The United States sends more artillery; Ukraine rushes into Russian targets

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US officials said on Friday they would send additional sophisticated artillery systems and munitions to Ukraine, further bolstering the country’s forces as they wage a coordinated campaign of strikes on Russian military targets.

The latest $270 million package includes four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, bringing the total number the United States has provided Kyiv to 16, said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House. The package also includes 36,000 rounds of howitzer ammunition and funding for up to 580 Phoenix Ghost drones, unmanned aircraft that can be used to directly target opposing forces or conduct reconnaissance for artillery strikes.

“It’s an ongoing process,” Kirby said of the arms supply to Ukraine. “It’s almost near real time as we continue to follow events on the battlefield and talk to Ukrainians about what they need.”

Ukraine’s strike campaign has strained a Russian military that has already suffered at least 15,000 military fatalities since invading Ukraine in February, and is suffering hundreds of deaths and injuries every day, according to Western estimates. Among those combat losses are thousands of lieutenants and captains, hundreds of colonels and “many” generals, a senior US defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with ground rules set by the Pentagon.

Ukraine has already struck more than 100 “high-value” Russian military targets, including command posts, ammunition depots, air defense sites, radar and communication nodes and artillery positions in long range, the US defense official said. While Russia continues to launch thousands of artillery rounds a day, the official said, Moscow “cannot go on forever” and has now committed 85% of its army to the war in Ukraine.

“They spent a lot of smarter munitions,” the senior defense official said, referring to precision-guided weapons. “Their abilities are getting dumber.”

Ukraine, meanwhile, continues to build its own cache of precision weapons, relying heavily on HIMARS, which can launch rockets from the back of a truck and then move quickly. The top US defense official said that as of Thursday, Russia had not destroyed a single HIMARS supplied to Ukraine, although it is likely that they “will be lucky” and will at one point.

Including the package approved on Friday, the United States has reserved 16 HIMARS for Ukraine, while Germany and Britain each provided a handful of similar weapons. Ukrainian officials have asked for dozens more to help them launch a counteroffensive against Russia.

Kirby declined to say the maximum number of HIMARS the United States could provide to Ukraine.

“As you have heard me say many times, we are in constant dialogue with the Ukrainians, almost every day at different levels of the chain of command, talking about their capability needs so that we can be as responsive as possible. , ” he said.

Since Russia’s invasion, the United States has supplied Ukraine with more than $8.2 billion in weapons. The Allies provided additional weapons.

Karen DeYoung in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.

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