Video Above: Pentagon Sends Critical MLRS Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to Ukraine
The Pentagon has announced a new $1 billion weapons support package for Ukraine to counter Russian advances in Donbas and strengthen international resolve to sustain and even intensify efforts to arm Ukrainian defenses with the weapons they need.
Despite Ukraine’s initial success repelling Russian invaders, which was quite substantial, many expressed concern that a protracted conflict might favor the Russian given the sheer size of their force and available firepower.
Unless, a vigorous international effort to help Ukraine not only continues but intensifies in coming weeks and months, according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking in Brussels, Belgium at NATO headquarters.
“Since Russia's invasion on the 24th of February, more than 45 allies and partners from around the world have rushed security assistance of their own to help Ukraine defend itself,” Austin said.
Howitzer and HIMARS
Following the thousands of Javelin anti-tank missiles, artillery systems and rounds of 155mm ammunition, what do the Ukrainians need? It is a question fully embraced by the international community and the Pentagon, which just announced its latest aid package will include 18-more 155mm Howitzers, 36,000 rounds of ammo and additional rounds for critically needed High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).
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While there are some small arms and soldier gear such as night vision included in the weapons assistance, the most critical items are likely to be the long range rockets. Artillery can fire roughly 30 kilometers, enabling Ukrainian forces to attack advancing Russian units from standoff distances, yet HIMARS and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems can fire twice as far. Some HIMARS can even travel 200 to 300 miles, raising the question as to whether Ukraine should more fully attack ammunition depots, command and control facilities and rocket launchers on the Russian side of the border.
Along with rockets and longer range missiles, Ukraine is likely to need heavy armor and mechanized vehicles as well, such as tanks, infantry carriers and tactical vehicles. The support package announced by the Pentagon does include some tactical vehicles, but questions about tanks remain. Are they getting tanks? If so, from whom and how quickly. Certainly outside of major urban areas, particularly on the flat plains in Eastern Ukraine, tanks could be critical when it comes to fighting off a Russian assault.
“To help Ukraine defend itself, the United States has provided it with howitzers and Javelins and huge amounts of ammunition, UAVs, Mi-17 helicopters, counter-artillery radars, tactical vehicles and electronic jamming equipment,” Austin said.
What about tanks? There has to be significant numbers of T-72 or even T-90 Soviet-era tanks in Eastern Europe, and there would clearly seem that the Ukrainians would have a need. Is Poland going to give Ukraine T-72s? Better yet, why doesn’t Poland send the US-built Abrams tanks they are receiving to Ukraine and simply have them backfilled?
They are slated to arrive this year and it seems clear there is a pressing need for this kind of weapon. As much as mobile anti-armor weapons can be surprisingly effective, there is still a place for heavy armor as it could not only defend urban areas but also help Ukrainian forces retake territory in the event they are able to seize and secure ground against Russian forces. Austin said the Ukrainians are getting tanks, without specifying the kinds of tanks or the amounts they may be receiving.
“And several of our allies and partners are providing howitzers and artillery ammunition and Ukrainian forces are now using that to defend the Donbas. And meanwhile, other forms of military assistance from tanks to helicopters continue to flow into Ukraine,” Austin said.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.