The United States is finalising a massive package of military aid for Ukraine in its fight against Russia that US officials say is likely to total as much as $2.6 billion.
It’s expected to include for the first time nearly 100 Stryker combat vehicles and at least 50 Bradley armoured vehicles, known as “tank killers”, to allow Ukrainian forces to move more quickly and securely on the front lines in the war with Russia — but not the tanks that Ukraine has sought.
The officials said the numbers could change as the Biden administration goes through final deliberations on the package.
An announcement is expected this week when defence leaders from the US, Europe and other regions gather in Germany to discuss military support for Ukraine. The aid is also expected to include thousands of rounds of ammunition, including rockets for air defence systems.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the aid has not yet been made public.
The decision to send the Strykers, which could be delivered within weeks, comes on the heels of announcements by the British to send Ukraine battle tanks, which have long been sought by Ukrainian leaders.
The UK will also send 600 Brimstone missiles to support Ukraine, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced on Thursday.
The Brimstone missile was originally designed as an air-launched munition. However, Ukraine will launch the missile from trucks. The missile is extremely effective, particularly against moving targets, and provides a lower risk of collateral damage than other forms of air-dropped munition.
The US Strykers and Bradleys are armoured personnel carriers.
Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Colin Kahl said on Wednesday that a new phase of the war is shaping up as Russia gets more deeply entrenched, and that Ukraine will need mechanised infantry to break through those lines.
“The Russians are really digging in. They’re digging in. They’re digging trenches, they’re putting in these dragon’s teeth (obstacles), laying mines. They’re really trying to fortify that that FLOT, that forward line of troops,” Kahl said.
“To enable the Ukrainians to break through given Russian defences, the emphasis has been shifted to enabling them to combine fire and manoeuvre in a way that will prove to be more effective.”
The first shipment of 50 Bradleys was announced two weeks ago. Known as a “tank-killer” because of the anti-tank missile it can fire, the Bradley runs on tracks, making it more useful in muddy terrain than the Stryker.
Ukraine has for months sought to be supplied with heavier tanks, including the US Abrams and the German Leopard 2 tanks, but Western leaders have been treading carefully.
The UK announced last week that it will send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, but the US and Germany have held off.
Poland and the Czech Republic have provided Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukrainian forces, and France has said it would send AMX-10 RC armored combat vehicles to Ukraine, designated “light tanks” in French.
The influx of tanks and armored carriers comes as Ukraine faces intense combat in eastern Ukraine around the city of Bakhmut and the nearby salt mining town of Soledar.
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