WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Wednesday it would send an additional $1.1 billion in long-term military aid to Ukraine, including 18 launchers of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, one of the most lauded weapons of the war of seven months with Russia.
But unlike the 16 HIMARS the military shipped to Ukraine from its existing stockpiles over the summer, these new weapons will be ordered from the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, and will take “a few years” to deliver, a senior official told reporters. of the Department of Defense.
Switching the source of Ukrainian military supplies from the Pentagon’s own stockpiles, which is large but not unlimited, to items newly manufactured by the defense industry indicates that the White House and military leaders are transitioning to a sustainable model in which Kyiv can be trusted for an opening. ended the war with Russia.
Privately, US commanders have also expressed concern that if the United States sends more HIMARS vehicles immediately, the Ukrainians will burn through Pentagon-provided rocket ammunition too quickly, which could jeopardize US military readiness in the coming years. months.
The promise of new military aid comes at a critical moment in the war, when Ukraine has the momentum on the battlefield and has recaptured vast tracts of land in the east and is putting pressure on Russian forces entrenched in the south.
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin is mobilizing as many as 300,000 reservists in a bid to shore up his forces, and Ukrainian commanders are pushing to try to recapture as much territory as possible before winter frost forces both sides to reduce the speed of his forces. operations and digging. HIMAR systems have proven effective in cutting off Russian supply lines, destroying ammunition dumps, bridges, rail links, and troop concentrations far beyond the lines.
Asked why the Pentagon did not send more advanced rocket launchers from its own stockpiles, as President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has repeatedly requested, the senior Defense Department official sidestepped the question, saying the future delivery was to ensure that Ukraine “You will have what you need in the long run to deter future threats.”
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Pentagon officials have said for weeks that with the US HIMARS and 10 similar rocket systems already delivered to the battlefield (26 rocket launchers in all) Ukraine has enough weapons to attack the Russian targets it wants. In fact, satellite-guided rockets fired by HIMARS have hit more than 400 Russian ammunition depots, command posts and radars.
The new shipment announced Wednesday also includes 150 Humvees, 150 vehicles to tow artillery, radar, anti-drone systems and bulletproof vests, which the senior Pentagon official said will be delivered by manufacturers in the next six to 24 months. That brings to $16.2 billion in total military aid that the United States has committed to Ukraine since the war began in February.
The $1.1 billion in new equipment will be paid for by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a congressionally approved fund that allows Ukrainian leaders to buy military items directly from the defense industry.
In the same virtual briefing for journalists on Wednesday, a senior US military official said the first “small group” of Russians out of the 300,000 conscripts ordered to be mobilized had arrived in Ukraine. The official did not provide details on how many new recruits had been sent to the battlefield or where they were located.
But the official, who like the senior Pentagon official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss operational matters, expressed skepticism that the Kremlin can adequately mobilize, train and equip anywhere near that total number of new troops.
“Just the mechanics of equipping a force of that size is very difficult,” the senior US military official said.