Pentagon to pay to upgrade dozens of Soviet-era tanks for Ukraine

Improved tanks will be crucial on the battlefield, Singh said, as Ukraine continues to try to retake territory in northeast Kharkiv and the southern Kherson region.

Kyiv lobbied for Western tanks, such as the US-made Abrams or the German Leopard, but neither country agreed to send them. United States hesitated to supply Abrams, which consume fuel and would require training for the Ukrainians to use.

“Introducing a new main battle tank…would be a huge undertaking for the Ukrainian forces,” Singh said. “We continue to consult with our allies and partners to assess our capability on what we can provide in terms of Western armored platforms, but these [T-72] tanks that we believe will make a difference on the battlefield.

In another first, the latest US aid package also includes funding to upgrade a number of US Hawk air defense missiles for use in Ukraine, Singh said. The Hawk missile is an older surface-to-air guided missile that the United States no longer uses and has a longer range than the Stinger anti-aircraft missiles that the United States supplied this year. The missiles will complement the Hawk launchers that Spain recently pledged to send to Kyiv, she said.

The new air defense equipment will help Ukraine defend against “brutal” attacks by Russian drones and cruise missiles, Singh added, although she declined to say how many missiles would be transferred or give an exact timetable. for the delivery.

The package also includes money to send 250 M1117 armored vehicles for the first time, as well as 40 river boats, and 1,100 Phoenix Ghost Dronesaccording to a statement from the State Department.

The United States has committed more than $18.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the start of the Biden administration, including $18.2 billion since the Russian invasion on February 24.

This includes 20 high-mobility artillery rocket systems that the United States pulled from its own stockpile to send to Ukraine, and which have been a game-changer for Kyiv’s ability to target Russian defenses. Moscow has not been able to destroy a single such HIMARS launcher to date, according to a senior Defense Ministry official who requested anonymity to give candid assessments of the war.

However, Ukraine still needs a significant amount of artillery for the upcoming fight, the official added. Consumption rates in this war are high: Ukraine fires between 4,000 and 7,000 artillery shells every day, while Russia fires 20,000 a day.

During the winter months, the front is expected to stabilize around Kharkiv and Bakhmut in central Ukraine, but it is still unclear how the battle around Kherson will end before the weather stalls the fight. the manager said. Kherson could be decided in the next two to three weeks.

But the fighting will only intensify in the spring. Some US officials question whether Ukraine can achieve its ultimate goal of expelling Russian forces from all of occupied Ukraine, including Crimea, the official said.

Paul McLeary contributed to this report.

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