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Senior Defense Official Holds a Background Briefing

May 26, 2022
Senior Defense Official

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, good morning, everybody. "Senior defense official" here. It's been a while since we talked, so I'll do the best I can to bring everybody up to where things are today. I want to chat right at the outset, saying that even while there has been some changes to speak to from a macro-perspective, there really aren't a lot of changes to speak to. But let's just start with the basics.

Today's day 92. On June 3rd, next Friday, that will be day 100, for anybody who's counting.

There are now 110 operational battalion tactical groups in Ukraine -- Russia BTGs in Ukraine, 110, still split among those groupings of troops that we've talked about. The largest contingent remains in the south, but the western grouping, the central grouping and the eastern grouping each have roughly around the same number of BTGs inside Ukraine.

We assess that Russia has made some incremental gains in its push towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk; not a lot but, but some incremental gains. There still is fighting for control over the town of Lyman, and we've talked about Lyman before. That town lies just to the northeast of Sloviansk and to the southeast of Izyum. So there's still a lot of activity in that northern part of the Donbas.

And the other area that is worth talking about today is also in the northern Donbas to the -- sort of the northeast part of the -- of that Donbas area where they're fighting, and that's the line between Severa -- Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. These are two towns we haven't really talked about much, but we believe that Russian forces have been able to seize most of northeastern Severodonetsk, even though there's still fighting going on there. And it looks as if they're really trying to squeeze off Ukrainian forces that are in that -- in that area and down towards Lysychansk. So just something we're watching.

But I want to stress that the give-and-take, at least from a geographic perspective, is still small and in some ways, getting smaller now as we -- as we're now talking about even smaller towns and villages that -- but that's -- but that's kind of what we're seeing right now.

Around Kharkiv, no major changes; still assess that the Ukrainians have continued to push Russian forces further away. They're still -- we still assess it's a -- it's a range of a few kilometers to more than 10 kilometers within the Russian border, so no major changes there.

There are -- they're -- the Russian forces are making some slow progress north and west from around Popasna. Popasna is, again, in the -- in the northeastern Donbas area, but it's most due south of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk. So still a lot of fighting around Popasna, but they -- they are moving west out of Popasna.

Again, what we think is happening here is, if you can -- if you can kind of zoom out a little bit, is they're -- you know, we talked in the early days of the war, they were trying to basically cut off the whole eastern part of the country by be -- being on three lines of axis, you know, from Kyiv, up from the south from Crimea, and then -- and squeezing in from the east. Well, that didn't work, so they started to try to carve off the whole Donbas region by coming south out of Kharkiv and north out of Mariupol.

Well, they haven't made much progress in that regard, so what we're starting to see is the -- is an effort now to pinch off the very eastern, the far-eastern elements of the Ukrainian forces that are basically positioned between Severodonetsk all the way down to north of Popasna. So you're seeing it's a -- it's an encirclement effort for sure; it's just on a smaller geographic scale. And they are making incremental progress towards those goals, incremental progress out of Popasna, incremental progress out of Severodonetsk towards Lysychansk. But that's kind of what we're seeing today.

No new advances coming out of Donetsk. I mean, we talked the last week about trying to move west out of Donetsk towards Velyka Novosilka, and they – they haven't really made any progress there at all.

Nothing to update for you in the south; still some clashes but -- with Ukrainian and Russian forces between Kherson and Mykolaiv, but -- but no real significant trading of territory to speak to there.

Nothing to update, really, in the maritime environment. We continue to see that their surface ships and LSTs remain off the west coast of Crimea. There has been some reinforcement of Snake Island, for sure. They're using some of their combatants to move additional air and missile defense capabilities to Snake Island, but other than that, there really hasn't been much to talk about in the -- in the Black Sea or the maritime environment.

On the -- on the security assistance side, I know all of you are going to ask me about the next PDA, PDA 11. No final decisions have been made about PDA 11 either in terms of what it's going to include and when it's going to be announced. So I just want to get ahead of that one right now, and I know that you'll ask me about the potential for HIMARS being in there. I'm not going to talk about the -- what the potential content of PDA 11's going to look like. You know, when it's decided, it's decided, and then we'll -- and then we'll speak to it.

What -- what is already in, you know, the last few PDAs, of the -- of the now total of 108 M777 howitzers that were committed over the last three PDAs, 85 of them are forward, we know, with the Ukrainian military, providing long range fire capability.

And of the now total of 209,000 155 millimeter projectiles that were promised to Ukraine, we now know that 91 percent of that -- and basically 190,000 of them -- have been transferred to the Ukrainian military and are in their possession.

Nine of the 11 Mi-17s have been transferred to the Ukrainians. The last two will be arriving either late this month or -- or very early in June, we think. 73 percent of the Switchblades, the 300 Switchblades, have been transferred to the Ukrainians. That's the 220 -- I think that's the number we still had last time that we talked. We're still sourcing the remainder of those and getting them there.

On the training side, we now count 419 Ukrainian soldiers have completed M777 training. That's the operator training. About 30 have completed the basic main -- maintenance course and then another 17 have completed the advanced 14-day maintainer course, which is a little bit longer, a little bit more detailed. And we'll continue to cycle students through that training as -- as needed and as the Ukrainians want.

On the Phoenix Ghost, because we know that required training, the second iteration with about 14 Ukrainian -- I'm sorry, be a total of almost 20 Ukrainian troops -- are continuing now in the second iteration of Phoenix Ghost training. They -- they'll complete that training by the end of the month but this is the second class, about 20. They'll go through the end of the month. So that's -- that's going on -- on pace.

And we're also helping facilitate some training of Ukrainians for coastal defense missiles, now that the Danes are going to be contributing Harpoon -- Harpoon launchers and vehicles. So there's some training that needs to be done on how to use -- the Harpoon was not designed for coastal defense, it was designed for anti-ship warfare, ship-to-ship warfare, so this is a relatively new application of the missile, and therefore, we know that they're going to need a little bit of training on that. And so -- and so that -- that's happening right now outside of Ukraine, of course, and we'll -- just under 20 Ukrainians are going through that training right now. And we suspect that they'll probably be -- need to do more of that going forward.

Okay, I think that's probably enough to start with. Go ahead, Lita.

Q: Thanks.

You -- are you -- I know you talked about you don't want to get into what's in the next PDA but just more broadly on supplies, with the bulk of the fight being in the Donbas, can you just talk a little bit about how much more difficult it is getting -- to get supplies to the Ukraine troops in that region because of the distances?

And then secondly, can you address sort of this ongoing effort to get some of the grain out by train? Is there any U.S. involvement in some of this effort to get some of the supplies out? And is it seen as anything that would even be even remotely helpful, since the trains can't carry that much?


SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, on the -- on the -- the grain, they're -- I -- I know of no U.S. military efforts involved in that -- in that movement, Lita.

And on your -- your first question, you're right, we're not going to get into -- into too much of the details here of the next PDA, but as for resupply, the -- the indications that we get from the Ukrainians -- and again, we talk to them everyday -- is that this materiel is still getting in to front-line units.

And again, they -- they're the ones that determine that, how and when and -- and where they put things, but our -- what we're getting from them is they -- they still have the ability to move weapons in -- into their front-line units. In fact, I mean, the -- the very strident call that you heard from President Zelenskyy last night for more -- more systems being needed, I think, is indicative of his strong belief that he can continue to get them into the hands of the -- the fighters that need them most.

Now, that's not to say that -- in these villages that we talk about, that the Russians aren't trying to encircle these villages and cut them off. Severodonetsk is a good example -- they -- that they are trying to -- to make it very difficult for the Ukrainians to resupply themselves in and around Severodonetsk.

And -- but -- but, you know, that's -- that's fairly localized. You know, when -- when you step back and zoom out at the Donbas writ large, which is where the -- the fighting does primarily persist, they're still able to get things in -- into the units there.

Jim Garamone?

Q: Thanks, (inaudible).

(Inaudible), the Russian attacks on two cities in Donbas, are they -- are they different from previous attacks? And I guess what I'm really trying -- asking about is in the past, you've always said that we have to expect the Russians to learn from their experiences. And I'm just wondering, have they learned?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The -- they are trying to overcome some of the challenges that they've had -- command and control, logistics sustainment, maneuver -- but by and large, Jim, the -- what we're seeing them do, it's -- it's -- it's a more localized effort. You know, they -- as we talked about last week, they're using smaller units to go after smaller objectives. So more of a piecemeal approach.

But they're still doing it in a fairly doctrinal way, using artillery fire in advance and then -- and then moving units only after they feel like they've softened up the target enough. But they are -- but they -- but they have the numbers on their side. And so that's why I think we continue to see this incremental progress.

But it's not -- we're not seeing a lot of -- in a -- if you're asking me -- you know, we're not really seeing a lot of innovative, creative ways of moving on targets. It's pretty much the same doctrinal approach that they've -- that they've taken in the past.


Q: Sorry about that.

I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about what you're seeing around Snake Island and what the Russians might be using that for and why there is an increased maritime presence there?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, the Russians are in possession of Snake Island. They are -- they -- the -- you -- we talked about this two, maybe three weeks ago, the Ukrainians were -- were assaulting Snake Island, trying to dislodge the Russians. They were not able to do that. And because -- because of those early efforts, the Russians are reinforcing Snake Island.

So essentially, they're putting systems ashore, largely air and missile defense systems, to protect it. We're also seeing them fly combat air patrol missions over Snake Island, in the northern Black Sea there to sort of protect that possession.

So what we're seeing, basically, is the Russians are in control of it. They want to stay in control of it. They're putting things on the island and flying over the island, in a way, to keep -- to help keep their possession of it. That's basically the gist of it.

Tara Copp?

Q: Good morning.

I wanted to know if you could give us an overall assessment of the damage that has been done to Russia's military because of this invasion.

The Ukrainian MOD put out a tweet today saying that almost 30,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, you know, hundreds of tanks, hundreds of aircraft. How much damage has this done to their ability to wage war?

And is this why they have limited their operations to the Donbas, in your view?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think those are two different questions, to be quite honest with you. I'm not going to get into casualty counts. You guys know we've avoided that because we just don't have a very high confidence level on that.

But just to go through some examples, I mean -- and I'm not going to go through everything, but we do believe that the Russian military has suffered a not -- and I know this is going to sound like I'm being -- I'm parsing it, but, actually, I don't care; I am parsing it -- that they have suffered a not insignificant amount of attrition throughout the last couple of months here in this war, almost -- well, actually, we're into a third month now, day 92.

So, for instance, we believe they've lost or rendered inoperable almost 1,000 of their tanks in -- in this fight. They still have a lot left available to them. But we -- you know, we think they lost nearly about 1,000. They've lost well over 350 artillery pieces. They've -- they have lost almost three dozen fighter -- fighter bomber fixed-wing aircraft and -- and more than 50 helicopters. But, again, they still have a lot of capability left to them, as we have been talking about.

They have committed, of their entire battalion tactical groups, their whole ground -- remember, they organize by BTG. So we're going to keep it at that unit. But, you know, more than 80 percent of their total battalion tactical groups are committed to the war in Ukraine. And that -- that's a lot. And I just told you right now they've got -- 110 are in there.

So they have put a -- they have invested an awful lot of -- of their hardware and their personnel in this fight. And they have -- and they have suffered losses. The Ukrainians have suffered losses, too. But the Russians have suffered losses.

We still believe, though, with all that, Tara, that they still have the -- a significant amount of the majority of their capability left to them. And earlier, when I was talking about the Donbas fighting and up in the northeast, there, that, you know, they're making incremental gains. They're gains, but they're -- but they're incremental, and -- and part of it is because the Russians do have superiority here in terms of the numbers of assets they can apply to this fight, both in terms of people and -- and equipment and weapons. And we just have to, you know, bear that in mind.

It's not to say that the Ukrainians have not been just incredibly skillful in fighting back. And of course the entire rest of the world is doing what we can to replenish their own expenditure of -- of systems and weapons.

I -- hopefully that answers your question.


SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Jeff Seldin -- Jeff Seldin?

Q: Thanks very much for doing this.

A couple questions. I know you talked about the -- the Ukrainians being able to get the security aid that's coming to the front lines, based on -- on what they're telling you, but given the way the fight is going right now in eastern Ukr0aine, the back and forth, how much longer does the Ukrainian military have the capability to sustain efforts, to incorporate even -- as -- as more nations pledge aid and -- and systems like the Harpoons, how much longer can they -- do they have the capacity to sustain that, in what's looking to be the drawn out fight?

Also, following up a little bit on -- on the casualties -- not asking for -- for a number or anything -- but it seems like early on in the conflict, the Ukrainians were able to inflict heavier damage and casualties on the Russian side. Has that pace kept up or have the changes that Russia's made limited the pace of Russia's losses of late?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, without -- every day's different, Jeff. I would tell you that the Russians move soldiers every day but it's a different -- it's a different number based on the kind of fighting we're seeing. And the fighting is now largely over smaller pieces of turf with smaller units.

But again, it varies from day to day and it's -- it spreads out across the Donbas. In the northeast Donbas, the northwest Donbas, even the southern Donbas area, you're seeing clashes every day. And according, we're also seeing combat way down south in and around Kherson.

So casualties are being suffered by both sides every day. This is war but it changes on a day-to-day basis. All I can tell you is that the -- you know, the fights themselves are happening over smaller pieces of ground with smaller units. I think that's the best way I can answer that.

And then you had another question that I completely forgot.

Q: You know, just about the Ukrainian military's capability to -- or capacity to continue to take in more aid.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah. Look, I think it's difficult to predict, you know, the -- the question "how much longer?" I don't think anybody could give you an exact sense of that, Jeff.

I mean, we said long ago, when the Russians reoriented the fight to the Donbas, that this could be a prolonged conflict, that it was going to rely on artillery and long-range fires and it could -- and it could last a long time. And we are starting to see that play out, as it is in fact very much an artillery duel and now it's a -- it's a scrap over, again, smaller pieces of earth with smaller units. And it could -- it could go on for quite a while.

What -- what I can tell you -- while I can't predict how long, what I can tell you for sure is that the department is committed to helping Ukraine for as long as we possibly can. I mean -- and the -- the supplemental requests that we asked for -- and of course, Congress added money to that -- that's, I think, indicative of an effort to stretch this support out in coming months. And we're -- and we're absolutely committed to doing that.


Okay, nothing heard. David Martin?

Q: Since the last time you briefed, the Russians have made at least one claim of having struck a depot where Western military supplies were located.

So my first question is do you have any indication that the Russians have succeeded yet in their attempts to hit any of these depots where the -- the weapons end up on their way to the front?

And second, this -- this whole effort of anti-ship missiles and coastal defense, what is the -- what is the purpose of that? Is it to -- to push the Russian warships further away from the coast so that they cannot launch missiles or is it somehow supposed to break the blockade of Odesa? And how would it break the blockade of Odesa if it just would move the problem further out to -- into the Black Sea?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah. On the first one, we don't have any indications that Western equipment or systems have been -- have -- have been struck. I mean, we would only know that if the Ukrainians told us that and -- and we have seen no indication from them.

I would be -- I -- you know, also, David, once -- once the materiel gets inside Ukraine, it's Ukrainian property and we don't -- we don't know where they're storing it or for how long. It's the -- their -- their -- their drivers come get it and bring it into the country and -- and it's their property.

So we have seen no indication and the Ukrainians have not indicated to us that the Russians have been successful in hitting any Western equipment at -- at -- at various storage facilities. But again, I -- I have to caveat that by saying that we -- we don't -- we wouldn't know if -- we wouldn't know that unless the Ukrainians were -- were able to tell us because we don't track these things once they get inside the country -- where they go, where they're stored, for how long.

Every indication that we have had from the Ukrainians is that -- that, to the degree things are stored, they're not being stored in general -- I'm not talking about every system -- but in general, not being stored, you know, long term. They are -- they are getting these things into the fight as much as they can.

Again, there's some storage for sure, cause there's stuff that's (flowing ?) every day. So we -- it's not -- it's not hand-to-mouth on any given day but -- but that's -- that's the way it's working.

And on the -- on the anti-ship missiles, I certainly won't speak for Ukrainian planning and operational planning, in terms of what and -- what they intend to do. Clearly, they have a coastal defense requirement, because the -- the -- the Russians still have naval superiority in the Black Sea and because there is a blockade. So there -- there's a legitimate need for coastal defense.

We have not seen the Russians approach close to the coast since the Moskva was sank -- sunk -- sunk -- I should know that -- and yet the blockade continues successfully. So again, I -- I don't want to speak for the Ukrainians but it -- it is certainly -- the -- the Russians have proven that they can blockade major ports -- Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea and not have their ships close to those ports. They've -- they've proven that they can do that.

But the Ukrainians do have a legitimate coastal defense requirement, given the threats that the Russians have been able to present closer in –- in earlier weeks, and that's what -- that -- our assumption is that's what these -- these weapons will be -- will be used for, to help them with coastal defense.

Q: Can I follow up with one more question, which is, if you could explain the strategic significance of Snake Island. Both sides seem to have a lot invested on -- in it, and when you look at it on a map its significance just doesn't really jump out at you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I mean, to some degree we -- we think there's a -- there -- well, let me -- I mean, it -- look at its position in the -- in the northern part of the Black Sea. If -- it is -- it lies just to the west of the western tip of the Crimea Peninsula and just off the -- just off the coast of the very, very southwest part of the Ukrainian presence on the Black Sea. So from a strategic perspective, if you want to blockade and -- and be able to maintain naval superiority in that northern Black Sea area, having a foothold like Snake Island can be valuable, particularly now they are putting air and missile defense systems on that island to also support naval operations in the Black Sea from Snake Island.

So just from geographic -- a geographic perspective, it adds to their maritime and air capability in the northern Black Sea and -- and the -- and you can -- you can operate on Snake Island and support your naval -- your -- your naval units at the same time. So we think that that's probably part of the reason that they're -- that they're continuing to try to ensconce themselves there. It gives them additional options. It gives them additional flexibility in the northern Black Sea, particularly in a world where they -- they can't -- or they don't feel comfortable operating their ships any closer to the coast.

Tom Squitieri?

Okay, Courtney?

Q: Oh, hello, (inaudible). Can you hear me, (inaudible)? Good morning.


Q: Sorry about the delay.

In the briefing Monday, the secretary mentioned some of the countries that are helping Ukraine with supplies and training, and he mentioned Colombia. I know you don't like to name countries, letting them announce their contributions, but could you say generally, are there any other Latin America nations besides Colombia helping? And are any African nations?


SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't the list of all 20. I'll have to go back and see if I can get that, Tom. I mean, we're not going to go -- we're not going to detail countries and what they've agreed to do. But I realize you're just asking for regions. I'll try to see if I can come up with that. I -- I just don't have that handy right now.

Q: Okay, thanks.



Q: I have a couple of clarifications. So the 108 -- or, I'm sorry -- the -- the 85 howitzers that you said are forward with the Ukrainian military, I just want to be clear. When you said that they're -- that the Ukrainians have told you that they're forward, that just means inside Ukraine; it doesn't necessarily mean on the front lines, right?

And then also, did you say that there were 73 percent of the Switchblades? Which, I think there's 700 that have been committed, so that -- that's 73 percent of those are now inside Ukraine?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Of the 300 that we have moved -- we have committed to getting them 700, but the -- but we're focused on that first tranche of 300, and of that first tranche of 300, 220 are in the country. And that's where I get the 73 percent. So we're just focused on that 300 right now, Court.

And when I say "forward", I mean that -- that 85 of the 108 are actually being used in combat by the Ukrainians. Now, where they do that is, again, up to them. But when we say "forward", we mean forward, on the front lines in the fight, in the scrap.

Q: Okay, great.

And then two other things. The -- on the -- the Dutch -- Denmark and the Harpoons, do you have any sense when -- I thought it was just one Harpoon launcher, but correct me if I'm wrong -- when the Harpoon launcher or any of the Harpoons, the actual missiles, will be delivered?

And then just since we haven't had a backgrounder in a while, can you just update us if there's been any change in -- in the Russian nuclear posture, any indications that they might be considering preparing in any way to use any kind of a tactical nuke?


SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't know about the -- the Harpoons. I mean, that's really a question for Denmark. I don't know what their schedule is, but we wanted that -- we knew it was going to require training, we and the Danes, and so we're working on getting that training. It's actually ongoing, because this is a -- a different way of using that system, and it's not a system -- the Harpoon is not a system the Ukrainians are familiar with.

On the nuclear front, no changes. We -- I haven't seen any -- anything that would indicate that we would need to change our strategic deterrent posture, no -- nothing that would indicate an imminent use of tactical nuclear weapons by the Russians.

Luis Martinez?

Q: Hey, good morning.

You mentioned HIMARS at the top. The Ukrainians have also mentioned this. They've also mentioned MLRS in the same breath. Can you explain why HIMARS or any other equivalent M -- MLRS system would be beneficial to them, please?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, what -- what I mentioned at the top was that I'm not going to mention it because it's not -- there's been no decisions, Luis. Look, I -- I don't -- I don't want to -- I don't want to get ahead of -- of -- of the next presidential drawdown authority package. I just -- I want to be very careful here on this.

You have heard that the -- that the Ukrainians have asked for MLRS systems, multi-launch rocket systems provide greater range and greater firepower than a typical artillery system, and you know, they -- they, the Ukrainians, have made it clear and we don't disagree that -- that this fight in the Donbas is a fight that's heavily-reliant on long-range fires, and we've already seen the degree to which artillery systems on both sides are -- are being used every day. So I think I'd just leave it at that.


Q: Okay, follow -- can I follow up real quick on -- you also, at the top, talked about the incremental progress that they're making -- that the Russians are making in the Donbas. It's kind of portrayed -- you've been talking recently about the back-and-forth nature of this. Is that changing, or is this really the momentum now more on the Russians?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It -- it -- I think it depends on where on the map you're looking at, you know? If you're looking at -- if you're looking at coming out of Popasna, yeah, they've -- they've got Popasna, and they're moving toward the west. If you're looking at Kharkiv, clearly, no. The Ukrainians obviously continue to have the momentum up in Kharkiv.

And in other places like Sever -- Severodonetsk, they have essentially encircled Severodonetsk, but they haven't been able to cut it completely off because the Ukrainians are still fighting over it. So it -- it's an open question.

I mean, honestly, Luis, if I could sit down with you in my office with a map and we just looked at each of these hamlets and villages and towns, you'd see a changing -- you'd see a changing perspective every day, where -- where territory changes hands. But in general, as I take 10 steps out and look at the --the Donbas in general, our assessment today is that the Russians have made some incremental gains.

So gains is important. I understand that that's -- and that's accurate. But it's also really important to not forget the -- the adjective there, "incremental." It's not wholesale. It's not overly aggressive. And it's -- it hasn't been without its drawbacks and setbacks by the Ukrainian resistance. But -- but they are making incremental gains in -- in many of these places in the northeast Donbas.

Q: Thank you.


Okay, nothing heard. I'll go, last question, to Dimitri from Inter TV.

Q: Yeah, good morning. Thank you.

I've just got a couple of questions about the Harpoons and, as it were, on the background. So, firstly, could you just tell about your understanding, your vision of the whole plan?

What I saw in the media, we were told that, possibly, because if the Harpoons will be in Ukrainian ports like in Odessa, Russians will need to move their vessels out of the range, which is 300 kilometers. Is it right?

Secondly, what's your understanding; what's your estimate about the number Ukraine needs. What I heard from Ukraine, they were -- they told me, "We need at least 20." So what's your vision?

And, third question, is it quite right that the challenge is that Ukraine needs to use Harpoons not from the sea, not from the vessels but from the ground?

Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, look, on the Harpoons, I'm going to -- you should talk to the Ukrainian government here about their intentions for using them and how. That's -- they will be their systems, and they're going to be designed for coastal defense. This is an adaptation of the missile for coastal defense. And I think I answered the best I could when David asked me about that.

How they'll exactly get used, I'll let the Ukrainians speak to that. I'm not gonna talk about specific ranges here. It is a very capable ship-to-ship missile, with enough range and firepower to be effective, but I'm not going to get into hypotheticals on how the Ukrainians will use that.

Your second question, I did not get. I didn't understand it. Can you repeat it?

Q: Sure. What's your estimate how many Harpoons Ukraine needs on this stage?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Oh, again, I'd refer you to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense -- Ministry of Defense on that. It -- I'm not gonna -- I'm not gonna speculate about that.

Okay --

Q: Hey, (inaudible), can I try to get a question in there?


SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Hey, hey, hey. Hang on. Hang on. Hang on. We've got people stepping on each other.

Paul, go ahead.

Q: Okay, I'm sorry about that. I didn't get the right unmute button.

Look, there's this -- lots of talk about Russians mobilizing more equipment and manpower. Are they moving people in for the long-term occupation of the land, the areas that they control?

Are they focused on -- on just -- on just securing those areas now?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: What we have seen is that they are starting to -- they are continuing to replenish their troops and move fresh -- fresh troops into Ukraine. In fact, we know that they've started to rely now on volunteer contract reservists from -- from their national Combat Army Reserve. So that's a -- a fairly new development.

And I think you saw -- you may have seen in the press that they have now increased the age of enlistment to 50. It used to be you couldn't be any older than 40 to join the Russian Army, now you can be 50 years old. And they've -- they've been public about that even. So we continue to see them try to find ways to replenish and resource themselves from a manpower perspective.

And all I can tell you about where -- where they're putting their troops -- and -- and we've talked about this before -- they're putting their troops in the east, in the Donbas region, and in the south. That -- that is where -- that is where these 110 operational BTGs are operating.

And it's sort of in an arc, all the way from -- from Kharkiv, if you sweep down, sort of going clockwise, down through the Donbas, and then circling back through Mariupol, Melitopol, and all the way out to Kherson. That arc is where they're putting these troops, 110 of them. The majority of -- the majority of them are, again, in the south and in the -- and in the east itself of the Donbas.

But --

Q: But do you understand those -- those to be used for front-line fighting or are -- do you think they're coming into actually settle in and manage the areas that they control?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: They -- they are -- they are -- most of the troops they're putting in, they're putting right into the fight, because this is an active area of fighting. But they are also -- are introducing troops that -- what we would call enablers, right? Guys that help them with logistics and sustainment and that kind of thing, command and control. But -- but most of the troops that they're putting in are combat troops.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Hey, can I -- this is Tom Bowman. Can I have just a quick one please?


Q: You talk about incremental gains, you talk about how there's smaller units going after, you know, smaller towns and so forth. Outside of a breakthrough by the Russians, which now seems to be unlikely, and it seems to be little headway on the Ukrainian part at this point, are we at a stalemate now or fast approaching a stalemate, as some have argued?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think we're still -- we're still not using "stalemate" as a way to characterize this, Tom. I mean, the -- the fighting continues every day and -- and the Russians are making incremental progress, but the Ukrainians are also providing not only a stiff resistance in some places but they're pushing back, they're going on counter-offensives, and Kharkiv is a -- still a -- an active example of that.

So --

Q: But are the Ukrainians making incremental progress through?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: They are making incremental progress up around Kharkiv, for sure --

Q: That's the only area, though, right?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I -- you -- look, I -- I'm not -- I'm not on the ground, Tom, so, like, I can't tell you what every intersection and -- and village looks like, but we know they are pushing back around Kharkiv. And as -- I'm -- again, I'm just trying to tell you what we're seeing every day, and what we're seeing every day is incremental gains in the eastern part of the Donbas.

We're not prepared to label this as a stalemate --

Q: Got it.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: -- and I guess it depends on who wants to call it that and what definition they're using -- it. We're describing this as a very active, kinetic fight every day, and again, there's -- there's give and take on -- on any given day. And, you know, if we do a backgrounder tomorrow, you know, the -- the readout could be different over the next 24 hours. So that's the best I can do.

Q: Okay, got it. Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: All right. Okay, thanks, everybody. Appreciate it. We'll see you guys later.