The Pentagon announced yet another tranche of military aid for the Ukrainian armed forces today, including four more M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, and guided 227mm rockets for them to fire, among other things. At a press briefing today, Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, said the package, valued at $625 million in total, was specifically intended to meet the current operational demands of Ukraine's military and help its forces keep up their advances against their Russian opponents.
This latest military assistance package is a so-called "drawdown," meaning that the items are taken directly from U.S. military stocks and transferred to the recipient, in this case Ukraine. Per an official press release, its complete contents are as follows:
- Four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and associated ammunition
- 16 155mm Howitzers
- 75,000 155mm artillery rounds
- 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds
- 1,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) Systems
- 16 105mm Howitzers
- 30,000 120mm mortar rounds
- 200 MaxxPro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles
- 200,000 rounds of small arms ammunition
- Obstacle emplacement equipment
- Claymore anti-personnel munitions
After these four HIMARS are delivered to the Ukrainian armed forces, they will have 20 of these systems in total. The launchers, together with tracked M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and MARS IIs that Ukraine's military has received from other international partners, which can fire the same types of 227mm artillery rockets, have proven to be key assets in Ukraine's counter-offensives.
There continues to be no indication that the U.S. government is moving any closer to green-lighting a transfer of Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) short-range ballistic missiles, which can also be fired from HIMARS and M270 launchers. Versions of the ATACMS missile can hit targets up to around 190 miles (300 kilometers) away, substantially further than the maximum range of M30/M31 guided rockets Ukrainian forces have received so far from the United States, which is around 43 miles (70 kilometers). They also pack a much bigger punch.
Previous reports have indicated that Ukraine may now be offering the U.S. government the ability to directly veto strikes and other operational maneuvers if that's what it takes to secure weapons like ATACMS.
Though not specified, the precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds mentioned in this new aid package are very likely additional examples of the M982 Excalibur, which features a GPS-assisted inertial navigation system (INS) guidance system. Ukrainian forces have already been receiving M982s and reportedly using them to good effect.
The Remote Anti-Armor Mine System (RAAMS) is a 155mm artillery shell that contains nine individual anti-tank mines that are released along a portion of the terminal phase of the round's flight path. These shells can be used to rapidly emplace minefields to complicate the movements of enemy armored vehicles.
This new aid package will help Ukraine's military "maintain momentum in the east and in the south," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Cooper said at the press briefing today, with the HIMARS in particular offering added "flexibility to... employ these capabilities." She added that the U.S. government had assessed that Ukraine's forces had made significant new progress in the Kherson region in the past 24 hours.
In response to questions about whether or not the U.S. military might be getting closer to sending American tanks to Ukrainian forces, Cooper said the immediate focus remains largely on providing them with additional Soviet-style armored vehicles that they are already familiar with. She added that the U.S. government, to date, has helped facilitate the transfer of at least 1,000 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other armored vehicles to Ukraine's military.
In terms of the actual battlefield situation in Ukraine, the Ukrainian armed forces appear to be making steady gains in the eastern and southeastern ends of the country. Even according to pro-Russian sources, Russia's military appears to have lost particular ground today in the southern Kherson region, where Ukraine's forces just recently launched a new offensive.
If Ukrainian forces continue to squeeze their Russian opponents against the banks of the Dnipro (Dnieper) River in Kherson, it could be devastating for the defenders. Damage to the Antonovsky Bridge, a main artery across the river, along with others, from numerous Ukrainian strikes leaves Russia's units with few easy paths to fall back across.
As such, the situation could force them to abandon significant amounts of heavy equipment as part of any retreat, planned or otherwise.
Ukrainian forces appear to have already captured a significant number of obsolete T-62 tanks, which Russia deployed to the region earlier this year, among other things, as they've pushed southward.
Regardless, the fighting in the Kherson region is definitely intense all around, as evidenced by the video in the Tweet below. Continued military aid from the United States and Ukraine's other foreign partners will be essential to keep these advances moving ahead.
WARNING: Some of the updates below contain graphic material.
Before The War Zone readers get into the most recent updates below, they can first get up to speed on previous recent developments in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine from our prior continuing coverage here.
Pictures have emerged online showing Colonel General Aleksandr Lapin, head of the Russian military's Army Group Center in Ukraine, with his troops. This appears to be an attempt to counter recent criticism from Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Russia's semi-autonomous Chechen Republic, who had accused Lapin of staying well away from the front lines as Ukrainian forces have advanced.
In doing so, however, a number of details have been exposed, including the apparent acceptance of forces wearing Soviet flags and related patches at the highest levels of Russia's command structure in Ukraine. The pictures also appear to show Russian forces continuing to use unencrypted commercial radios even in major command posts. Open-source intelligence enthusiasts on social media were also quickly able to determine the likely location seen on a map in one of the images, despite deliberate blurring.
New questions have emerged about the ability of Russia to quickly induct new conscripts, as part of both a recent partial mobilization order and routine conscription cycles, and train them to any degree before sending them to Ukraine. "The late start to the [routine autumn conscription] cycle is an indication of growing pressures on Russia’s ability to train and equip a large number of new conscripted personnel," according to a public assessment of the situation that the U.K. Ministry of Defense released today.
There are unconfirmed reports that violent inmates at the Butyrka prison in Moscow have appealed to be released in order to fight in Ukraine. That comes after video footage emerged last month showing Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, a Putin ally and founder of the infamous company Wagner, an ostensibly independent private military firm with deep ties to Russian intelligence agencies, personally recruiting inside a prison.
In addition to her comments about new aid for Ukraine at the press conference earlier today, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Cooper also said she had "nothing to corroborate" reports of a purported "nuclear train" heading toward Ukraine. Fox News' Jennifer Griffin had separately reported that the earlier claims regarding the train appeared to be false, citing an anonymous senior U.S. defense official. As The War Zone reported in detail yesterday, the circumstances surrounding the train in question, which may have been carrying BPM-97 light armored vehicles and trucks tied to Russia's strategic nuclear forces, remain very much unclear and could easily have mundane explanations.
Cooper added while recent nuclear saber-rattling by Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, is certainly worrisome, the U.S. military continues to see no new developments that would force America's strategic forces to change their posture.
Concerns about the potential for some kind of Russian nuclear strike certainly remain real even if there is no imminent threat. The Associated Press reported today that Kyiv's City Council had told the wire service that it was issuing potassium iodine pills to emergency evacuation centers in the city that could then be distributed to residents if necessary. Potassium iodine, if taken before or immediately after significant radiation exposure, can help prevent it from being absorbed by the thyroid gland.
There are unconfirmed reports that a large fire at Russia's Belbek Air Base near Sevastopol on the occupied Crimean Peninsula over the weekend was caused by a MiG-31BM interceptor crashing during takeoff.
Serhiy Bolvinov, head of the investigation department of Ukraine's National Police in the northern Kharkiv region said in a post on Facebook today that new evidence of Russian war crimes and/or crimes against humanity had been uncovered in the now liberated village of Peski-Radkovsky. Ukrainian security forces had found what he described as a torture room that contained various items, including an ominous bucket of gold teeth. While this does not appear to be independently verified yet, various international organizations have already found credible evidence of torture, summary executions, and other similar crimes in previously Russian-occupied areas.
NATO has received Ukraine's request for expedited membership, according to Natalia Halibarenko, the head of the Ukrainian diplomatic mission to the alliance. Halibarenko said that top officials from across NATO would have a chance to discuss the country's application at an upcoming meeting of the U.S.-led Ukraine Contact Group next week, but it remains to be seen if they will at that time. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky submitted the formal request for rapid accession to the alliance last week in response to Russia's widely condemned annexation of various occupied areas in Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces continue to use now-iconic U.S.-made Javelin anti-tank missiles to good effect in the conflict, as seen in the video in the Tweet below.
Photos have appeared on social media of a captured Russian MOB directional anti-personnel mine, a design similar in broad respects to the U.S.-made Claymore. The MOB is notable in that it is a modular design where multiple mines can be connected together to create a larger multi-directional weapon.
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