Another $800 million in security assistance is headed to Ukraine, the Pentagon announced today. This is the 8th drawdown package announced, which is gear pulled from existing U.S. military stock. Included in this package are 72 155 mm howitzers, 144,000 artillery rounds, 121 Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial systems and vehicles with which to tow the howitzers.
The Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial System, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby, is a system developed by the Air Force in response to Ukrainian requirements.
"Phoenix Ghost is a tactical, unmanned aerial system ... [it] provides similar capabilities to the Switchblade series of unmanned systems — similar capabilities, but not exact," said Kirby. At this time he was not willing to elaborate further on the capabilities of the Phoenix Ghost.
The Phoenix Ghost system, he said, will likely require minimal training for Ukrainian users who are already experienced in operating other UASs.
"We're going to be working through those training requirements directly with the Ukrainian Armed Forces," he said.
Last week the U.S. announced it would ship 18 howitzers to Ukraine, along with 40,000 artillery shells to go with them. The U.S. will now ship 72 additional howitzers to Ukraine and 144,000 additional shells. That brings the total number of howitzers to 90.
"These additional 72 howitzers will help basically fit out five more ... artillery battalions for the Ukrainians," Kirby said. "This was ... very much in keeping with their needs, specifically in the Donbas, and the kind of fighting that has already started there and we expect to continue over days and weeks ahead."
The latest security assistance package also includes 72 tactical vehicles which can be used to tow the howitzers.
So far, eight drawdown packages of security assistance have been targeted at Ukraine. Helping move that equipment and also to move equipment and supplies donated by U.S. partner and allied nations, is the Eucom Control Center - Ukraine.
During a background briefing this morning, a senior defense official said Eucom Control Center - Ukraine was established in March in Stuttgart, Germany, to support both security force assistance and humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainians.
"[It's] responsible for consolidating Ukrainian assistance needs. The Eucom Control Center coordinates and synchronizes timely delivery of U.S., allied and partner contributions of assistance," the official said. "This cell is co-located with the UK-led International Donor Coordination Center, which coordinates resources from amongst our international community partners to enable donor countries from around the world to provide military equipment and aid to the armed forces of Ukraine."
The official said for the latest security assistance package, Eucom Control Center - Ukraine has been working with the services and with the joint staff on sourcing solutions for the equipment and material. It's expected the first flights will leave the U.S. in the next 24 to 48 hours and that the first rounds of that equipment will be in the Ukrainian hands by the end of the weekend.