefing after the White House announcement. “It reflects the kind of fighting Ukrainians expect to face here in this somewhat more confined geographical area,” he said.

Also new to the set is an indefinite number of unmanned coastal defense vessels, which Kirby says would come from Navy stockpiles.

The latest pack will provide: 10 AN/TPQ-36 counter-artillery radars; two AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel aerial surveillance systems; 500 Javelin missiles and other anti-armour systems; 300 Switchblade drones; 200 M113 armored personnel carriers; 100 high mobility multipurpose wheeled armored vehicles; and 11 Mi-17 helicopters which were previously to be sent to Afghanistan.

Other aids include body armor, laser optics and range finders, explosives and equipment to protect troops against chemical, biological and nuclear attacks.

Some equipment will require additional training for Ukrainian forces, such as Howitzers, Sentinel Radars, and Counter Artillery Radars.

Although the details have not been fully worked out, Kirby said it is very likely that a small number of Ukrainian soldiers will leave the country for a short time to learn from American military instructors and then train other Ukrainian troops. at their return. in battle, Kirby said.

“We think we can get proper training in place for some of these systems very, very quickly. They are not very complex systems,” he said.

Kirby told reporters that the WE The government aims to provide this latest round of assistance “as soon as possible”, and this previously announced assistance should be available in Ukraine in the coming days, he said.

The White House’s announcement of new aid to Ukraine comes as Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks sat down with defense CEOs to discuss the industrial impact on the production of weapons underway for Ukraine. The discussion, held earlier in the day, included executives from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, L3Harris, Raytheon, BAE Systems, Huntington Ingalls, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

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“We wanted to make sure that we had a good honest and frank discussion with these CEOs about the systems they’re producing, the speed at which they’re being produced, the possibility of speeding up some of these production lines and expanding based on the strong use of our inventory to support Ukraine,” Kirby said.

Lawmakers have raised concerns about the possibility of U.S. stockpiles being too low, and Hicks herself has previously commented on some of the difficulties in restocking certain weapons, such as Stinger missiles, which are difficult to create or contain outdated parts.

However, Kirby pointed out that the Pentagon has not reached the point where weapons stockpile levels threaten US readiness. But, he added, “we don’t want to get to that point until we’ve started having a conversation with the industry about restocking and the upcoming production line.”

Although the US government has increased the amount of security assistance provided to Ukraine over the past month, it has not always given Ukraine the advanced and expensive items that its leaders have asked.

Earlier this morning, Zelenskyy tweeted a video message in English imploring international leaders to provide Ukraine with additional weapons. specifically he said the beleaguered country needed "hheavy artillery, armored vehicles, air defense systems and fighter jets” to “repel Russian forces and put an end to their war crimes”.

However, US aid has mostly consisted of older, less sophisticated weapons that the Ukrainian military can use without specialized training.

On March 18, the Biden administration approved $800 million for Stinger anti-aircraft systems, shoulder-mounted Javelin anti-tank weapons, rockets, small arms, ammunition and – for the first time – Switchblade drones, which essentially function as roving ammo.

Earlier this month, the United States pledged an additional $300 million in weapons, including additional Switchblade and RQ-20 Puma drones, laser-guided rockets, counter-drone systems, armored vehicles, commercial satellite imagery systems and other weapons.

On April 8, Slovakia agreed to transfer one of its S300 air defense systems to Ukraine, and the Biden administration announced that the US military would position a Patriot system in Slovakia in response. Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Hege has also expressed interest in transferring some of his ex-MiG-29s to Ukraine and is currently discussing the prospect with allies, according to Politico. On Tuesday, a senior defense official said the United States would not oppose the transfer.