WASHINGTON ― The Pentagon announced Wednesday it will contract with industry for $1.1 billion in military aid to Ukraine, including 18 High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and other arms to counter drones Russia has been using against Ukrainian troops.
The new weapons and equipment, being provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, are aimed at meeting Kyiv’s mid- and long-term needs and could take six to 24 months to arrive. The Biden administration, which has committed aid worth $17 billion to Ukraine, has been using presidential drawdown authority to send arms more quickly.
The latest package includes 18 of the Lockheed Martin-made HIMARS and associated ammunition, which Ukraine has used to target Russian supplies. It also incudes 12 Titan systems, which detect, track and disrupt drones, as Russia has employed Iranian-made drones in the conflict.
A senior Pentagon official told reporters that the newly committed HIMARS systems are intended to be a “core component of Ukraine’s fighting force in the future.” Earlier this year, Ukraine received 16 HIMARS from U.S. military stockpiles and 10 equivalent systems from western allies, but the new HIMARS will take “a few years“ to deliver, the official said.
“This is a really sizable investment, and it’s intended so that down the road, Ukraine will have what it needs for the long haul, to deter future threats,” the official said. “But it in no way rules out us continuing to invest in their current force with capabilities that are available today and that we can draw down today from U.S. stocks.”
The new aid includes 20 multi-mission radars that can track artillery and mortar fire, among other airborne objects; two radars for use with drones; and unspecified tactical communications systems, surveillance systems, optics and explosive ordnance disposal equipment.
Also included are more than 300 vehicles, including Humvees, trucks and other vehicles to tow and carry arms and equipment.
With long-term security challenges in mind, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, Bill LaPlante, hosted a meeting of 45 national armaments directors in Brussels on Wednesday. The directors are expected to launch working groups aimed at defining multinational strategies to resolve supply chain kinks and boost production for weapons that could be sent to Ukraine, according to a Pentagon readout.
The U.S. delegation briefed on its own plans to increase production of ground-based long-range fires, air defense systems, air-to-ground munitions and other capabilities. Nearly 20 countries presented on similar efforts to strengthen and expand their nations’ industrial bases in order to accelerate production.
“With the aim of providing long-term support to Ukraine, participants recognized the importance of standardizing requirements, thereby creating more interchangeable and interoperable systems. In addition, they discussed building sustainment capacity in Ukraine, including forward repair activity, access to spares, and other sustainment enablers,” the readout said.
Congress on Tuesday unveiled its third Ukraine supplemental aid package this year, consisting of $12.3 billion in military and economic support for Kyiv as part of the stopgap government funding bill lawmakers need to pass this week to avoid a shutdown. That includes $7.5 billion to contract with industry under USAI, $1.5 billion to backfill U.S. weapons already sent and $3.7 billion in presidential drawdown authority.
Washington’s latest moves come days after Russian President Vladimir Putin called up 300,000 reservists to fight in the war and as Russia moves to annex parts of Russian-occupied Ukraine. Speaking with reporters, Pentagon officials cast doubt on Russia’s ability to muster, train and equip a force of 300,000.
“The mobilization indicates that Russia continues to believe that it can win the long game by outlasting the Ukrainians and international support. This is is yet another Russian miscalculation,” the Pentagon official said.
With reporting by The Associated Press.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.