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Marines with the 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment set up an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on June 13, 2022, in support of Valiant Shield 2022.

Marines with the 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment set up an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on June 13, 2022, in support of Valiant Shield 2022. (Tyler Harmon/U.S. Marine Corp)

The United States will send four rocket artillery systems to Ukraine and advanced howitzer rounds in a new $400 million security assistance package approved Friday by President Joe Biden, Pentagon officials said.

With the new round of aid, the Pentagon has now provided the Ukrainian military with 12 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, for its war against Russia. Since their arrival on the battlefield in recent weeks, HIMARS, which can strike targets about 50 miles away, have bolstered Ukraine’s efforts to attack Russian targets — including command and control nodes — behind enemy lines, a senior U.S. defense official said Friday.

The White House announced last month that it would send eight HIMARS to Ukraine to help the country’s battle for its eastern Donbas region, which has been controlled largely by Russian troops since shortly after their February invasion. The fighting in the Donbas has been largely an artillery battle that has seen few major changes in territorial control, despite large numbers of casualties, according to the Pentagon and outside war observers including the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.

The HIMARS have proven “especially important and effective in assisting Ukraine in coping with the Russian artillery battle in the Donbas,” said the Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the new assistance package ahead of the White House’s expected announcement Friday afternoon.

“Increasingly in the last week, what we've seen is the ability of the Ukrainians to use these HIMARS systems to significantly disrupt the ability of the Russians to move forward,” the official said.

The new weapons package announced Friday also included additional HIMARs rounds, three tactical vehicles, demolition munitions, counter-battery systems, and spare parts and other equipment, the official said.

The 1,000 howitzer rounds included in the latest security package were described by the senior defense official as “greater precision” 155 mm artillery rounds than those the United States has provided Ukraine previously. The official declined to provide specifics about the type of artillery round but said the new ammunition would provide Ukraine with a new “precision capability for specific targets.”

The Pentagon did not rule out sending more HIMARS and advanced artillery rounds to Ukraine in the future, as officials on Capitol Hill and elsewhere have called on the White House to do more to help Ukraine.

The defense official said the specific timing for Friday’s announcement was tied to its training program to teach Ukrainian forces on the specifics of operating the HIMARS. The United States has provided Ukrainian crews “weekslong” training programs to operate the truck-mounted rocket launching system. Enough crews have now been trained to operate a dozen HIMARS, the official said. That training will continue, the official added.

The military aid announced Friday is at least the 15th weapons package that the United States has sent to Ukraine since August — the vast majority of which has been sent since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, according to the Pentagon. The United States has provided some $7.3 billion in military aid since the start of the war, according to the Pentagon.

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Corey Dickstein covers the military in the U.S. southeast. He joined the Stars and Stripes staff in 2015 and covered the Pentagon for more than five years. He previously covered the military for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. Dickstein holds a journalism degree from Georgia College & State University and has been recognized with several national and regional awards for his reporting and photography. He is based in Atlanta.
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