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More HIMARS, Phoenix Ghost drones part of latest $270M US aid package for Ukraine

HIMARS offload
A HIMARS is offloaded from a C-17 Globemaster III, Jan. 27, 2022, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif. Photo: US Marine Corps

The United States will be sending an additional four HIMARS launchers, as well as more Phoenix Ghost tactical drones as part of the latest $270 million military assistance package for Ukraine.

The latest White House announcement will bring the total US security assistance committed to Ukraine to $8.2 billion.

More specifically, the latest tranche will include four more High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), 36,000 rounds of artillery ammunition, anti-armor systems, as well as 580 of the secretive Phoenix Ghost drones.

The tactical drones have been developed by AEVEX Aerospace in cooperation with the US Air Force, specifically in response to the situation in Ukraine. The drones, which behave as loitering missiles, are said to have capabilities similar to the Switchblade drones that have also been delivered by the US to Ukraine

The additional HIMARS will bring the total number of the systems in Ukraine to 16. Military officials said earlier this month that they believe the HIMARS are having an indirect, “but significant impact on front line operations.”

“I think there has been significant impact on what’s going on, on the front lines,” an official said, according to the Pentagon. “If you think about the fact that the Ukrainians have been talking about a number of the targets [they] are hitting … they’re spending a lot of time striking targets like ammunition, supplies, other logistical supplies, command and control. And all those things have a direct impact on the ability to conduct operations on the front line. … Although they’re not shooting the HIMARS at the front lines, they are having a very, very significant effect on that.”

The announcement on the further support comes on the back of the fourth Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting which saw 50 nations meet on July 20 to discuss the ongoing international support provided to Ukraine as it fights to maintain its sovereignty following an illegal invasion by Russia.

“Russia’s cruel and unprovoked invasion has spurred the international community into action,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III during a briefing after the meeting. “Today’s meeting is just another sign of the way that nations of goodwill are rising to the moment. The security assistance that we are rushing to Ukraine is making a real difference in real time. And everyone in the contact group has been inspired by the courage of the Ukrainian people and the skill of the Ukrainian military.”

“Ukrainian forces are now using long-range rocket systems to great effect, including HIMARS provided by the United States and other systems from our allies and partners,” Austin said. “Ukraine’s defenders are pushing hard to hold Russian advances in the Donbas, and the international community has also worked hard to provide Ukraine with better coastal defense capabilities. And that directly contributed to Ukraine’s victory on Snake Island, and it has helped prevent a Russian landing in Odesa.”

Before Friday’s announcement, the US security assistance to Ukraine included, among other things, over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, more than 6,500 Javelin anti-armor systems, and more than 700 Switchblade drones.

The US has so far also provided 126 155-mm howitzers with up to 411,000 155-mm artillery rounds.