WASHINGTON — The latest tranche of military equipment the United States is sending to Ukraine includes ammunition for air defenses and long-range artillery, underscoring Kyiv’s battlefield needs as it tries to push Russian forces back and stop aerial attacks from destroying its energy grid as winter arrives.
The Biden administration announced $400 million in additional military aid for Ukraine on Wednesday.
Among the arms being shipped are 150 heavy machine guns with special thermal-imagery sights to help shoot down self-destructing drones as well as ammunition for an air defense system known as the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, or NASAMS, Pentagon officials said.
Ukraine has increased its pleas for more Western air defenses as Moscow has aimed missile and drone strikes at Ukraine’s power plants, substations and waterworks, degrading the quality of life for millions of civilians in an effort to demoralize them.
“The United States continues to support Ukraine with additional military assistance to help defend itself, including from the Kremlin’s relentless attacks on Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in a statement.
The NASAMS, which are jointly produced by the United States and Norway, can shoot down drones, helicopters, jets and cruise missiles. Two of the systems, along with Norwegian-trained Ukrainian crews, were deployed in combat earlier this month.
The Russian missile and drone attacks have been a huge drain on Ukraine’s limited, patchwork air defense system. Ukraine shoots, on average, two missiles at each Russian rocket in hopes of increasing its chance of success, and now it needs more ammunition and air defense systems to keep up, Ukrainian officials say.
The Pentagon’s latest package, which brings the total value of arms and equipment sent to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February to more than $19 billion, also includes ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, which have proved effective in pushing back the Russians.
The HIMARS is an advanced rocket launcher that Ukrainian troops have used to devastating effect, hitting targets far behind the lines, like ammunition depots, command posts and bridges. Ukraine’s recent success in driving Russia out of the southern city of Kherson has put more Russian supply lines within range of Ukrainian guns and rockets, including the HIMARS.
In addition, the American arms 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 Pentagon said.
The package also includes HARM anti-radiation missiles. Over the summer, American and Ukrainian specialists figured out how to mount the missiles on Ukraine’s Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets — something that no air force had ever done.
The American HARM missile, designed to seek and destroy Russian air defense radar, is not usually compatible with the MiG-29 or the other fighter jets in Ukraine’s arsenal. Officials say the missiles can strike Russian air defense systems from up to 93 miles away.