The U.S. has approved a new $1.85 billion weapons aid package for Ukraine, which will include supplying Kyiv with a Patriot air defense battery to assist in its fight against Russia’s ongoing invasion.

The new security aid deal was announced on Wednesday during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington, D.C., where he met with President Biden, senior Pentagon leaders and will address a joint session of Congress in the evening.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and U.S. President Joe Biden conduct a press conference on Dec. 21, 2022. Photo: Screenshot of White House live stream.

“The main issue during today’s talks is to strengthen Ukraine next year, our movement forward to fight for our freedom and our independence. I have good news returning home. President Biden announced a new package of defense support, about $2 billion. And the strongest element of this package is the Patriot battery system, something that will strengthen our air defense significantly. This is a very important step to create secure airspace for Ukraine and that’s the only way we would be to deprive the terrorist country and their terror attacks to strike our energy sector, our people and our infrastructure,” Zelenskyy said during a press briefing alongside Biden.

The new weapons package is split between $1 billion in capabilities to be transferred from existing Pentagon inventories and $850 million in equipment to be procured from industry using Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds.

The Raytheon Technologies [RTX]-built Patriot battery is part of the $1 billion in presidential drawdown authority, which also includes more ammunition for HIMARS launchers, 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds, 10 120mm mortar systems along with 10,000 120mm mortar rounds, 10 82mm mortar systems and 10 60mm mortar systems.

The drawdown package also covers “precision aerial munitions,” 37 MRAP vehicles, 120 Humvees, six armored utility trucks, High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARMs) and over 2,700 grenade launchers and small arms.

“Critically, in addition to these new capabilities like precision aerial munitions, the package will include a Patriot missile battery on which we’ll train Ukrainian forces to operate as part of the ongoing effort to help bolster Ukraine’s air defense. It could take some time to complete the necessary training but the Patriot battery will be another critical asset for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression,” Biden said during the press briefing. 

Zelenskyy in late October called the Patriot system an “extreme priority,” as Ukraine looks to bolster its air defense capability against increasing Russian missile attacks (Defense Daily, Oct. 28).

“The Patriot air defense system in this security assistance package is one of the world’s most advanced air defense capabilities. Once operational, it will add to a layered defense to counter the full range of threats currently menacing Ukraine’s cities and civilians. The Patriot system will augment previous air defense capabilities the United States has provided Ukraine, which include NASAMs, missiles for HAWK air defense systems, Stingers, and equipment to counter the Russian use of unmanned aerial vehicles,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

A senior defense official told reporters on Wednesday that training Ukrainians on the Patriot battery is expected to “begin very soon” and will likely take “several months.”

The official also said specifics details on the “precision aerial munitions” included in the drawdown package could not be provided at this time due to operational security reasons. 

The $850 million in equipment to be procured with USAI funds includes 45,000 152mm artillery rounds, 20,000 22mm artillery rounds, 50,000 122mm GRAD rockets, 100,000 rounds of 125mm tank ammunition, which the senior defense official described as “non-standard ammunition.” 

“This is what we formerly called ‘Soviet-type ammunition,’” the senior defense official told reporters. “These will be able to help the Ukrainians bring more of its legacy systems, its legacy howitzers, back into the fight in greater numbers.”

The USAI portion of the package also covers SATCOM terminals and services, according to the Pentagon.

“This will augment existing Ukrainian capabilities. But since we’re in the process of contract negotiations, I can just say we’re talking to a number of vendors. But can’t be more specific than that,” the senior defense official said. 

The final FY ‘23 appropriations bill released on Tuesday has $45 billion in supplemental funds to continue assisting Ukraine, which includes $9 for USAI, $11.9 billion to help replenish U.S. stocks of equipment sent to Ukraine and increases the presidential drawdown authority to transfer weapons to Ukraine by another $14.5 billion (Defense Daily, Dec. 20).