WASHINGTON — The latest tranche of military hardware the United States is sending to Ukraine includes air defense systems and ammunition for long-range artillery, underscoring the battlefield needs of Kiev as it tries to push back Russian forces and stop airstrikes from destroying its energy grid come winter. .
The Biden administration announced an additional $400 million in military aid to Ukraine on Wednesday.
Among the weapons sent are 150 heavy machine guns with special thermal-imaging targets to help shoot down self-destructing drones, as well as munitions for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, or NASAMS, an air defense system known to the Pentagon. officials said.
Moscow has launched missile and drone strikes against Ukraine’s power plants, substations and water facilities, reducing the quality of life for millions of civilians and increasing Ukraine’s demands for more Western air defenses to demoralize them.
“The United States continues to provide Ukraine with additional military assistance to defend itself, including against the Kremlin’s relentless attacks on Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure,” said Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.
NASAMS, jointly developed by the United States and Norway, can shoot down drones, helicopters, jets and cruise missiles. Two of the systems were deployed in combat earlier this month with Ukrainian crews trained in Norway.
Russian missile and drone attacks have severely damaged Ukraine’s limited, patchy air defense system. Ukrainian officials say Ukraine fires an average of two missiles for every Russian missile in hopes of increasing its chances of success, and now needs more munitions and air defense systems to keep up.
The Pentagon’s latest package, which brings the total value of weapons and equipment sent to Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February to $19 billion, includes ammunition for the Highly Mobile Artillery Missile Systems, or HIMARS, which have proven effective in pushing back the Russians. .
HIMARS is an advanced missile launcher used by Ukrainian troops to strike targets far behind the lines, such as ammunition depots, command posts and bridges, to devastating effect. Ukraine’s recent success in driving Russia out of the southern city of Kherson has put more Russian supply lines within range of Ukrainian weapons and missiles, including HIMARS weapons.
In addition, the American weapons package includes 200 precision-guided 155-millimeter artillery rounds, more than 200 generators, more than 250 vehicles, 10,000 120-millimeter mortar rounds, and 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition.
The package also includes HARM anti-radiation missiles. Over the summer, American and Ukrainian experts figured out how to fit the missiles into Ukraine’s Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets — something no air force had ever done.
America’s HARM missile, designed to seek out and destroy Russian air defense radar, is no match for the MiG-29 or other fighter jets typically in Ukraine’s arsenal. Officials say the missiles can hit Russian air defense systems from a distance of 93 miles.