WASHINGTON ― The Pentagon announced Friday morning it would send more drones to Ukraine as part of a new $2 billion package to help in the country’s fight against Russia on the first anniversary of the invasion.
The new $2 billion in aid includes more ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, more ammunition for 155mm artillery and more munitions for unspecified laser-guided rocket systems. It also includes unspecified counter-drone and electronic warfare detection equipment.
The Pentagon plans to contract for the gear under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which allows the Biden administration to buy weapons from industry rather than draw from U.S. weapon supplies.
The funds would go toward the purchase of a new weapon for Ukraine: the Altius 600, a small drone with a range of 276 miles and endurance of more than 4 hours. The manufacturer, Anduril subsidiary Area-I, has said the system can operate as a loitering munition.
The other drones included are the fixed-wing, vertical takeoff and landing AeroVironment Jump 20 ― a surveillance drone that can fly for 14 hours and has a range of 185 kilometers ― and a system called K8, from CyberLux, a company that makes quadcopters.
The U.S. Army last year selected the Jump 20 unmanned aircraft system to be the first future tactical UAS as part of an effort to replace the runway-dependent Shadow drone.
The U.S. has declined to send Ukraine more sophisticated longer-range drones, such as the Grey Eagle and Reaper, which would give Ukraine a longer-distance strike capability. Some officials are concerned about Russia gaining access to such advanced technology if one were shot down.
Both Russia and Ukraine are reportedly using small, commercially available drones for surveillance and in some cases, to attack military targets.
In a statement to mark the one-year anniversary of the war, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that under the Biden administration, the U.S. has committed more than $32 billion in ”game-changing” security assistance to Ukraine. America’s allies, he said, have committed $20 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.
“Difficult times may lie ahead, but let us remain clear-eyed about what is at stake in Ukraine,” Austin said. “And let us remain united in purpose and in action—and steadfast in our commitment to ensure that a world of rules and rights is not replaced by one of tyranny and turmoil.”
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.