The Pentagon plans to send another $325 million tranche of artillery, anti-armor weapons and other military aid to Ukraine as the embattled country considers a spring offensive against Russian troops, a U.S. defense official said Wednesday.
The new security package aims to bolster Ukraine’s long-range and precision strike capabilities, give its troops the upper hand in close combat, and halt Russia’s piecemeal western advance.
The latest round of aid — America’s 36th shipment in the 14 months since Russia mounted a full-scale assault on Ukraine in February 2022 — brings the total amount of U.S. war goods donated during the conflict to $36.1 billion.
“We are focused and we understand the requirements,” a senior defense official told reporters on background Monday. “We’ve met them every step along the way and we will continue to do so.”
Most notably, the U.S. is continuing to draw from its own stockpiles of High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System shells, which Ukraine uses to strike targets like Russian air defense systems and ammunition depots.
The latest package also includes:
- 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds
- Anti-tank mines and missiles
- AT-4 anti-armor weapons
- Anti-tank mines
- Demolition charges to clear obstacles on the ground
- More than 9 million rounds of small-arms ammunition
- Four logistics support vehicles
- Precision aerial munitions
- Testing and diagnostic equipment for vehicle maintenance
- Port and harbor security equipment
- Spare parts and other field equipment
The Biden administration’s announcement comes in advance of Friday’s multinational Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, hosted by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
This week’s gathering marks one year since defense ministers and senior military officials from nearly 50 countries first came together to coordinate material and training support for Ukraine, discuss current and upcoming battlefield conditions, and share assessments of Russian and Ukrainian capabilities.
“We continue to be as strong as we were a year ago. … That support is enduring going forward,” the senior U.S. official said.
In a briefing with reporters ahead of Austin’s trip to Europe, the official said the U.S. is “not concerned” about its earlier assessment that Ukraine could run out of the air defense artillery it needs next month if fighting continues at the same pace. That conclusion leaked to the public in a trove of documents published on the private online chat community Discord and later obtained by U.S. news outlets.
“We have continuously assessed what Ukraine’s requirements are and address those,” the official said. “Being able to understand the rate of use, the shape of the battle, what kinds of capabilities Ukraine requires in the coming weeks [and] months, is exactly why the secretary started the Ramstein format a year ago.”
The official said the leaks have not caused friction between the U.S. and its allies, but declined to comment further. The Justice Department is leading a federal investigation into Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old IT specialist in the Massachusetts Air National Guard who is accused of posting the classified documents to curry favor with other Discord users.
Town by town, intense fighting continues to punctuate the swath of Russian-occupied territory across eastern Ukraine.
Both sides are struggling to definitively wrest control of areas like Bahkmut and Avdiivka as Russia’s recent push to expand its gains has slowed to a “very static battle,” the senior U.S. defense official told reporters.
Longer-range missile strikes are intermittent, as those troops save up cruise missiles to unleash them on perceived weaknesses in Ukrainian air defenses, the American official said. But that has not succeeded in punching a lasting hole in the local resistance.
Ukrainians are defending their homes “incredibly well and stubbornly under very tough circumstances,” the official said, illuminating shortcomings in Russian military capabilities.
“We’re seeing the effects of their weakened defense industry, their problematic logistics system, and a lot of evidence of really poor training,” the official added of Russia.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, reported Monday that Russian forces have “made further gains in Bakhmut and continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line,” while bolstering its defenses in southern Ukraine.
Equipped with fresh artillery, new tanks from multiple countries and training in the U.S. and Europe on how to use Western weapons, Ukraine is eyeing a counteroffensive that could isolate Russian forces from their supplies and each other.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov told the Associated Press that the renewed push could “break through the land corridor between Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula, moving from Zaporizhzhia toward Melitopol and the Azov Sea.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to respond harshly, invoking nuclear weapons, if Ukraine makes a play for Crimea.
Ground-based air defenses, armor and artillery remain among Ukraine’s most pressing needs as it mulls its next steps, the U.S. official said.
“We’ll see at the end of the week, after the meetings, what kinds of new announcements there will be,” they said. “But if you go back and look over the months, you will see that while those categories remained constant, the specific systems that countries were ready to donate and ready to deliver did change a little bit over time.”
Asked whether the U.S. has grown more amenable to providing longer-range systems like the Army Tactical Missile System that could allow Ukraine to hit targets within Russia, the defense official said they believe equipment like HIMARS is already allowing the country to strike the targets it wants.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Ukraine has received its first Patriot surface-to-air missile battery from Germany, offering another tool to hit incoming missiles and enemy aircraft. A spokesperson for Ukraine’s air force said the nation expected to receive another Patriot system from the U.S. after Orthodox Easter on April 16.
No decisions have been made on whether to supply Ukraine with military jets like F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters, as the country’s leaders have sought, the official said.
Proponents of the idea argue it would help turn the tide in favor of Ukraine; critics say it would take too long to train pilots to fly the Western jets and that, without control of their own airspace, Ukrainian pilots would have trouble making headway.
Even so, the U.S. official is confident the American-led coalition backing Ukraine is making the right decisions.
“While the Russians are having trouble with supplies and sustainment … the Ukrainians will not run out of capabilities because we’ve committed to providing what they need,” they said.
Western officials estimated that about 200,000 Russian troops and 100,000 Ukrainian troops, plus more than 21,000 civilians, had been wounded or killed as of the conflict’s one-year anniversary in February. The war is among Europe’s bloodiest since World War II.
Rachel Cohen joined Air Force Times as senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), the Washington Post, and others.