US to send $1.8 billion in aid and Patriot battery to Ukraine
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is sending $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 warplanes, U.S. officials said Tuesday, as the Biden government is preparing. to welcome Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to washington
US officials described details of the aid on condition of anonymity because it has not yet been announced. The aid signals an expansion by the United States in the types of advanced weaponry it will send to Ukraine to bolster the country’s air defenses against what has been an escalating barrage of Russian missile attacks.
The package, expected to be announced on Wednesday, will include about $1 billion worth of weapons from Pentagon stocks and another $800 million in funding through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which finances weapons, ammunition , training and other assistance, officials said.
Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials have pressed Western leaders to provide more advanced weapons, including patriotic ones, to help their country in its war with Russia. The Patriot would be the most advanced surface-to-air missile system that the West has provided to Ukraine to help repel Russian airstrikes. The timing of the military aid announcement, as Zelenskyy makes his first trip out of 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 is about to approve another $44.9 billion. in assistance to Ukraine as part of a massive spending bill. That would ensure that US support continues next year and beyond when Republicans take control of the House in January. Some Republican lawmakers have expressed caution about the attendance.
The decision to send the Patriot battery comes despite threats from the Russian Foreign Ministry that handing over the advanced surface-to-air missile system would be considered a provocative step and that the Patriot and any accompanying crew would be a legitimate target for the Moscow army. .
It is unclear exactly when the Patriot will arrive on the front lines in Ukraine, as US troops will have to train Ukrainian forces on how to use the high-tech system. The training could last several weeks and is expected to take place at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany. To date, all US and Western training of Ukrainian forces has taken place in European countries.
An undisclosed number of joint direct attack munitions, or JDAM, kits will also be included in the package, authorities said. The kits will be used to modify massive bombs by adding tail fins and precision navigation systems so that instead of simply being dropped from a fighter jet on a target, they can be released and guided to a target.
American fighter planes and bombers use JDAMs, and the Pentagon has been working to modify them so that Ukraine can use them.
Until now, the United States has been reluctant to provide Ukraine with US fighter jets. Russia has warned that advanced aircraft would be seen as provocative, and the US has to date said that other weapons would be a better fit, citing the significant maintenance and training needs for such fighter jets.
So instead of providing Ukraine with those American planes, the Pentagon is helping Kyiv find innovative ways to upgrade its fleet with the same capabilities you would get from an American fighter jet.
The aid package will also include an undisclosed number of rockets for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, thousands of artillery and mortar shells, trucks and HARM anti-radiation air-to-surface missiles.
According to the officials, urgent pleas from Ukrainian leaders and the devastating destruction of the country’s civilian infrastructure, including the loss of electricity and heating during the winter, ultimately overwhelmed US reservations about supplying the Patriots.
White House and Pentagon leaders have consistently said that providing Ukraine with additional air defenses is a priority, and Patriot missiles have been under consideration for some time. The officials said that as winter approached and Russian bombardment of civilian infrastructure increased, that consideration took on a higher priority.
US officials refused to provide the Patriots to Ukraine because it could be considered an escalation that would trigger a response from Moscow. In addition, there were concerns about the significant training that would be required and questions about whether US troops would have been required to operate it. President Joe Biden has flatly refused to send US combat troops to Ukraine.
A Patriot battery routinely includes up to eight launchers, each of which can hold four missiles. It would come from the Pentagon training actions in the US.
The entire system, which includes phased array radar, control station, computers and generators, typically requires around 90 soldiers to operate and maintain. However, it only takes three soldiers to fire it, according to the Army.