The agreement is part of a $400 million U.S. aid package to Ukraine that includes funding to refurbish and donate an undisclosed number of the U.S. military’s outdated Hawk air defense systems. It includes a mix of U.S. stockpiled equipment and new contracting under Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
The package includes more than 1,100 more Aevex Aerospace-made Phoenix Ghost kamikaze drones, almost twice the 580 pledged earlier this year. Also included is funding to refurbish 250 M1117 armored vehicles, which the U.S. would provide Ukraine for the first time, 40 riverine boats and unnamed tactical secure communications and surveillance systems, as well as unspecified training, maintenance and sustainment funding.
The U.S. is sending the Hawk mid-range surface-to-air guided missiles after Ukraine pleaded for air defenses. Russia has for weeks been bombarding the country’s infrastructure, including power stations, with missiles and Iranian drones as Ukraine pressed a counteroffensive.
The three-way deal for the Soviet-era T-72 tanks would upgrade their optics and armor. Some of Ukraine’s neighbors, including the Czech Republic and Poland, have previously sent aged Russian-made tanks.
Deputy Defense Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters the U.S. purposely opted against sending U.S. tanks.
“Introducing a new main battle tank is extremely costly, it’s time sensitive and it would be a huge undertaking for Ukrainian forces,” Singh said. “We do continue to consult with our allies and partners to assess ... what we can provide in terms of Western platforms, but these tanks, we believe, will make a difference on the battlefield.”
The first batch of tanks is expected to be delivered to Ukraine as early as next month, according to the Dutch Defense Ministry.
Kyiv has reportedly been seeking main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers, which would provide its forces ground maneuver and mobile protected firepower capabilities necessary to exploit opportunities created by artillery fire, according to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
“These transfers would allow the Ukrainian military to use the systems in battle immediately and could even provide additional benefits to U.S. national security objectives by weaning other countries off Russian weaponry,” FDD’s Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst wrote in a report.
The Pentagon also announced the creation of a Security Assistance Group - Ukraine, headquartered in Wiesbaden, Germany under U.S. European Command. The SAG-U will be responsible for managing short- and long-term support for Ukraine. Singh said the arrangement would streamline an existing mission.
The U.S. has pledged more than $18.9 billion in security aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration.
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.