NATIONAL NEWS

US announces new Patriot missiles for Ukraine as part of new $6 billion aid package

Apr 25, 2024, 4:50 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. will provide Ukraine additional Patriot missiles for its air defense systems as part of a massive $6 billion additional aid package, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Friday.

The missiles will be used to replenish previously supplied Patriot systems. The package also includes more munitions for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, and additional gear to integrate Western air defense launchers, missiles and radars into Ukraine’s existing weaponry, much of which still dates back to the Soviet era.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed the need for Patriots early Friday with the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a coalition of about 50 countries gathering virtually in a Pentagon-led meeting. The meeting fell on the second anniversary of the group, which Austin said has “moved heaven and earth” since April 2022 to source millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket systems, armored vehicles and even jets to help Ukraine rebuff Russia’s invasion.

Zelenskyy said at least seven Patriot systems are needed to protect Ukrainian cities. “We urgently need Patriot systems and missiles for them,” Zelenskyy said. “This is what can and should save lives right now.”

At a Pentagon press conference following the meeting, Austin said the U.S. was working with allies to resource additional Patriot systems but did not commit to sending more U.S. versions. He said he has been speaking one-on-one with a number of his European counterparts in recent days to hash out this issue and others.

“It’s not just Patriots that they need, they need other types of systems and interceptors as well,” Austin said. “I would caution us all in terms of making Patriot the silver bullet.”

Austin said he is asking allied nations to “accept a little bit more risk” as they consider what weapons to send to Ukraine. A number of nations have expressed some reluctance to send Patriot air defense systems to Ukraine because most don’t have very many and they belieive they need them for their own defense.

U.S. officials said the aid package will be funded through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which pays for longer-term contracts with the defense industry and means that it could take many months or years for the weapons to arrive. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet made public.

The new funding — the largest tranche of USAI aid sent to date — also includes High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, as well as Switchblade and Puma drones, counter drone systems and artillery.

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group has been meeting about monthly for the past two years and is the primary forum for weapons contributions to Kyiv for the war.

Friday’s meeting follows the White House decision earlier this week to approve the delivery of $1 billion in weapons and equipment to Ukraine. Those weapons include a variety of ammunition, such as air defense munitions and large amounts of artillery rounds that are much in demand by Ukrainian forces, as well as armored vehicles and other weapons.

That aid, however, will get to Ukraine quickly because it is being pulled off Pentagon shelves, including in warehouses in Europe.

Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the $1 billion weapons package will have a key benefit.

“There’s some near-term effects,” said Brown, who stood alongside Austin at the Pentagon briefing. “Now the Ukrainians don’t necessarily have to ration what they have because they know things are coming out of this package and there will be follow-on packages.”

The large back-to-back aid approvals are the result of a new infusion of about $61 billion in funding for Ukraine that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on Wednesday. And they provide weapons Kyiv desperately needs to stall gains being made by Russian forces in the war.

Bitterly divided members of Congress deadlocked over the funding for months, forcing House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, to cobble together a bipartisan coalition to pass the bill. The $95 billion foreign aid package, which also included billions of dollars for Israel and Taiwan, passed the House on Saturday, and the Senate approved it Tuesday.

Senior U.S. officials have described dire battlefield conditions in Ukraine, as troops run low on munitions and Russian forces make gains.

Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, the U.S. has sent more than $44 billion worth of weapons, maintenance, training and spare parts to Ukraine.

Among the weapons provided to Ukraine were Abrams M1A1 battle tanks. But Ukraine has now sidelined them in part because Russian drone warfare has made it too difficult for them to operate without detection or coming under attack, two U.S. military officials told The Associated Press.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

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US announces new Patriot missiles for Ukraine as part of new $6 billion aid package