Ukraine Situation Report: U.S. Announces Biggest Military Aid Package Yet

The Pentagon has announced the authorization of another security assistance drawdown full of more ammunition and supplies to be delivered to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Valued at approximately $1 billion, the Department of Defense (DoD) explained that the newest aid package will serve as the 18th and largest drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021. 

A significant amount of weapons, ammo, and supplies make up the assistance package, much of which includes capabilities that Ukrainians have already been employing. To name a few of the most notable items on the list, additional ammunition for the famed High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), missiles for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), tens of thousands of 155mm artillery shells, and claymore anti-personnel munitions are among the types of equipment that will be sent to Ukraine in the coming weeks. 

“In total, the United States has now committed approximately $9.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration,” read the DoD press release. “Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $11.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.”

Shortly after it was announced, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Colin H. Kahl held a press briefing to discuss the latest security assistance package in support of Ukraine. Kahl noted that the United States is one of more than 50 countries that have now provided security assistance to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion and explained that the United States will continue to closely consult with Ukraine and research any potentially available systems and capabilities for future drawdowns. 

When asked about the specific number of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS)  to be fired from HIMARS included in the package, Kahl added that the DoD will not be providing a specific number at this time but that the United States has supplied Ukraine with several hundred GMLRS over the past few weeks. Considering the effectiveness of the HIMARS and GMLRS pairing that has been achieved since early deliveries began arriving in the country, Kahl also provided insight into how the United States plans to ensure Ukraine maintains its steady supply. 

U.S. military personnel stand by an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during Saudi Arabia’s first World Defense Show. Credit: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images

“We provided a tremendous number of GMLRS in the last [security assistance] package, and we’re now in a rhythm of shipping it so that things are arriving on a steady cadence,” said Kahl. “So I think you can expect in the next [security assistance] package that there will be the next increment of GMLRS. You haven’t seen the last of the GMLRS.”

As for the HIMARS systems themselves, Kahl was also asked why the DoD plans to continuously supply the GMLRS rockets to Ukraine but has yet to deliver or disclose any plans to deliver additional vehicle launchers. As of right now, 16 HIMARS have been sent to Ukraine, and a cult following that has begun to grow since the system was first introduced in the conflict has prompted some to ask why the United States hasn’t sent more.

Senior Airman Nicholas Surdukowski, 436th Aerial Port Squadron ramp services specialist, assists in loading ammunition onto a commercial plane bound for Ukraine. Credit: Senior Airman Faith Schaefer/U.S. Air Force

“These are not the types of systems that we assess you need hundreds of in order to have the type of effects that they are having,” Kahl said. “These are precision-guided systems for very particular types of targets and Ukrainians are using them as such. The Brits have also provided three M270 [Multiple Launch Rocket Systems]. If HIMARS is a truck, the M270 is the exact same system but it’s on the chassis of an armored vehicle…we’ve provided a very large number of systems, so have allies and partners, and right now the priority is to make sure that Ukrainians have the ammunition to keep them in the fight.”

As for NASAMS, the first western surface-to-air missile system for Ukraine that is capable of shooting down targets dozens of miles away, we still don’t know when it will arrive or exactly what ammunition this aid package includes for it. The AIM-120 AMRAAM is the type’s primary weapon, but it can fire other missiles, too, such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder and IRIS-T SLS.

Before we get into more details about the past few days of fighting in Ukraine, you can catch up on our previous rolling coverage of the war here.

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Also during Kahl’s press briefing on the newest security assistance drawdown, he noted that delivering F-16 fighter jets and training Ukrainian pilots to fly them is still on the table. This development underscores the Ukrainian forces’ need for more air combat capabilities which has been a constant point of discussion. Regardless, the DoD may be forced to train Ukrainian fighter pilots if particular legislation becomes law that mandates the training begin.

“So right now the fight is in the east and increasingly in the south,” Kahl said. “We need to get the capabilities that deliver on a timeframe that’s relevant to that. So we’re focused on these types of capabilities, not something that might deliver in a year to three years. That said, there is work being done here at the Pentagon and elsewhere out in Europe to help work with Ukrainians to identify their kind of medium- to long-term requirements…it’s not inconceivable that, down the road, Western aircraft could be part of the mix on that, but the final analysis has not been done.”

Photos of the remains of what appears to be an AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile also began circulating over the weekend, sparking speculation about the source of the weapon as no official information citing that the AGM-88 had been supplied to Ukraine exists at present. But in today’s address, Kahl noted that in a recent security assistance package the DoD had “included a number of anti-radiation missiles that can be fired off of Ukrainian aircraft,” but did not specify which ones. 

The War Zone broke down the implications of that statement in this recent piece, and you can read more about how the AGM-88 may have ended up in Ukraine in this recent piece, here.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has released a statement claiming that the country will be suspending on-site nuclear arsenal inspections under the New START Treaty with the United States. First introduced in February 2011, the New START Treaty was intended to enhance U.S. national security by placing verifiable limits on all Russian-deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons. Identical checks and balances were to be imposed by Russia upon the United States, and both countries had seven years to meet the treaty’s central limits on strategic offensive arms.

Until now, both Russia and the United States had met and maintained the treaty’s limits. Now, however, the Russian Ministry of Defense is claiming that restrictive travel bans put in place by Washington against those traveling from Russia have interrupted the normal air traffic between the two countries thus preventing Russian inspectors from upholding their end of the agreement.

“At the same time, there are no similar obstacles to the arrival of American inspectors in Russia,” read the Russian Ministry of Defense statement. “The Russian Foreign Ministry raised this issue with the relevant countries but did not receive an answer.”

Tensions around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant near the Dnieper River city of Enerhodar continue to mount, with the threat of nuclear catastrophe only growing as the situation there degrades. According to Stratcom Centre Ukraine (The Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security of Ukraine), Russian forces have wired the energy units of the plant with a number of explosives. Stratcom Centre’s report also added that Major General Vasilyev, commander of the Russian garrison stationed at the plant, announced readiness to destroy the structure if Moscow’s occupation proves unsuccessful, which could lead to a global nuclear disaster.

Stratcom Centre went on to tweet that Vasilyev was quoted as saying that “this will either be Russian land, or scorched earth,” in regards to the power plant. This would line up with reports that Russian forces have occupied the plant and taken control of the territory, making it impossible for International Atomic Energy Agency officials to visit and carry out routine inspections. Disturbingly, Stratcom Centre added that Vasilyev told his soldiers no matter how difficult their orders may be, the “liberators” are required to execute them “with honor.”

While these statements are not confirmed, they are not that hard to believe considering what seems to be an astonishing disregard for the safety of Europe’s largest nuclear plant by occupying Russian forces.  

Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have blamed the opposing side for the shelling that has reportedly taken place at or near the plant. Recently obtained Planet Labs imagery, though, shows that Russian military equipment continues to be set up around the plant. At the same time, some unverified claims are insisting any strike impacts that can be seen from above are likely from precise Ukrainian loitering drones with small warheads intended for use against soft Russian targets.

According to the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s latest update on the conflict in Ukraine, Russian forces are likely “deploying anti-personnel mines to protect and deter freedom of movement along its defensive lines in the Donbas.” The mines are believed to be PFM-1 and PFM-1S scatterable anti-personnel mines, also known as butterfly mines, which are highly controversial and indiscriminate weapons that are extremely dangerous to deploy in civilian areas as they can be easily detonated by stepping on them.

The Ministry also noted that this type of mine was often used during the Soviet-Afghan war between the years 1979 and 1989 when numerous children mistook them for toys because of their butterfly-like shape and were then injured or killed in the process. If Russian forces are pulling these mines from Soviet-era stockpiles, the Ministry made it a point to assert that they may be even more unreliable and unpredictable than before. Certain Russian-sponsored media outlets, though, are claiming that Ukrainian forces are the ones deploying the butterfly mines. 

Ukrainian forces continue to use HIMARS to shell strategic Russian logistics nodes, like bridges and ammunition depots. One of the more notable recent strikes was yet another attack launched against the vital Antonovskiy highway bridge, which carries the E97 Highway over the river just a few miles downstream of its railway crossing counterpart above the Dnipro River. 

The Kakhovsky bridge was also reportedly struck by Ukrainian firepower, according to the Kyiv Independent. Both bridges are located in the Kherson region and serve as key supply routes for Russian equipment and personnel.

Ukraine has even begun crowdfunding money for the country’s armed forces by selling personalized messages on artillery shells that are to be fired at Russian targets like bridges and ammo dumps. Those who purchase a message will have a munition adorned with their desired expletives like “F*** Russia” or “Revenge for Mariupol”. 

According to the Kyiv Independent article, “three different Ukrainian organizations have already raised over $113,000 for the country’s armed forces” through the sale of artillery shell messages. Prices apparently range from $10 to $500 depending on the design, and the article goes on to add that some messages are scrawled on with a Sharpie marker while others are sometimes painted with a little more attention to detail.

Photos have also emerged on social media that show a Ukrainian-made MLRS allegedly in use with the Pravy Sektor, which translates to ‘Right Sector’ and serves as a right-wing Ukrainian nationalist organization. These pictures have surfaced along with other media that further exemplifies the resourcefulness they have displayed throughout the conflict. 

One of these videos was shared by Ukraine Weapons Tracker on Twitter and shows a light multiple rocket launcher in use with Ukrainian mobile units. While similar innovations have been seen several times over the last few months, in this particular instance 80mm S-8 rockets meant for aircraft can be seen launching from the bed of a pick-up truck. 

Another interesting development on the Ukrainian side of things was also filmed and shared on Twitter when an MT-LB armored personnel carrier was spotted with a Turkish-Ukrainian SERDAR remote weapon station. This is the first recorded sighting of the SERDAR in Ukraine — which features two Stunga-P anti-tank guided missiles, heavy machine guns, and thermal optics — as the system is primarily intended for export. 

Russian forces have been using a wide variety of weapons to carry out their attacks on Ukrainian territories. The Kyiv Independent reported that KH-47M2 hypersonic air-launched ballistic Kinzhal missiles were used in strikes on the city of Vinnytsia. Reports that Russian forces had been using this missile in Ukraine began to emerge in March, which you can read about here, but the claims were made by the Russian Ministry of Defense itself and never substantiated.

A pile of spent munitions used by Uragan, Tornado S, S-300, Smerch, and Grad systems, as well as Kalibr missiles, were also shown in a video shared on social media meant to show the types of weapons used in Russia’s attacks against Kharkiv. 

Ihor Ovcharuk, head of a Ukrainian demining unit and the man in the video, explained that the mound of missiles is only a small representation of what has since been collected during minesweeping efforts throughout the city.

Finally, in a story that seems to only grow in complexity as more information becomes available, the Iranian Space Agency is now denying the rumors that Russia will launch a spy satellite on their behalf and use it to surveil Ukraine for several months before completely handing it over to the country. This directly conflicts with information obtained by the Washington Post from two Western intelligence officials claiming that the satellite would first remain under Russia’s control for a period of time. 

Rumors about the shared spy satellite first began to swirl after reports that Iran would be supplying Russia with drones to skirt sanctions started making their rounds. While unverified, the Institute for the Study of War theorized that Russia would launch the spy satellite for Iran as a favor purportedly in exchange for the drones.

We will continue to update this story until we state otherwise.

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