US president Joe Biden has approved another $800 million worth of military aid to Ukraine that will include the delivery of Switchblade loitering missile drones that can stay in the air for prolonged periods of time before descending on their targets.
Detailing the latest military support package, the White House said 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 2,000 Javelin, 1,000 light anti-armor weapons and 6,000 AT-4 anti-armor systems would be supplied to Ukraine.
The Pentagon said it would also transfer 100 grenade launchers, 5,000 rifles, 1,000 pistols, 400 machine guns and 400 shotguns to Ukrainian forces along with more than 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launcher and mortar rounds.
The package also includes 25,000 sets of body armor and 25,000 helmets.
While the White House statement only said the package would “also include drones,” Politico was able to confirm that the drones in question would be the Switchblade loitering munition, a system that has been in use with US special operations forces for several years now. Another known operator of the technology are the UK armed forces.
The drone is manufactured by Aerovironment and comes in two versions, the Switchblade 300 – which offers precision strike capabilities at ranges of up to 10 kilometers, and the larger Switchblade 600, which can hit targets at ranges of over 40 kilometers. It is unclear which one, or both versions, of the munition Ukraine would be receiving.
In addition to the drones and other systems in US stocks, the White House said it is working with allies to identify and transfer longer range anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine.
“The world is united in our support for Ukraine and our determination to make Putin pay a very heavy price,” US president Joe Biden said at the White House.
Biden noted that the United States actually started helping Ukraine long before Russia invaded the country. As Russian president Putin began to amass troops on the border with Ukraine, “we took the threat of Putin invading very seriously, and we acted on it,” he said.
The United States sent $650 million in security assistance beginning in March 2021. This included anti-air and anti-armor weapons that the Ukrainian military has used to great effect, he said. “So, when the invasion began, they already had in their hands the kinds of weapons needed to counter Russian advances,” he said.
Once Putin started the war, the United States sent an additional $350 million.
Last weekend, Biden authorized another $200 million to keep a steady flow of weapons and ammunition moving to Ukraine.
The order Biden signed on march 16 brings the total of new US security assistance to Ukraine to $1 billion just this week. The latest package is made up of direct transfers of equipment from DOD to the Ukrainian military.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said DOD will move quickly to transfer these capabilities. “Through the additional authority provided in the fiscal 2022 Ukraine supplemental signed into law by the president yesterday, the US Department of Defense is moving expeditiously on the fifth Presidential drawdown of security assistance,” he said in a written statement from Brussels where he is attending an extraordinary NATO Defense Ministerial. “Today’s drawdown, valued at up to $800 million, brings [the total] to more than $2 billion [in] US security assistance commitment since the beginning of the administration.”