The weapons and equipment in the latest aid package will be bought directly from industry on Ukraine’s behalf under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), meaning they are not yet built and could take some time to reach the battlefield.
Items in the $1.1 billion package include:
- 18 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and associated ammunition
- 150 Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs)
- 150 Tactical Vehicles to tow weapons
- 40 trucks and 80 trailers to transport heavy equipment
- Two radars for Unmanned Aerial Systems
- 20 multi-mission radars
- Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems
- Tactical secure communications systems, surveillance systems, and optics
- Explosive ordnance disposal equipment
- Body armor and other field equipment
- Funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment
The announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process to provide additional priority capabilities to Ukraine in the mid- and long-term, according to the Pentagon.
“This USAI package underscores the U.S. commitment to continuing to support Ukraine over the long term,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “It represents a multi-year investment in critical capabilities to build the enduring strength of Ukraine’s Armed Forces as it continues to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory in the face of Russian aggression.”
The United States has committed $16.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021. Since 2014, the United States has donated $19 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, of which $16.2 billion was promised or delivered since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on February 24.
HIMARS has undeniably been one of the most impactful weapons the U.S. has donated to Ukraine’s war effort. While the Pentagon cautiously progressed with deliveries at the outset while Ukrainian troops proved they could use the precision weapons effectively, there are now 16 firing precision rockets at Russian positions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov mentioned HIMARS by name when thanking the U.S. government for its latest military assistance.
The wheeled launchers and M270 tracked launchers donated by NATO allies – both of which fire the precision Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS, munitions – played a critical opening role in Ukraine’s ongoing dual-pronged offensive in the north around Kharkiv and south around Kherson. Both launch systems also can fire the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, which has a 190-mile range. The U.S. has so far declined to provide Ukraine with such a long-range missile capable of striking targets well inside Russia.
A systematic campaign using GMLRS to target Russian ammunition storage and logistics capabilities set conditions for Ukraine’s rapid liberation of vast swathes of occupied territory. The War Zone explained how both launcher types, loaded with the M30/31 rockets, would be used as precision-strike weapons and very effective even in relatively small numbers in this piece.
HIMARS has achieved cult status as it obliterated Russian positions in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian media began spreading the news of more inbound HIMARS systems even before the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
Russia has repeatedly claimed to have destroyed some of Ukraine’s HIMARS launchers, going so far as to chalk up the elimination of more weapons than had even been donated. Knowing Russian forces would seek out and target the HIMARS launchers, Ukrainian forces made mock-ups from plywood to compel the enemy into wasting valuable ammunition.
Introducing another 18 HIMARS will more than double the number of them in Ukraine’s arsenal, although the timeline for achieving this is still unknown. Every wheeled launcher can precisely strike targets within a 43-mile radius of its position. As Ukraine pushes consistently eastward along its two axes of advance, its HIMARS can reach further into Russian-occupied territory.
There have been concerns that U.S. ammunition stockpiles are insufficient to keep Ukrainian forces firing GMLRS while leaving enough for the U.S. military in case of major contingency operations.
Before we get to the details of everything else happening in the fight for Ukraine, take a moment to revisit our rolling coverage of the conflict here.
In addition to detailing what was in the announced $1.1 billion in USAI funding, a senior U.S. defense official said that Ukraine is consolidating the territorial gains it has made in recent weeks of the seven-month-long war. From the other side of the line, Russia is thought to be increasing strikes against civilian targets.
In the Donetsk region, Ukrainian forces have nearly encircled the city of Lyman, according to pro-Russian media sources. The map below shows Russian forces almost surrounded in and around the city, with Ukrainian troops pushing to close the pincer from the north and south in their rear.
The same push to cut off Russian troops in Lyman is reflected in the U.K. Ministry of Defense intelligence assessment map of the conflict for Sept. 28.
Ukraine has pressed its offensive operations in the north-east of the country over the last few days, the U.K. MoD said in its latest intelligence assessment of the conflict.
“Units are making slow advances on at least two axes east from the line of the Oskil and Siverskyy Donets rivers, where forces had consolidated following their previous advance earlier in the month,” the U.K. MoD said. “Russia is mounting a more substantive defense than previously, likely because the Ukrainian advance now threatens parts of Luhansk Oblast as voting in the referendum on accession to the Russian Federation closes. Heavy fighting also continues in the Kherson region where the Russian force on the right bank of the Dnipro remains vulnerable.”
The specter of nuclear weapons continues to loom larger over the conflict in Ukraine. NATO is clearly taking the threats more seriously than they had been, while it seems that Putin has chosen the troop surge route instead, at least for now.
In Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces continue to put abandoned Russian vehicles and equipment to good use. In the video below, a Ukrainian crew tows a captured Russian Msta-B 152mm howitzer with a captured Russian T-80 main battle tank, according to the Ukrainian MoD.
It appears that was not the only Russian T-80 tank Ukrainian forces were able to capture in working order during their Kharkiv offensive.
More Western-donated vehicles are on their way to Ukraine, including the LAV 6.0 troop carrier recently seen in Germany. The vehicle is part of a $500 million aid package from Canada.
Ukraine still has an insatiable appetite for artillery and has made do with any weapons at its disposal, including an apparent museum piece. A Soviet-era M240 240mm mortar, a type that entered service in 1950, was recently seen in Ukrainian service. While the weapon is not known to be in Ukrainian inventories, one was displayed in a Kyiv museum before the war.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda piled on with other Western leaders in denouncing the referendums Russia recently orchestrated in occupied territories of Ukraine. He called the votes – which unrealistically nearly unanimously favor of Russian annexation – as “desperate attempts by Russia to annex Ukrainian territory.”
Nevertheless, the Russia-installed leaders of Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk Oblasts were flown to Moscow in the wake of the highly suspect votes.
The quality of firearms training for those that are lucky enough to get any is also suspect. The photo below appears to show a Russian shooting skills instructor holding the palm of his right hand over the muzzle of a trainee’s AK pattern rifle. The move is an egregious safety violation even if the weapon is unloaded.
Near Lyman, a Russian vehicle was seen with its turret draped in damaged body armor meant to protect humans. The weathered vests seem to have provided little protection to the vehicle and certainly did no good for whomever they were issued to.
At worst, Russian military leaders are aware that conscripted soldiers have little chance against a hardened Ukrainian military that already has succeeded against Russia’s professional soldiers. In at least one instance, Russian officers appear to have stated this fact to a group of recruits, calling them “cannon fodder” and “meat” to be sent into combat, as reported by Russian independent media outlet Meduza.
The War Zone broke the news today that Russia has closed off Sevastopol harbor, home of its Black Sea Fleet, likely in response to the appearance of Ukrainian “suicide” drone boats and other threats as Ukraine ramps up operations around Crimea.
U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante on Wednesday chaired the first meeting of the National Armaments Directors (NADs) from member nations of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG) in Brussels, Belgium. He was joined by defense industry leaders and representatives from 45 countries, the European Union, and NATO, according to a statement from the Defense Department.
“The forum enabled frank and open dialogue about defense industrial base challenges and opportunities to increase production of capabilities critical to Ukraine’s long-term defense,” according to DoD spokesperson Jessica Maxwell.
“The U.S. delegation outlined the Department’s analytical approach to identifying supply-chain constraints for major components and sub-components and plans to increase production of ground-based long-range fires, air defense systems, air-to-ground munitions, and other capabilities. Nearly 20 international partners briefed similar efforts to strengthen and expand their nations’ industrial base to accelerate production, spurring productive dialogue on areas for multi-national coordination.”
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Contact the author: Dan@thewarzone.com