What would $60 billion in war aid buy for Ukraine?

American arms shipments could start flowing to Ukraine again soon after House approval of a long-stalled aid package, U.S. officials say, with goods from the Pentagon's stockpile in Germany quickly shipped via rail to Ukrainian border.

The measure would provide the Ukrainian war effort with about $60 billion. A sizable sum is set aside to replenish U.S. defense stockpiles, and billions more would be used to buy U.S. defense systems, which Ukrainian officials say are badly needed.

The Senate was expected to pass the legislation, and President Biden said he would sign it into law.

For months, Ukrainian military officials have complained that political paralysis in the U.S. Congress had created serious ammunition shortages in the war against Russia. Ukrainian troops on the front lines have had to ration bullets and morale has suffered.

U.S. officials have not said explicitly what weapons the United States will send to Kiev as part of the package, but Major General Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters Thursday that it would likely include more air defense munitions and the artillery. .

“We have a very robust logistics network that allows us to move material very quickly as we have in the past,” General Ryder said.

“We can move in a few days,” he added.

Transfers from the United States via cargo aircraft and marine vessels are typically arranged by the U.S. Transportation Command headquarters in rural Illinois, which maintains large databases of cargo ports, railroads and roads that may be used by military transports and civilians around the world.

Weapons and ammunition sent to Ukraine often come from Pentagon assets in Europe, with shipments coordinated by an organization created in late 2022 called Security Assistance Group-Ukraine, which is based in Germany and operates within the United States' European Command. Pentagon. It has a staff of around 300 people.

Military leaders sent Ukraine 55 arms aid packages called PDAs – for the Presidential Drawing Authority – containing a mix of vehicles, ammunition, drones and other items worth at least $26.3 billion from the August 2021.

Aid packages, which often arrived twice a month after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, slowed significantly last fall when some Republicans bitterly opposed sending more aid to the country.

The latest aid package, announced on March 12, included Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, HIMARS launch vehicle guided rockets, small anti-tank rockets and 155-millimeter artillery ammunition that included cluster munitions.

General Ryder was asked about a nonbinding measure in the House legislation to send to Kiev weapons called ATACMS, which have been the Pentagon's longest-range ground-launched guided missiles since the late 1980s.

The Biden administration agreed to supply a small number of these missiles last year, and Ukrainian forces used them to strike two air bases in Russian-occupied territory in October. Ukraine's special operations forces said the attack damaged runways and destroyed nine Russian helicopters among other targets.

“Of course, as you know, we have always said that nothing is excluded,” the general said of the possible new provisions of the ATACMS. “But I have nothing to announce today.”

The United States has a limited number of these weapons, and officials have said the remainder of its ATACMS arsenal is reserved for contingency plans in case the United States were to fight a war with Russia, North Korea or China.

Officials also signaled that additional ATACMS could be provided to Ukraine as replacement weapons, called Precision Strike Missiles, begin entering the Pentagon's inventory.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Lockheed Martin, the maker of both missiles, said the company delivered the first four operational Precision Strike missiles to the U.S. Army last year. A $220 million contract signed in March will provide the U.S. Army with additional quantities, although it was not immediately clear how many it would buy.

The exact number of weapons that the Pentagon sent to Kiev from its stockpile is also unclear.

The last time the Defense Department updated the number of 155-millimeter artillery shells supplied to Ukraine was in May, when it said that more than 2 million such shells had been sent so far. Each of the 17 aid packages announced for Ukraine since then has included 155-millimeter ammunition.

But sending more weapons to Ukraine depends not only on political will. The United States has also had to accelerate production of the munitions that Ukraine most needs to meet its own demand.

In the United States, artillery ammunition takes several weeks to produce, as the heavy steel bars are forged into hollow shells in Scranton, Pennsylvania, then shipped to rural Iowa, where they are filled with explosives and prepared for delivery .

General Dynamics, which operates the Pennsylvania plant, is opening a new plant to produce metallic bullet bodies outside Dallas to help increase the total number of bullets completed. The military says it produces about 30,000 high-explosive shells every month, compared with about 14,000 a month before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The Army's goal is to produce 100,000 155-millimeter artillery shells per month by 2025.

The United States is not alone in providing military aid to Kiev.

Since April 2022, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has convened Ukrainian Defense Contact Group meetings approximately monthly. Participants included NATO nations, many of the United States' major non-NATO allies, and at least two South American nations that had previously purchased weapons from the Soviet Union and Russia.

The group solicits requests directly from Ukraine's military and civilian leadership.

After a virtual meeting of NATO defense ministers on Friday, Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance's secretary general, said Germany would deliver an additional Patriot air defense missile system to Ukraine along with about $4.3 billion in military support from the Netherlands, as well as other aid from NATO members. .

“Ukraine is using the weapons we supply to destroy Russian combat capabilities,” Stoltenberg said in a statement. “This makes us all safer.”

“So support for Ukraine is not charity,” he added. “It's an investment in our safety.”

Robert Jimison AND Helen Cooper contributed to the reporting.

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