The US is doubling the number of HIMARS rocket launchers to be sent to Kiev
The Pentagon will send four more rocket artillery systems to Ukraine as part of the latest $450 million military aid package, the US government said on Thursday. This would bring the total number of HIMARS launchers sent to Kiev to eight, the first of which have reportedly already reached Ukrainian troops.
The latest tranche of military aid earmarked for Kiev includes four more M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, acting Pentagon press secretary Todd Breasseale confirmed on Thursday. Last week, Politico was the first to report that Washington was contemplating sending the Ukrainians more of the systems, "based on Ukrainian immediate needs."
"The United States has now committed approximately $6.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration," Breasseale added.
Kiev, however, has asked for a far greater quantity of weapons - "ten times more" HIMARS, Ukrainian MP Alexandra Ustinova had told Politico, describing the four on their way as "nothing."
The first batch of four launchers have already arrived, Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov announced on Twitter, thanking his "colleague and friend" Lloyd Austin for the "powerful tools" and wishing death on Russian troops.
On Wednesday, his ministry celebrated mounting a rocket launcher, allegedly from a downed Russian helicopter, onto a Mitsubishi pick-up as a makeshift solution - known as a "technical" - until the HIMARS arrived.
In addition to the wheeled US launchers, the UK is sending Ukraine three of the tracked M270 MLRS, which uses the same ammunition. Another three units are supposed to come from Germany, which has already sent Kiev some PHz2000 self-propelled guns as well. Though the US initially claimed that the launchers will be equipped with "battlefield munitions," the Pentagon's policy chief Colin Kahl revealed earlier this month that the US was providing Ukraine with heavy guided missiles, with a range of 70 kilometers.
Last week, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Kiev needed 300 MLRS launchers, 500 tanks and 1,000 howitzers to reach heavy weapons parity with Russia, only to be rebuked by a defense official.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, as of Thursday Ukrainian forces had lost a total of 647 MLRS launchers, including several of foreign manufacture that were struck at warehouses in Nikolaev overnight.
Meanwhile, there were unconfirmed reports that two of the French-made CAESAR 155mm howitzers supplied to Kiev got captured by Russian or allied troops and dispatched to Russia for study. In a Telegram post on Thursday, the Russian weapons-maker Uralvagonzavod jokingly thanked President Emmanuel Macron for the "gift" and asked him to "send more" to be dismantled. However, there has been no official confirmation of the howitzers' capture.