The Pentagon will buy Ukrainian laser-guided rockets and surveillance drones

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The Pentagon is expanding delivery of off-the-shelf weapons and military equipment to Ukraine, detailing on Friday its $136 million in purchases of aerial drones, laser-guided rockets, binoculars and other items that should be shipping soon.

The weapons and equipment, which will be purchased from US companies, represent a separate category of military assistance from the vast amounts of armaments the US has already supplied to Ukraine from existing Pentagon stockpiles. This round includes $22.6 million worth of 70mm rockets – known as the Advanced Precision Destruction Weapons System – which can be fired from helicopters, and an additional $17.8 million worth of Switchblade drones, which, when armed, can be transported in armored vehicles and formations of Russian troops. The Pentagon will also purchase Puma portable surveillance drones for $19.7 million, officials said, a move originally announced last month.

Bill LaPlante, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters on Friday that the Department of Defense has $300 million in congressional approved funding to spend on military equipment available in trade. Separately, LaPlante said, the Pentagon is negotiating with defense contractors to replace the thousands of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-armour missiles already supplied to Ukraine from its stockpiles.

“We are in touch with the industry every day as our requirements evolve,” LaPlante said, “and [the Biden administration] will continue to use all available tools to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the face of Russian aggression.

Biden calls for dramatic increase in aid to Ukraine

LaPlante’s announcement was the first of two from the Pentagon on Friday outlining additional support for Ukraine as its forces turn to defend against Russia’s bid to seize more territory in the country’s east. . Officials said a separate aid package – totaling $150 million worth of artillery ammunition, counter-artillery radars, electronic jamming equipment and other equipment – had been designed for its own needs. to the fighting in the Donbass.

President Biden released a statement saying that with this tranche of weapons taken from U.S. stockpiles, the administration “almost exhausted” its funds available to arm Ukraine and implored Congress to approve his request for more. silver.

Western artillery rolling into Ukraine will reshape war with Russia

Equipment purchased from US defense companies has a range of capabilities. The Advanced Precision Kill System, for example, works by converting low-cost munitions into guided weapons. US forces have used it to supplement the inherent firepower of a variety of aircraft, including helicopters and fighter jets.

Switchblades, also known as “kamikaze drones,” require little training to operate, defense officials say, and have already proven effective against the more advanced Russian military. Puma surveillance drones are expected to expand Ukraine’s intelligence gathering capabilities.

LaPlante said in an interview Friday that these commercial shipments supplement the weapons shipments the Pentagon has delivered from its existing stockpiles. Officials received more than 300 responses from defense contractors after launching a request last month for information on commercially available weapons that might prove useful to Ukraine, LaPlante said.

As administration officials consider which weapons to send, they are weighing not only what is available, but also how much can be provided without hampering U.S. national security, how easy it will be for Ukrainian soldiers to learn how to use such systems and whether there are any classified components that could make it difficult to export them, LaPlante said. Although many weapons have classified aspects, some are also available in easily exportable versions, he added.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers earlier this week that the Pentagon is “in pretty good shape” when it comes to supplying Ukraine with weapons to repel the Russian invasion while maintaining the minimum stocks required to protect the United States.

Some Republican senators have expressed doubts about this.

“Our missile inventories are depleted after years of production at a minimum sustaining rate and increased demand resulting from efforts to bolster Ukraine’s defenses,” Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) said in Austin, saying his contacts within the defense industry were concerned about the “difficulties they face trying to increase production rates while shortening turnaround times”.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) questioned whether Ukrainian troops were receiving sufficient guidance on how to use US-supplied weapons, citing letters from senior officials in Kyiv and noting that their troops ” don’t get proper training” to operate Javelin missiles, she said.

Javelins have been the foundation of deadly US aid to Ukraine since 2018. Austin said he was unaware of such complaints.

The Pentagon recently restarted its training program for Ukrainian forces, using sites outside the war zone to teach small numbers of personnel how to operate certain US-supplied systems. These troops then return to Ukraine and show their colleagues what they have learned.

Congress is weighing President Biden’s request for $33 billion in additional support for Ukraine, including $20 billion in security aid — a package that senior Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said would support probably American support for kyiv for the next five months. However, the speed at which the United States would be able to ship weapons to Ukraine will also depend in part on how quickly and competently US supplies can be replenished with new production.

“For Ukraine to succeed in this next phase of the war, its international partners, including the United States, must continue to demonstrate our unity and our determination to continue to bring arms and ammunition to Ukraine, without interruption,” Biden said in his statement. “Congress should quickly provide the requested funding to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”

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