US sending Ukraine air defense systems, mine clearing gear, other arms in latest package
PHOTO CAPTION: The Norwegian Army fires a National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) from the Andøya Space Range in Andøya, Norway against a simulated threat in support of exercise Formidable Shield 2023, May 10, 2023. (Courtesy photo by Royal Norwegian Navy via U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)
By Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday announced additional security assistance of about $1.3 billion for Ukraine in its war with Russia, the package including air defense capabilities, drones and munitions.
"This announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process to provide additional priority capabilities to Ukraine," the Pentagon said in a statement.
The United States is using funds in its Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) program, which allow President Joe Biden's administration to buy weapons from industry rather than pull from U.S. weapons stocks.
The package includes four National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) and munitions; 152 millimeter artillery rounds; mine clearing equipment; and drones, according to the Pentagon.
The U.S. Department of Defense announced the aid a day after a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, allies assisting Ukraine as its forces press a counteroffensive against Russian troops occupying Ukrainian territory.
Delivery of the weapons and systems depends on their availability and production timeline.
The Pentagon has provided more than $10.8 billion in security assistance for Ukraine under the USAI in fiscal 2023, in seven separate tranches. The planned package would be the eighth. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2022, Washington put $6.3 billion worth of USAI funds to work buying for Ukraine's defense.
Overall, the U.S. has sent over $40 billion in the form of security and military assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022.
The package includes two different types of loitering munitions, the Phoenix Ghost drone made by AVEVEX, a private company in California, and the Switchblade, made by AeroVironment.
Earlier this month, the United States announced that it will send Ukraine cluster munitions - prohibited by more than 100 countries - to Ukraine. Human rights groups and some U.S. allies, including Germany and Canada, oppose that decision.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; editing by Grant McCool)