WASHINGTON — The U.S. will provide Ukraine with secure communications equipment as the Eastern European country’s fight against Russia rages into a fourth month.
The U.S. Department of Defense on June 15 said “thousands of secure radios” would be sent to Ukraine as part of a $1 billion security package announced by President Joe Biden. It gave no specifics as to models or manufacturers but described them as a “near-term priority” that would help the besieged country “defend against Russian aggression.”
The radios will be sourced using Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds, or USAI, and won’t come from existing U.S. stockpiles, the Pentagon said. Instead, they will be procured from private industry, with Wednesday’s announcement kicking off the process. No delivery dates were disclosed.
Communications and connectivity are under constant assault in Ukraine, as cyberattacks hamstring websites, methods of command and control are harassed and the telecommunications industry remains a top target. The Ukrainian government on May 31 reported that “Russian invaders disabled communication services” in the south of the country, darkening networks across the Kherson region.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin this week said there is an “unwavering determination to get Ukraine the capabilities that it urgently needs to defend itself” and that the country is facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield.
“Russia is using its long-range fires to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions, and Russia continues to indiscriminately bombard Ukraine’s sovereign territory and recklessly endanger Ukrainian civilians,” Austin said at a Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at the NATO headquarters in Belgium. “So we must intensify our shared commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense and we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, its citizens and its territory.”
The U.S. in April said it would send secure, tactical communications systems to Ukraine as part of a $300 million aid package, also using USAI, and in May announced it was dispatching electronic jamming equipment to the front lines, as well.
Included in the latest package are spare parts, night-vision devices, optics, Harpoon anti-ship launchers and more ammunition for medium-range rocket launchers. The U.S. years ago began supplying Ukraine with more-modern radios to protect communications and combat jamming.
The U.S. has committed roughly $5.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. More than $8.3 billion of assistance has been committed since 2014.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.