Ukraine Situation Report: Latest U.S. Aid Package Includes New Drone Defenses

The U.S. will provide Ukraine with new laser-guided anti-drone rocket systems and anti-drone 30mm gun trucks.

byHoward Altman|
Iranian Shahed-136 drone
Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images


On a day when Ukrainian officials say the Black Sea port city of Odesa was hit by a wave of Iranian-made Shahed drones, the Pentagon announced a $2.6 billion arms package that includes new drone defenses.

The latest package, which includes $500 million in Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) funding and $2.1 billion under DoD’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funding, "includes important capabilities for air defense and to counter Russian unmanned aerial systems," a senior U.S. defense official told reporters, including from The War Zone, Tuesday.

"This includes additional interceptors for both Patriots and [National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles Systems] NASAMS air defense systems. And it also includes new counter-UAS capabilities, like a 30mm gun track to detect and intercept drones, such as the Iranian-built Shaheds."

In addition, the package includes 10 mobile counter-UAS laser-guided rocket systems that "will enable Ukraine to fire precision rockets from mobile positions."

Those systems will be new to Ukraine, but "they will use the APKWS advanced precision kill weapon system, laser-guided munitions, to counter the drone threat" that the U.S. has previously provided, the official said.

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The official did not offer specifics about who makes those systems or specify which type of mobile counter-UAS systems will be provided. The U.S. has previously announced it would provide Ukraine with VAMPIRE Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems, a portable kit that fires the APKWS munitions, including in the air defense role. You can read more about that in our deep dive here as well as about the APKWS adaptation to the counter role here. We don't know if these are the same as the VAMPIRE system or not, but they sound at least similar.

The counter-UAS 30mm gun trucks "are literally what it sounds like - a 30mm gun mounted on a truck," the official told The War Zone. "Because that's a procurement, it's going to take several months to be able to actually provide that to Ukraine."

We asked the Pentagon for more details and will update this story with any information provided.

The latest aid package comes at a key point in the war, the official said.

Odesa on Tuesday became the latest city to be attacked by Iranian-made Shahed drones, Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for Odesa's regional administration, wrote on his Telegram channel.

"One of the drones that made it through air defenses hit a local business," Bratchuk said. It caused a fire, but no injuries.

The aid package also comes as both sides are locked in a bloody stalemate in the east ahead of a looming Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Ukrainian servicemen ride on a BMP infantry fighting vehicle on a road near Bakhmut on April 3, 2023. (Photo by Genya SAVILOV / AFP) (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)

"The war is at an important stage," the senior U.S. defense official said. "Fighting continuing in the east, but there have not been significant recent shifts in territorial control. The front lines are relatively static, with significant exchanges of artillery, but without significant maneuver gains by either side. As we have said previously, our focus is on supporting the Ukrainians to change the dynamics on the ground. We want to help Ukraine advance and hold this position in what we expect will be a Ukrainian counteroffensive."

Ukrainian servicemen fire an artillery shell near the frontline area amid the Russia-Ukraine war, in Bakhmut, Ukraine on April 2, 2023. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In addition to helping Ukraine bolster its drone defenses, the aid package was designed around two other lines of effort, the official said.

"In the category of fires, the package includes a range of items to help Ukraine sustain its fight. This includes additional Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems [munitions] or as we call them GMLRS as well as 155-millimeter artillery rounds, including Excalibur precision-guided rounds. It also includes additional mortar rounds, which continue to help ensure Ukraine has a layered indirect fire capability, including to support that close fight as its forces maneuver to push back the Russian line."

The package also "includes several capabilities to support U.S. provided armor," the official said. "That includes 120mm ammunition, which will support Ukraine's newly formed armored tank battalions as well as the Abrams tanks that the United States has committed; 25mm ammunition which can be used on the Bradley Fighting Vehicles that the United States previously committed, and also recovery vehicles and refuelers to keep the armor in the fight." 

The Pentagon is not concerned about whether Ukraine's use of the donated weapons in its seven-month defense of Bakhmut will affect the much-anticipated counteroffensive, the official told The War Zone.

"As you know, we are in very close communication with the Ukrainian leadership team, the Ukrainian Armed Forces and Ukrainian political leadership, and we understand the strategies that they have decided to pursue," the official said.

"We absolutely are seeing the devastating loss of life that Russia is experiencing, with Wagner forces essentially being thrown into a meat grinder and Russian forces being fixed into position because of the robust Ukrainian defenses. And so certainly, we understand Ukraine's strategy, and we are very confident that they do have the equipment that they need and that we are helping them to field these newly trained forces, so they do have the capabilities to be able to pursue whatever this next phase looks like on the battlefield."

The official also addressed concerns raised about the ability of the U.S. and allies to continue to provide Ukraine with ammunition for its artillery systems, both NATO standard 155mm howitzers and non-standard munitions like 152mm, 130mm and 122mm shells.

The U.S. has donated far more than one million artillery rounds alone. Ukraine is using on average about 110,000 155mm rounds per month, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has said.

A Ukrainian soldier holds artillery ammunition near the frontline area in Bakhmut on April 02, 2023. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“In terms of the challenge of maintaining a sufficient supply of ammunition of whatever caliber, I think we're at this really helpful inflection point right now,” the official said.

“Previously, the U.S. and most of the allies were just drawing down from their own stock when it came to Western calibers” like those used with the M777 howitzers the U.S. has provided Ukraine in the past, the official said. “Obviously, there's a finite supply in our own stock. But now we're at this point where we are also doing a healthy amount of procurement because of increased production of the ammunition. And the U.S was really at the front end of this wave, increasing production and procurement of 155mm ammunition.”

As a result, when Ukraine gets deliveries of 155mm ammunition from the U.S., “they're getting deliveries that include ammunition we procured from USAI many, many months ago. So that is starting to come online.”

Other allies are boosting production as well, the official noted, pointing to the recent decision by the European Union to provide Ukraine with one million rounds of 155mm ammunition.

“So all of this is coming online in the next several months to be able to enable this to be a sustainable support mechanism for Ukraine.”

As far as the so-called non-standard or Soviet-era ammunition, “we have found many sources of this around the world,” the official said. “We have a number of different calibers of non-standard ammunition, mortars, etc. And so we will continue to procure these capabilities for the Ukrainians, because we recognize that they still do have a lot of Soviet type equipment and if we can keep it in the fight, we can enable their effectiveness.”

The Ukrainian 122mm howitzer D-30 is fired in the Donetsk region. (Photo by Mykhaylo Palinchak/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In addition to including an unspecified amount of artillery ammunition, the package also includes equipment to keep Ukraine’s donated howitzers - which have been under extremely heavy use - operational.

“We want to make sure that those howitzers can be kept in the fight and so that's why you see us focusing also on things like barrel replacement,” said the official. “These howitzers are getting a lot of use. So we have redoubled our efforts on making sure that they are capable and then on maintenance.”

The U.S. has instituted a tele-maintenance program that will allow Ukrainian troops in the field to repair their equipment “and not necessarily have to actually take that capability offline,” the official said.

Capabilities in the $500 million PDA package, the 35th such drawdown, include:

  • Additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems;
  • Additional ammunition for M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;
  • 120mm mortar rounds;
  • 120mm and 105mm tank ammunition; 
  • 25mm ammunition;
  • Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;
  • Approximately 400 grenade launchers and 200,000 rounds of ammunition;
  • 11 tactical vehicles to recover equipment;
  • 61 heavy fuel tankers;
  • 10 trucks and 10 trailers to transport heavy equipment;
  • Testing and diagnostic equipment to support vehicle maintenance and repair;
  • Spare parts and other field equipment.
The new aid package includes an undisclosed number of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS) munitions for use with the U.S.-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). (U.S. Army photo) U.S. Army photo

Under USAI, the DoD will provide Ukraine with:

  • Additional munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS);
  • Nine counter-Unmanned Aerial System 30mm gun trucks;
  • 10 mobile c-UAS laser-guided rocket systems;
  • Three air surveillance radars;
  • 30mm and 23mm anti-aircraft ammunition;
  • 130mm and 122mm artillery rounds;
  • 122mm GRAD rockets;
  • Rocket launchers and ammunition;
  • 120mm and 81mm mortar systems;
  • 120mm, 81mm, and 60mm mortar rounds;
  • 120mm tank ammunition;
  • Javelin anti-armor systems;
  • Anti-armor rockets;
  • Precision aerial munitions;
  • Approximately 3,600 small arms and more than 23,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition;
  • Seven tactical vehicles to recover equipment;
  • Eight heavy fuel tankers and 105 fuel trailers;
  • Armored bridging systems;
  • Four logistics support vehicles;
  • Trucks and ten trailers to transport heavy equipment;
  • Secure communications equipment;
  • SATCOM terminals and services;
  • Funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment.

In addition to military aid, the U.S. has also committed more than $91 million to help Ukraine cope with the vast amounts of mines that have been laid all over the nation.

Before we dive into the latest updates from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here

The Latest

During his opening address at the special teleconference with the leadership of the Russian Armed Forces, Russian Defense Minister and General of the Army Sergei Shoigu made some more wild claims about the destruction of donated arms to Ukraine.

Russia "is purposefully destroying weapons and military equipment sent by the West, both in combat positions and during transportation," he claimed.

"Since the beginning of this year alone, 59 M-777 artillery systems, 13 Paladin self-propelled artillery systems, 14 American-made HIMARS launchers, as well as 30 self-propelled artillery systems from Poland, Germany, France, and the Czech Republic have been hit," Shoigu claimed without offering proof.

If you add up previous Russian claims about HIMARS, they have now taken out about 40, which is at least two more than the 38 the U.S. has promised Ukraine.

The Pentagon declined to confirm or deny Shoigu's claims while a Ukrainian defense source called them "fake."

“The Russian government is heavily invested in spreading disinformation to justify and distract the international community from its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine," Marine Lt. Col. Garron Garn, a Pentagon spokesman, told The War Zone Tuesday. "We have seen Ukraine's frontline units effectively employing security assistance at a large scale every day on the battlefield as they defend their country against Russian aggression. We are not going to provide intelligence assessments of battle damage, so we cannot confirm or deny those reports at this time.”

A source in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry (MoD) told The War Zone that Shoigu's statements "are not true. All of Shoigu's statements are fake."

Asked if any of the items Shoigu mentioned had been destroyed, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, said the information was "confidential," adding "but I can definitely note that his data are 10 times higher than the real ones."

There was another Ukrainian drone attack in the Russian Oblast of Bryansk, its governor reported on his Telegram channel Tuesday.

“Another attack by Ukrainian nationalists was made on the Sevsky district,” Oleksandr Bogomaz wrote. “With the help of a UAV, an explosive device was dropped near the building of the Ministry of Defense of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. There were no casualties. Operational services are on site.”

Bryansk has been a frequent target of Ukrainian attacks, as we have written about before.

Though Russian President Vladimir Putin complained about the encroachment of NATO as one of his justifications for launching his all-out war on Ukraine, that move appears to have backfired as he now has an additional 750 miles (1,200 km) of border with the alliance to contend with now that Finland has become its 31st member.

Today also marks the 74th anniversary of NATO. Justin Bronk, senior research fellow for Airpower and Technology in the Military Sciences team at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), and the editor of the RUSI Defence Systems online journal, offered some thoughts on lessons learned from the all-out war in Ukraine.

Air superiority, said Bronk, is the key.

"We need air superiority," said Bronk. "We are not equipped to and - apart from our Finnish friends - we are not set up to fight the sorts of large-scale ground war against the peer adversary that we see in Ukraine."

"For those that say air superiority is too expensive, too difficult, we need to go to neutral air denial or anything like that, I would simply say, 'what is the cost of fielding land armies and indeed navies that are capable of fighting without superiority?' Because I don't think we have the demographics to recruit for them. We certainly don't have the money. We don't have the training establishments. And if you start working out the amounts of ammunition and barrels and tanks and everything else required...and the logistics and everything else to make that work, It's far, far more expensive than just fixing air superiority. So we need air superiority as a joint force. Because that's the way we've designed it. It's a fantastically efficient model when it works."

On a day that marked the 74th anniversary of the founding of the NATO alliance as well as Finland's accession as the 31st member, the U.K. Defense Ministry posted a reminder of how many NATO members have been helping to train Ukrainian troops.

The combination of donations to Ukraine and Finland joining NATO is not sitting well with the Russians.

“NATO is intensifying its anti-Russian course, which is leading to an escalation of the conflict,” Shoigu said during his Tuesday teleconference. “The US and its allies have increased their military support for Ukraine. It is stated that this year alone they are ready to supply more than 200 Western-made tanks, more than 400 modern armored fighting vehicles. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are being supplied with long-range weapons, including rockets with an extended range of up to 150 km (93 miles).”

That was an apparent reference to the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs the U.S. announced it will provide to Ukraine in February.

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Finland, he added, before the accession became official, “will soon become a member of NATO. Obviously, all of this raises the possibility of a significant expansion of the conflict, but it will have no impact on how the special operation turns out.”

In light of the situation, “Russia is reacting by defending the Union State's security,” he said of the joint Russian-Belarusian defense agreement.

Last month, Putin announced he was going to deploy nuclear weapons to Belarus.

Shogui on Tuesday noted that Russia already has nuclear-capable weapons on the soil of its client state.

“Some Belarusian attack aircraft have gained the ability to strike enemy targets with nuclear-equipped weapons,” he said, something we have reported on previously.

In June, Putin announced the transfer of nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles to Belarus. In that announcement, Putin quipped that Belarus’ fleet of Su-25 Frogfoot attack aircraft could be upgraded to carry tactical nuclear weapons. In addition, Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko said in August his country had acquired nuclear strike aircraft in a claim that provoked more questions than answers. And his visit to Belarus in December, Putin announced that Russian pilots were training their Belarusian counterparts to fly missions with “special warheads,” an apparent reference to nuclear weapons.

“The Iskander-M missile system was also delivered to the Belarusian Armed Forces,” Shoigu said Tuesday. “It can use both conventional and nuclear-powered missiles.”

As of Monday, “one of the Russian ranges started training the Belarusian troops on how to use it for the defense of the Union State,” he said. “The Russian Armed Forces will continue to carry out the missions within the special military operation.”

Add convincing Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons to the list of things former U.S. President Bill Clinton regrets.

"I feel a personal stake because I got them [Ukraine] to agree to give up their nuclear weapons. And none of them believe that Russia would have pulled this stunt if Ukraine still had their weapons," Clinton told Ireland’s RTE news outlet.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had been left with around a third of the Soviet nuclear arsenal, which, as well as bombers and their munitions, included silo-based SS-19 and SS-24 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), for a total of around 1,700 warheads. In 1994 Ukraine agreed to destroy the weapons and join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). That deal was predicated on a guarantee of Ukrainian independence.

These commitments were broken in 2014, when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, and further shattered when it began a wider war against Ukraine last year.

"I knew that President Putin did not support the agreement President Yeltsin made never to interfere with Ukraine's territorial boundaries - an agreement he made because he wanted Ukraine to give up their nuclear weapons,” Clinton said.

"They were afraid to give them up because they thought that's the only thing that protected them from an expansionist Russia," Clinton said. "When it became convenient to him, President Putin broke it and first took Crimea. And I feel terrible about it because Ukraine is a very important country."

More Russian armor was attacked by Ukrainian First Person Video (FPV) drones, though in this video below, the extent of the damage is not exactly clear.

The Russians, meanwhile, took out a Ukrainian YPR-765 armored personnel carrier somewhere in the Donetsk Oblast. The Ukraine Weapons Tracker OSINT group said that reportedly, the crew survived.

Ukraine's security services (SBU) say they detained a man who was helping the Russians call in strikes on airfields in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

And finally, at least one Ukrainian soldier appears to be dancing for joy in anticipation of the end of mud season and the eventual start of the looming counteroffensive.

That's it for now. We'll update this story when there is more news to report about Ukraine.

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