President Biden announced the approval of an $800 million military assistance package bound for Ukraine on April 13. The package, which includes heavy artillery systems, artillery rounds, Javelin missiles, Switchblade drones, Mi-17 helicopters, and more, was approved in anticipation of a wider Russian assault in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian military has used the weapons we are providing to devastating effect. As Russia prepares to intensify its attack in the Donbas region, the United States will continue to provide Ukraine with the capabilities to defend itself,” Biden said in a White House statement.
Biden announced a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The White House and its allies have been struggling with how to reinforce the Ukrainian defense without escalating it to a worldwide conflict, as shown with the rejected Polish proposal to provide MiG-29 fighter planes to Ukraine. Despite this, the US continues to be the primary and largest military backer of Ukraine.
In the first weeks of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the US and its allies relied on imposing economic sanctions on the Russian economy to pressure to halt its aggression. Along with this, allies were gradually incorporating shipments of weapons as Moscow remained unfazed by the sanctions.
“The steady supply of weapons the United States and its Allies and partners have provided to Ukraine has been critical in sustaining its fight against the Russian invasion. It has helped ensure that Putin failed in his initial war aims to conquer and control Ukraine,” Biden said.
Washington has now committed over $3.2 billion in defense assistance to Kyiv since February. This includes some $2.6 billion given during the early onset of the war.
The new support package comes as Russia shifts its offensive focus on the Donbas region. The Donbas region is where pro-Russian separatists hold territory, namely the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, which the Russians recognized as independent states before the invasion.
The shift in strategy is likely the result of Russia’s failed assault on the capital city of Kyiv. Experts now believe that the Kremlin shifted its war goal from taking down the Ukrainian government to securing the Donbas region and creating a land bridge to Crimea, possibly due to Putin’s efforts to save face.
“We cannot rest now. As I assured President Zelenskyy, the American people will continue to stand with the brave Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom,” Biden said.
What Does the Military Assistance Package Include?
Earlier in our SITREP for April 13th, there were questions about whether Mi-17 transport helicopters would be transferred to Ukraine or not. Last January, the State Department had already approved the transfer of 5 Mi-17s that previously belonged to the Afghan Air Force.
We can now confirm that 11 units of the Mi-17 helicopters are back in the $800 Million Military Assistance Package, some of which were previously set aside for Afghanistan. It will also include 18 155mm Howitzers along with 40,000 artillery rounds, 200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers, 100 Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, 10 AN/TPQ-36 counter-artillery radars, 2 AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel air surveillance radars, 300 Switchblade drones, and 500 Javelin missiles with other anti-armor systems.
According to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, these weapons are designed to provide Ukraine with new fighting capabilities, particularly in the much confined Donbas region.
“The fight in the Donbas is going to rely on artillery. And the Russians are already moving artillery units into the Donbas because of the geography, the topography there,” Kirby said in an interview with PBS.
Kirby added that most systems would require minimal to no training to incorporate into their military systems.
“The Ukrainians already know how to use this stuff, like Javelins and like the Switchblade UAVs. Some of the stuff, the howitzers and maybe these radars, they might need a little bit of training, but not a lot.”
He added that they could adopt a “train-the-trainers scenario,” where a small detachment of Ukrainians will be trained outside the country and sent back in to train their colleagues themselves.
Kirby also emphasized the US’ capability and intent to get these weapons into the hands of the Ukrainian military as soon as possible.
“Now, we’re going to be moving with a sense of energy and urgency here. We know the clock is not on our side.”
The Pentagon Press Secretary noted that some supplies will not come from the US mainland and that some of these were pre-positioned in areas closer to Ukraine.
The packages will also include unnamed coastal defense vessels, medical equipment, C-4 explosives and other demolitions equipment, 30,000 sets of helmets and body armor, M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel munitions, and CBRN protective equipment.
The $800 Million Military Assistance Package will be funded through the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the commander-in-chief to authorize the transfer of defense articles and services from the Pentagon without the need for congressional approval.
“We’re going to keep doing this as long as we can, as long as the Ukrainians need that help in the fight,” Kirby proclaimed.
The summary of all military equipment being sent to Ukraine as part of the package is as follows:
- 18 155mm Howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds;
- Ten AN/TPQ-36 counter-artillery radars;
- Two AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel air surveillance radars;
- 300 Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- 500 Javelin missiles and thousands of other anti-armor systems;
- 200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers;
- 100 Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles;
- 11 Mi-17 helicopters;
- Unmanned Coastal Defense Vessels;
- Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear protective equipment;
- Medical equipment;
- 30,000 sets of body armor and helmets;
- Over 2,000 optics and laser rangefinders;
- C-4 explosives and demolition equipment for obstacle clearing; and
- M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel munitions were configured to be consistent with the Ottawa Convention.