What’s in the latest US military package for Ukraine?

Washington announces $800m in additional assistance, including heavy artillery and more helicopters.

Ukrainian service members operate a 2A65 Msta-B howitzer during artillery and anti-aircraft drills near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea in the Kherson region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released January 28, 2022
Ukrainian soldiers operate a 2A65 Msta-B howitzer during drills on January 28 [File: Press service of the Joint Forces Operation/Handout via Reuters]

President Joe Biden’s administration has announced the United States’ latest military aid package to Ukraine – an $800m bundle that includes additional helicopters and, for the first time, 155mm howitzer cannons.

The latest addition brings the overall US military assistance provided to Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbouring country on February 24 to $2.6bn. It comes as Russian forces have retreated from northern Ukraine amid a shift in strategy to focus on the eastern Donbas region.

Biden on Wednesday said the latest package “will contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine”.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the list of equipment came “directly out of multiple conversations with Ukrainians in the last few days”.

Here’s what’s in the latest package:

For the first time, the US will provide towed 155mm howitzer cannons and 40,000 artillery rounds to Ukraine.

Kirby said the weapons are “reflective of the kind of fighting that the Ukrainians are expecting to be faced with here in this more confined geographic area” of Donbas, noting Ukraine specifically asked for artillery “fire support”.

The US will give an additional 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles, shoulder-mounted weapons officials have said have proven particularly effective in stopping the Russian advance. It will also provide 300 more Switchblade drones, a single-use weapon that can fly directly at a target.

The package includes an additional 10 AN/TPQ-36 radars, which are designed to detect and track incoming artillery, rocket fire and mortar, as well as two more AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel air surveillance radars, which are used to detect incoming aircraft.

The US will triple the number of Mi-17 helicopters it has provided Ukraine to date, adding 11 Mi-17 helicopters to the five already provided earlier in the year.

The package also includes 100 armoured Humvees, body armour and helmets, 2,000 optics and laser rangefinders, and demolition equipment.

The list also includes “unmanned coastal defense vessels”, although the Pentagon did not elaborate on what that item pertains to.

What has the US previously given?

Last month, the Pentagon said it would send 800 Stinger anti-aircraft weapons alongside thousands of anti-tank weapons, including 2,000 Javelin systems.

It also said it would provide 100 tactical unmanned aerial systems, or drones, as well as an array of lighter weapons – 100 grenade launchers, 5,000 rifles, 1,000 pistols, 400 machine guns and 400 shotguns – and additional body armour, helmets and ammunition.

The US had previously provided Ukraine with more than 600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems and about 2,600 Javelin weapons.

Besides the Mi-17 helicopters, it had also given three patrol boats, an array of smaller arms and several radar systems to track artillery, mortar and drone attacks.

Dozens of countries have provided military assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion, which has killed thousands of people and forced millions from their homes.

Source: Al Jazeera