WASHINGTON — The U.S. announced its largest Ukraine aid package yet, worth $3.75 billion, which includes Bradleys and other armored vehicles as well as $907 million in more financing for Ukraine and its neighbors to buy American-made weapons and equipment.
The new U.S. military drawdown — worth about $2.85 billion and featuring 50 M2A2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles armed with anti-tank missiles — is aimed at getting as much to Ukrainian forces as possible during the winter months, before spring sets in and an expected increase in fighting begins.
Pentagon officials say the provision of several hundred armored vehicles, along with plans for U.S. training of Ukrainian troops on combined arms as well as operations and maintenance of the Bradleys, offer Ukraine a chance to retake territory from Russia’s invasion force. The vehicles are expected to help Ukraine’s infantry accompany its fast-moving armored forces.
“These capabilities will complement and work with the expanded U.S.-led training beginning this month that will build Ukraine’s capacity to conduct joint maneuver and combined operations,” Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We will ensure Ukraine has both the equipment and the skilled force necessary to sustain its efforts to push back on Russian aggression.”
The new aid, which draws from the Ukraine spending package Congress approved last month, includes $225 million for Ukraine and $682 million for European allies, under the U.S. Foreign Military Financing program, to buy American-made military gear over the long term. Cooper said Ukraine would likely buy air defense weapons, artillery and armored vehicles — its top priorities.
The latest military equipment drawn down from U.S. military stockpiles includes new types of projectiles, such as an undisclosed number of RIM-7 Seasparrow missiles, which Ukraine can integrate into its Soviet-era Buk air defenses, and 4,000 127mm Zuni rockets, which can be mounted on Ukraine’s fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft.
With the Bradleys come more M113 armored personnel carriers; mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles; and Humvees. The U.S. is sending 155mm Paladin self-propelled howitzers for the first time, with more 105mm towed howitzers and related ammunition.
The Bradley, a tracked vehicle made by BAE Systems, carries up to 10 troops and is usually armed with two TOW anti-tank missiles, a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun. With it the U.S. is sending 500 TOW missiles and 250,000 rounds of 25mm ammunition.
Germany and France also pledged to send infantry fighting vehicles from their arsenals, but the allies stopped short of sending Western tanks, which are more complex for Ukraine’s needs and have longer-range guns. The Bradley, used to transport troops to combat, is not a tank but is known as a “tank-killer” because of the anti-tank missile it can fire.
Cooper defended the pace in sending the armored vehicles and the United States’ reluctance to send Abrams tanks. The new package, she said, became appropriate as Ukrainian forces have “demonstrated a lot of growing proficiency in maintenance and sustainment” on American and other systems, partially through using remote “tele-maintenance.”
While the U.S. and the Netherlands are due to jointly send refurbished Czech T-72 tanks, “the Abrams tank in addition to being a gas guzzler is quite challenging to maintain,” she said. “What we are looking at in the Bradley is a capability that we could envision them really using to great effect, along with the training.”
Still, Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Thursday that this year his country will receive weapons from Western allies that it did not in 2022, and that “the time of the weapons taboo has passed,” thanks to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy’s “marathon” talks with foreign leaders this week.
U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed in a joint statement Thursday that the U.S. would provide Bradleys to Ukraine while Germany would provide Marder infantry fighting vehicles. France earlier this week pledged to send AMX-10 RC vehicles, billed as “light tanks” on wheels boasting armor-breaking 105mm guns.
The Marder contingent entails “up to 40 vehicles,” or a battalion’s worth, according to officials in Berlin. Deliveries of the vehicles to Ukraine, plus an eight-week training for Ukrainian troops in Germany, are to conclude by the end of March.
German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht and her U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, spoke by phone Friday about details of their new contributions and to prepare the Jan. 20 meeting of international donor countries known as the Ramstein format.
Lambrecht described the Marder and Bradley pledges as a “joint German-American initiative” to ship Western-made combat vehicles to war-torn Ukraine, supporting France’s contribution of what she described as wheeled reconnaissance tanks.
The Marders could be sourced both from the armed forces’ inventory and a pool of vehicles held in storage by manufacturer Rheinmetall, according to a statement by the German Defence Ministry.
The latest German military contribution also includes a Patriot air defense system, following the Americans’ lead from December. Previous notable military contributions by Berlin include rocket launchers, howitzers, the IRIS-T anti-missile weapon and the Gepard air defense tank, which is credited with shooting down Russian drones and missiles despite being deemed too old for service in the Bundeswehr.
Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said the planned combat vehicle deliveries had been closely coordinated ahead of the announcement this week, suggesting other international partners could follow suit in the coming weeks.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.