WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States will send $1.8 billion in military aid to Ukraine in a massive package that for the first time will include a battery of Patriot missiles and precision-guided bombs for its fighter jets, U.S. officials said Tuesday, as the Biden administration prepares. to greet the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to Washington.
US officials described the details of the aid on condition of anonymity because it had not yet been announced. The aid signals a U.S. expansion of advanced weapons it will send to Ukraine to bolster the country’s air defenses against a growing barrage of Russian missile strikes.
The package, which was expected to be released Wednesday, would include about $1 billion in weapons from the Pentagon and another $800 million in funding through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which funds weapons, ammunition, training and other aid, officials said.
Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have pressed Western leaders to provide more advanced weapons, including Patriots, to help their country in its war with Russia. Patriot would be the most advanced The West has provided Ukraine with a surface-to-air missile system to help repel Russian airstrikes. The timing of the military aid announcement, as Zelensky makes his first trip to Ukraine since the war began, sends a strong message of continued US support for Ukraine as the war drags on.
The aid comes as Congress prepares to approve another $44.9 billion Aid to Ukraine as part of a massive spending bill. That would ensure US support continues next year and beyond as Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in January. Some GOP lawmakers have expressed caution about the bailout.
The decision to send the Patriot battery came despite threats from the Russian Foreign Ministry that the delivery of the advanced surface-to-air missile system would be seen as a provocative move and that the Patriot and its crew would be a legitimate target for Moscow’s military. .
It is not clear exactly when the Patriot will arrive on the front lines in Ukraine, as US troops must train Ukrainian forces on how to use the high-tech system. The course could take several weeks and is expected to take place at Germany’s Grafenwoehr stadium. Until now, all military exercises of the Ukrainian forces by the USA and the West have taken place in European countries.
The package will also include an undisclosed number of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, officials said. The kits will be used to modify the cluster bombs by adding tail fins and precision navigation systems so that they are not just dropped from a fighter but can be released and guided to a target.
American fighters and bombers use JDAMs, and the Pentagon is working to modify them for use by Ukraine.
The USA still does not want to provide Ukraine with American fighter jets. Russia has warned that the advanced jets would be seen as a provocation, and the US has so far said other weapons would be more appropriate, citing significant maintenance and training needs for those warplanes.
So instead of providing Ukraine with US aircraft, the Pentagon is helping Kiev find innovative ways to modernize its fleet with the same capabilities it would get with a US fighter jet.
The aid package will also include an undisclosed number of missiles for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, thousands of artillery and mortar shells, trucks and HARM air-to-surface anti-radiation missiles.
Urgent requests from Ukrainian leaders and the devastating destruction of the country’s civilian infrastructure, including the loss of electricity and heat during the winter, eventually overwhelmed U.S. reservations to supply the Patriots, officials said.
White House and Pentagon leaders have consistently said providing Ukraine with additional air defense is a priority, and Patriot missiles have been under consideration for some time. As winter closed in and Russian bombing of civilian infrastructure intensified, that discussion took on a higher priority, officials said.
US officials refused to provide the Patriots to Ukraine because they could be seen as an escalation that would prompt a response from Moscow. In addition, there were concerns about the significant training that would be required and questions about whether US troops would be required to operate it. President Joe Biden categorically refused to send American troops to Ukraine.
A single Patriot battery typically includes up to eight launchers, each capable of holding four missiles. It will be from Pentagon training stocks in the US.
The entire system, which includes a phased array radar, control station, computers and generators, typically requires about 90 soldiers to operate and maintain. However, according to the Army, it only takes three soldiers to actually fire it.