New $1B arms package for Ukraine includes munitions that can shoot down cruise missiles, drones

A NASAMS firing an AMRAAM missile. (Kongsberg)

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A new $1 billion security assistance package for Ukraine, announced by the Pentagon on Monday, includes munitions for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) that could be used to shoot down Russian cruise missiles, drones, and other military aircraft.

The NASAMS, also known as the Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, is built by Norwegian contractor Kongsberg and is equipped with Raytheon’s Sentinel radar and Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles.

“NASAMS provides air defenders with a tailorable, state-of-the-art defense system that can maximize their ability to identify, engage and destroy current and evolving enemy aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicle and emerging cruise missile threats,” according to a Raytheon product description.

Last month the Pentagon announced that it would procure these platforms for Ukraine from the manufacturers using Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds.

The new package announced Monday does not include additional NASAMS, but it does include an unspecified number of the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) that the ground-based NASAMS can fire at aerial threats. Those missiles will be drawn from existing Pentagon stockpiles.

“The NASAMS that are in the pipeline, we think will probably arrive in the next few months. And the AMRAAM missiles that are in this system which can be used for the NASAMS … they’ll have to be looked at. The inventory has to be looked at to make sure that all the missiles are in good shape, and then they’ll get there in time for the NASAMS’ arrival,” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon.

The U.S. government has previously deployed the systems around the National Capital Region to defend Washington against potential aerial threats.

Air defense capabilities have been near the top of Ukraine’s wish list for Western-supplied weapons since Russian forces invaded in February. The Kremlin has used cruise missiles, drones and fighter aircraft, among other platforms, in its attacks against its neighbor.

The U.S. government assesses that Russia has already expended “a significant percentage” of its inventory of standoff munitions such as air-launched and sea-launched cruise missiles, Kahl said. “I think we’ve actually seen a reduction in how often they’re using those because they’re running low.”

The new $1 billion security assistance authorization announced Monday is the Biden administration’s eighteenth drawdown of equipment from Defense Department inventories for Ukraine since August of last year, according to the DOD.

“It is the largest single drawdown of U.S. arms and equipment utilizing this authority, and this package provides a significant amount of additional ammunition, weapons, and equipment — the types of which the Ukrainian people are using so effectively to defend their country,” acting Pentagon Press Secretary Todd Breasseale said in a statement.

In addition to the munitions for NIMARS, the new package includes ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS); 75,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition; 20 120mm mortar systems and 20,000 rounds of 120mm mortar ammunition; 1,000 Javelins and hundreds of AT4 anti-armor systems; 50 armored medical treatment vehicles; Claymore anti-personnel munitions; C-4 explosives, demolition munitions, and demolition equipment; and medical supplies, to include first aid kits, bandages, monitors, and other equipment.

In total, the United States has committed approximately $9.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since President Biden took office.

Previous packages have included a variety of advanced military capabilities including newly developed Phoenix Ghost kamikaze drones and unmanned coastal defense vessels.

“To meet Ukraine’s evolving battlefield requirements, the United States will continue to work with its Allies and partners to provide Ukraine with key capabilities calibrated to make a difference,” Breasseale said.

Kahl estimated that Russia has suffered about 70,000 to 80,000 casualties since its invasion kicked off in February. He did not provide an estimate for how many casualties Ukrainian forces have sustained, but noted that the war is “the most intense conventional conflict in Europe since the Second World War.”

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air defense, AMRAAM, Colin Kahl, cruise missiles, drones, Kongsberg, NASAMS, Ukraine
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