The U.S. is sending a new $800 million arms package to Ukraine that includes heavy artillery and more than 121 unmanned combat drones that were rapidly developed by the U.S. Air Force for the Ukrainian fight, defense officials announced Thursday.
“[T]he United States and our allies and partners are moving as fast as possible to continue to provide Ukraine the forces that they need the equipment their forces need to defend their nation,” President Joe Biden said.
“This package includes heavy artillery weapons, dozens of howitzers and 144,000 rounds of ammunition to go with those howitzers,” Biden said. “It also includes more tactical drones.”
The latest round of aid comes close on the heels of a stout military aid package announced last week and marks the eighth drawdown of equipment for Ukraine from Department of Defense inventories since August.
“The United States has now committed more than $4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including approximately $3.4 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked invasion on Feb. 24,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement Thursday.
The $800 million aid package announced Thursday includes:
- 72 155mm Howitzers and 144,000 artillery rounds
- 72 tactical vehicles to tow 155mm Howitzers
- More than 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems
- Field equipment and spare parts
While little is known about the ghost drones, they are similar to the “Switchblade” combat drones included in previous aid packages, Reuters reported.
“This was rapidly developed by the Air Force in response specifically to Ukrainian requirements,” Kirby said.
AEVEX Aerospace manufactured Phoenix Ghost drones were already in development prior to the war in Ukraine, Kirby told reporters Thursday afternoon.
“This unmanned aero system is designed for tactical aerial operations,” he said. Its purpose is akin to the Switchblade combat drone, which is a one-way attack drone. The system, which is equipped with optics, can also be used to provide a sight picture. “But its principal focus is to attack,” Kirby said.
The U.S. has trained a small number of Ukrainian soldiers to use Switchblade unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and shipments of the “kamikaze” tactical aerial drones supplied from U.S. military stock began to arrive in Ukraine earlier this month.The drones augment Ukraine’s existing supply of tactical armed UAVs, such as the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone, which have played a critical role in Ukraine’s fight against invading Russian forces.