US to send Ukraine longer-range bombs in latest turnaround
WASHINGTON (AP) – After months of torment, the US has agreed to send longer-range bombs to Ukraine as it prepares to launch a spring offensive to retake territory captured from Russia last year, US
WASHINGTON (AP) — After months of torment, the U.S. has agreed to send longer-range bombs to Ukraine as it prepares to launch a spring offensive to retake territory captured last year, U.S. officials said Thursday and confirmed that the new weapons will have approximately twice the range of any other American-provided offensive weapon.
The US will deploy small-diameter ground-based bombs as part of a $2.17 billion aid package it is expected to announce on Friday, several US officials said. The pack also includes, for the first time, equipment to connect all the different air defense systems that Western allies have rushed onto the battlefield and integrate them with Kviv’s own air defenses to help them better defend against Russia’s continued missile attacks.
For months, US officials have been reluctant to send longer-range systems to Ukraine over concerns that they could be used to target inside Russia, escalating the conflict and drawing the US deeper into it. The longer-range bombs are the latest advanced system, such as Abrams tanks and the Patriot missile defense system, that the US finally agreed to supply to Ukraine after initially saying no. However, US officials continue to deny Ukraine’s requests for fighter jets.
Ukrainian leaders have urged longer-range munitions, and on Thursday officials said the US would send an undisclosed number of the small-diameter ground-launched bombs, which have a range of about 150 kilometers. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the yet-to-be-released aid package.
To date, the longest range missile provided by the US is about 50 miles (80 kilometers). Funds from the aid package are earmarked for longer-term purchases, so it was not clear on Thursday how long it would take for the bomb to hit the battlefield in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleskii Reznikov said Thursday the country is ready to offer guarantees to its western partners that their weapons will not be used in attacks on Russian territory, adding that Kyiv can use weapons with a range of up to 300 kilometers (186 miles ) need to expel the Russian troops.
“If we could strike at a distance of up to 300 kilometers, the Russian army would not be able to mount a defense and would have to retreat,” Reznikov said at a meeting with EU officials. “Ukraine is ready to provide all guarantees that its weapons will not be involved in attacks on Russian territory. We have enough targets in the occupied territories of Ukraine and we are ready to coordinate (these) targets with our partners,” the minister said.
The U.S. aid package includes $425 million in ammunition and support equipment drawn from existing Pentagon inventories and $1.75 billion in new funds through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which is used to purchase new weapons from industry is used.
The USAI, which will pay for the longer-range bombs and air defense system integration, is also funding two HAWK air defense systems, anti-aircraft guns and ammunition, and anti-drone systems.
Since Russia’s invasion last February, Ukraine’s Western allies have pledged myriad air defense systems to bolster Kiev’s own Soviet-made S-300 surface-to-air missile defense systems, and the latest aid package aims to provide the capability to integrate them anything that might improve Ukraine’s ability to defend against incoming Russian attacks.
The US has committed medium- to long-range National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, and short-range truck-launched Avenger air defense systems; the Netherlands, Germany and the US are sending Patriot missile defense systems; Germany sends IRIS-T medium-range air defense systems; and Spain sends Aspide anti-aircraft systems.
The inclusion of longer-range bombs in the latest aid package was first reported by Reuters.
Ukraine is still searching for F-16 fighter jets, which US President Joe Biden has refused to send since the war began. When asked Monday if his administration was considering sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, Biden replied, “No.”
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was asked if Biden’s “no” to the F-16s was the last word.
“All types of help went through the ‘no’ stage first,” Reznikov said. “Which just means ‘no’ at this point. The second stage is, “Let’s talk and explore technical possibilities.” The third stage is, “Let’s train your staff.” And the fourth stage is the transfer (of the equipment).”
Associated Press writer Dasha Litvinova in Tallinn, Estonia contributed to this report.
Tara Copp, Matthew Lee, and Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press