The U.S. has approved a nearly $3 billion weapons aid package for Ukraine, the largest to date, with the new deal focused on meeting Kyiv’s medium to long-term security requirements with capabilities set to be delivered in several months to years.
Weapons in the latest package, which was announced on Ukraine’s Independence Day and six months into Russia’s invasion of the country, will be procured from industry through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) and includes systems ranging from additional National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) to a new VAMPIRE counter-drone capability.
“The United States of America is committed to supporting the people of Ukraine as they continue the fight to defend their sovereignty. As part of that commitment, I am proud to announce our biggest tranche of security assistance to date: approximately $2.98 billion of weapons and equipment to be provided through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. This will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and radars to ensure it can continue to defend itself over the long term,” President Biden said on Wednesday.
The full list of capabilities in the new package to be procured with USAI funds includes six more of Kongsberg and Raytheon Technologies’ [RTX] NASAMS air defense systems, up to 245,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition and 65,000 rounds of 120mm mortar ammunition, up to 24 counter-artillery radars, and laser-guided rocket systems.
The deal also covers delivery of AeroVironment’s [AVAV] Puma drones, the new VAMPIRE counter-drone systems, equipment to support recently delivered Boeing [BA] Insitu-built ScanEagle drones and funding for continued training, maintenance and sustainment support for Ukrainian armed forces.
Colin Kahl, under secretary of defense for policy, told reporters that some of the capabilities may take “months to get on contract and one, two, three years, in some instances, to arrive in Ukraine,” as the U.S. aims to address Kyiv’s medium to long-term security requirements.
“Packages like this are extraordinarily important in directly challenging [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s theory of the case, which is that we’re not in it for the long haul,” Kahl said during a briefing on the new weapons aid package. “This type of package doesn’t presume any particular outcome of the conflict in Ukraine. For example, if the war continues for years, this package is relevant. If there is a ceasefire or a peace settlement, this package is still relevant because Ukraine needs the ability to defend itself and deter future aggression. So kind of under any scenario, or all the ones in between, we think that the package is relevant”
John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, reiterated to reporters earlier in the day that the U.S. still plans to continue providing security aid packages relevant to the near-term fight using presidential drawdown authority to pull equipment from existing DoD stockpiles as well as further opportunities to utilize USAI funds.
“[This] doesn’t mean that we’re not going to continue to announce further drawdown packages which can be [in Ukraine] in just a matter of days, so we’ll still have those options,” Kirby said. “I wouldn’t rule out that you might see even more going forward for USAI.”
On the VAMPIRE counter-UAS capability in the new deal, Kahl only offered that it was a “kinetic system” that uses “small missiles, essentially, to shoot UAVs out of the sky.”
The laser-guided rocket systems in the package have a range of about eight kilometers, according to Kahl, who said they will complement systems Ukraine is currently using and are able to “target Russian capabilities like armored personnel carriers and unmanned aerial systems.”
Kahl also addressed the U.S.’ decision to supply GMLRS rockets rather than the longer-range ATACMS missiles for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) launchers previously provided to Ukraine.
“It’s our assessment that the most relevant munitions for the current fight are the GMLRS and so we have prioritized getting the Ukrainians the GMLRS they need not only to hold in the East but to generate some momentum elsewhere in the country. It’s our assessment that they don’t currently require ATACMS to service targets that are directly relevant to the current fight,” Kahl said, noting the U.S. has provided “hundreds and hundreds” of GMLRS to Kyiv that have been used to “extraordinary effect on the battlefield.”
Kahl also confirmed that, while no final decisions have been made, the potential to deliver fighter aircraft to Ukraine in the future “remain[s] on the table.”
“As it relates to future aircraft, fourth-generation aircraft for example, even if we were to provide those now they wouldn’t arrive for years,” Kahl said. “I can tell you that fighter aircraft remain on the table, just no final decisions have been made about that.”
Kirby confirmed to reporters last month the White House and Pentagon are exploring the potential for providing Ukraine with U.S.-built fighter aircraft, while echoing Kahl that no such plan is likely to happen soon (Defense Daily, July 22).
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has tasked his office to work with the Joint Staff and U.S. European Command, in consultation with Ukraine, on a “future forces picture” for the types of capabilities Kyiv will need for medium to long-term security requirements, according to Kahl.
“We’re really trying to be very deliberate and disciplined about what type of Ukrainian force matters in the next 12, 24, 36 months under any range of scenarios. It could be a scenario in which the war continues. It could be a scenario in which the violence ebbs because there’s an agreement or it just dies down a bit. But even in that instance the Ukrainians are still going to need to defend their territory and deter future aggression.”
The U.S. has now committed $13.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, to include $12.9 billion since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February.