The White House has announced that the United States will send an additional $270m in security assistance to Ukraine, a package that will include more medium-range rocket systems and tactical drones.
The announcement on Friday brings the total US security assistance committed to Ukraine by the administration of US President Joe Biden to $8.2bn, and is being paid for through $40bn in economic and security aid for Ukraine approved by Congress in May.
The new package includes four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS and will allow Kyiv to acquire up to 580 Phoenix Ghost drones, both crucial weapon systems that have allowed the Ukrainians to stay in the fight despite Russian artillery supremacy, according to John Kirby, the White House National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications. The latest assistance also includes some 36,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and additional ammunition for the HIMARS.
“The president has been clear that we’re going to continue to support the government of Ukraine and its people for as long as it takes,” Kirby said.
The development came as Ukrainian forces have used US-made rocket launchers and tactical drones to destroy dozens of Russian targets and hold at bay Russia’s larger and more heavily equipped forces.
Russia can fire far more ammunition but has sustained huge losses of troops and equipment as Ukrainian forces have been equipped with precision weaponry from the US and other Western allies. CIA Director William Burns on Wednesday said the US estimates roughly 15,000 Russian forces have been killed. That death toll would be equivalent to the Soviet Union’s military losses in its 1980s war in Afghanistan, which lasted nearly a decade.
Ukraine has long sought more HIMARS launchers, which fire medium-range rockets and also can be quickly moved before Russia can target them. On Wednesday, Ukrainian forces reportedly used a HIMARS to hit a strategic bridge in the Russia-occupied southern region of Kherson.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this week said his forces could inflict major damage on Russia as Kyiv leans on Western weapons in planned efforts to launch a counterattack and recapture territory.
US authorities also are providing Ukraine with more guided rockets known as GMLRS. The Pentagon continues to rule out sending longer-range rockets that Ukraine could potentially use to attack deep into Russian territory. That is a nod to the US trying to manage the risk of Russia instigating a broader war.
The US has already sent 12 truck-mounted HIMARS to Ukraine. The United Kingdom has also provided three launchers of a different kind with GMLRS rockets as well.
Both sides in the war have made ample use of drones. The US had previously committed to sending 121 Phoenix Ghosts to Ukraine. Pentagon officials have not fully disclosed the capabilities of those drones, which were developed by the US Air Force and produced by Aevex Aerospace, which describes itself as a leader in “full-spectrum airborne intelligence solutions”. The drones have onboard cameras and can be used to attack targets.
The US disclosed earlier this month that it believed Russia is planning to obtain several hundred drones from Iran.
The White House released satellite imagery that indicates Russian officials twice visited Iran in June or July for a showcase of weapons-capable drones it is looking to acquire.