EXPLAINER: US weapons systems Ukraine will or won’t get

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ukrainian leaders are pressing U.S. and Western allies for longer-range air defense systems and weapons to maintain momentum in their counteroffensive against Russia and counter intensified attacks from Moscow.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday that the allies pledged to send weapons “as fast as we physically can get them there.” And he said defense leaders meeting in Brussels were working to send a wide range of systems, from tanks and armored vehicles to air defense and artillery.

But there are still a number of advanced, high-profile weapons that Ukraine wants and the United States won’t supply, due to political sensitivities, classified technology, or limited supplies.

A look at some of the weapons Ukraine will or will not get:


In a meeting with about 50 defense chiefs this week, Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed plans to send more defense weapons air force in Ukraine and also to increase the training of Ukrainian troops.

“We know Ukraine still needs even more long-range fire, air defense systems and artillery systems and other critical capabilities,” Austin said Wednesday. He said the allies had talked about a number of air defense systems.

The United States has already provided 20 of the advanced high mobility artillery rocket systemor HIMARS, and promised 18 more.

And the Pentagon said they would deliver the two first advanced NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine in the coming weeks, providing Kyiv with a weapon it has been asking for since the beginning of this year. The systems will provide medium and long range defenses against Russian missile attacks.

Germany is currently delivering its first IRIS-T surface-to-air missile system, which has a range of about 25 miles (40 kilometers). He promised a total of four.

Overall, the United States has sent Ukraine $16.8 billion in weapons and other aid since the war began on February 24. This aid includes hundreds of armored vehicles, 142 155mm howitzers and 880,000 rounds for them, as well as thousands of anti-tank Javelins and Stinger anti-aircraft weapons and 60 million bullets.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly said his country needs more advanced weapons to continue the fight. Russia launched a series of attacks this week using drones, heavy artillery and missiles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the attacks in response to an explosion last weekend at a crucial bridge linking Russia with Crimea. The Russians are also struggling to repel a fierce counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces, which have just retaken five towns and villages in the southern Kherson region. It was illegally annexed by Russia along with the neighboring region of Zaporizhzhia, and Donetsk and Luhansk to the east.

Zelenskyy’s pleas for certain weapons, however, remain unanswered so far.

A key request is for the army’s tactical missile system. Known as ATACMS, it is one of the weapons that Zelenskyy has repeatedly requested. This would give Ukraine the ability to hit Russian targets up to around 180 miles (300 kilometers).

The system uses the same launchers as the HIMARS rockets that Kyiv successfully used in its counteroffensive, but has up to three times the range of those rockets.

A major U.S. concern is that the longer-range capability could be used against targets inside Russia and further provoke Putin, said Brad Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute.

Similarly, the United States is unlikely to send Ukraine the highly sophisticated Patriot surface-to-air missile system, which has the capability to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles.

JD Williams, senior defense researcher at the Rand Corp., said the Patriots are connected to some of the most sensitive command-and-control networks in the United States and may require American troops on the ground to operate them. The Biden administration has ruled out the use of US combat forces inside Ukraine.

The United States has only a limited number of these systems.

Zelenskyy has also pressed the United States since March to provide fighter jets such as F-16s, but the United States has repeatedly rejected the idea of ​​avoiding further escalation with Russia.

The United States has also so far refused to send Ukraine more sophisticated longer-range drones, such as the Gray Eagle, which would also give Ukraine a longer-range strike capability. There are also fears that Russia may have access to such advanced technology if one were to be shot down.

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