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Senior Defense Official Holds a Background Briefing

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Great, thank you. What I thought I would do is just touch on from a policy vantage point what we're seeing on the ground in the international community and then go through today's announcement of additional security assistance very briefly. So, in terms of the situation on the ground, it's increasingly clear that we're seeing Ukraine employing very precise, very accurate targeting of critical Russian positions with their HIMARS, and we're seeing the Ukrainians have strong morale as they maintain their fight. That's juxtaposed with what we're seeing from Russia, which is, you know, completely indiscriminate targeting, resulting in civilian casualties. They're paying a high price for every inch of territory that they try to take or hold. And we're seeing very low morale from the Russian forces.

So, I think that encapsulates kind of how we view the situation. Right now, in the international context. We had a terrific week here in the Pentagon, as we saw Secretary Austin host the Ukraine defense contact group. And certainly, we heard, you know, strong messages of support for Ukraine. But the thing I want to emphasize is that it wasn't just rhetoric; we were very pleased to hear a number of new announcements of concrete support that's really going to help Ukraine in this current fight, everything from artillery and ammunition to air defense and coastal defense capabilities.

And then, the other theme of the discussion was about sustainability because we are there for Ukraine for the long haul. So, with that, I just want to touch on our announcement today. Today, we announced 270 million in additional security assistance for Ukraine. This includes a presidential drawdown of 175 million, as well as a 95 -- 95 million in Ukraine security assistance initiative funds. So, in terms of the presidential drawdown, this is the 16th such drawdown since August of 2021.

And the capabilities in this package are going to be useful on the battlefield immediately. They include for additional HIMARS, that's the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and additional ammunition for the HIMARS for command post vehicles. 36,000 rounds of 105-millimeter ammunition. And the thing to note about that is this is ammunition that is actually going to support a donation that the United Kingdom is making of howitzers. And this is something that we do quite frequently where we match countries that maybe have one part of a capability with another donor country to create a complete capability for the Ukrainians. It's something that EUCOM has been facilitating through their cell in Stuttgart, Germany.

And then the package also includes additional anti-armor, weapons, spare parts, and other equipment. In addition to the presidential drawdown package today, we announced under the Ukraine security assistance initiative that we will provide Ukraine with up to 580 Phoenix Ghost tactical unmanned aerial systems; the Ukrainians have been making excellent use of the Phoenix Ghost system. So, this action allows us to go out and procure from industry additional capability. That's where USAI is different from drawdown. This is actually a procurement action.

And with the Phoenix go system, what we'll be able to do is ensure steady deliveries of this capability, starting in August, to ensure that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have a continual supply of this capability. So, that brings us up to $8.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, and we're not going to stop there. We're going to keep evaluating Ukraine's requirements, keep working to support them to meet their battlefield needs, and I will stop there and hand it over to (inaudible).

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Thanks, (inaudible). And good afternoon, everybody. Good to be back with you. 149th day of Russia's illegal and unprovoked large-scale invasion of Ukraine, we just give you a quick run around the battlefield. And it won't take long because there really have not been significant gains by the Russians anywhere. The -- In fact, I would say in the north, no advance, really at all by the Russians along the axis from Izyum, down towards Sloviansk. And I think, you know, given the -- the comments by the Russians weeks ago, that they were going to get into Sloviansk, that is not met -- has not come through. And so, defenses by the Ukrainians continue to be strong. We are seeing an increase of Russian activity vicinity, BOC moot, but again, the advances there are very small, and the Russians were paying a heavy price for it. As -- as (inaudible) mentioned there before, we continue to see increased signs of discipline and morale problems in the Russian and the Russian army. And we talked a little bit about this last week, as well.

And over the past couple of weeks, the Ukrainian will continue to be incredibly strong. And -- and what we're seeing is -- is that will kind of, you know, push the Russians around pretty -- pretty decently. And speaking of which, so in Kherson in the south over the past week, we've seen the Ukrainians make advances now, taking portions of villages, and really given -- given a good fight to the Russians in the sound. I know some folks are interested in the maritime piece a dozen -- a dozen or so ships at sea for the Russians in the Black Sea, several of them caliber capable. And then one -- one thing I'd like to just hit before we get going is a comment about the HIMARS.

I think there was a report that the Russians had destroyed for HIMARS in -- in Ukraine, that as of this morning, in our conversations with Ukrainian that is, that is not true. And -- and so all of the HIMARS continued to really to be a thorn in the Russian side and over the past week, continue to prosecute targets related to command and control ammunition, and logistics, support areas, all of those having a very significant effect on the Russians ability to mount offensive operations, and continue anything that they're -- they're intending to do. So, anyways, I'll hold there look forward to answering and -- and talking to you.

STAFF:  All right, first off, Nomaan from the Associated Press.

Q:  Hi, good afternoon. Thank you for doing this call. I'd like to ask three questions if that's okay. The first is on the artillery ammunition that you're supplying. How long do you expect that to last? And how much is Ukraine using per day on drones? I know there's limitations in what you can share. But I'd love a general description and any details you can write on exactly how the Ukrainians use those drones. And where does the U.S. stand in terms of facilitating the supply of either MiGs to Ukraine or other Western-produced airplanes?

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  I -- So, let me take the first one there, and then I'll pass the other two to (inaudible). So, on artillery ammunition, here's what I'd tell you that they're pretty smart. They know what they've got. And they know how long that lasts, depending on how they shoot it. So, we've seen their consumption rates go up and down, depending on what they're trying to do operationally. And I would, I would suggest that -- that will continue. They again, this is a very smart army that is very good at determining the logistical capabilities and sustainment that they have. So, additional artillery ammunition would make sense, but we expect that they will continue to consume it in accordance with their controlled supply rates. I’ll pass to (inaudible).

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I don't have any additional comment on that. I think your other question was on the kind of use of UAV capabilities. And I think here, you know, I don't have a lot of specifics to share with you at this point. But, you know, the Ukrainians have successfully integrated UAVs into their overall approach, and they're able to use both, I would say the Phoenix Ghost system, the switchblade drones, and then also the TB2s that they have to great effect. And then your -- your last question was on aircraft, but I'm not sure I totally got what the question is. Would you mind repeating it?

Q:  Yeah. What is the U.S. -- does the U.S. have any plans in place to transfer more airplanes? Sort of, generally, an overview would be great of what the U.S. is doing and what you foresee in the future in terms of getting Ukraine more airplanes, which is something I know they've asked for.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  At this point, the Ukrainians operate a MiG and Sukhoi fleet. And the United States does not have either aircraft. But we -- we do know that we have been able to support the Ukrainians with a number of spare parts and other equipment to be able to better sustain their existing fleet and keep it -- keep it in the battle. So, but we have not transferred any U.S. aircraft; our focus on the air-to-ground peace has been on the -- the UAVs that I was just talking about.

STAFF:  Thanks, Nomaan. David Martin, CBS.

Q:  You mentioned Phoenix Ghost, and I believe you said it was started arriving in -- in August. Can you give us any updates on NASAMS and when that is going to start arriving? And can you tell us anything? Now that you're supplying hundreds of these Phoenix Ghosts to Ukraine, can you tell us anything about their capabilities, because it's still not a program that we can find on the internet?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Thanks. In terms of the Phoenix Ghost, just to be clear, when I said start to arrive in August, they already have Phoenix Ghost. So, this is about us ensuring that they can keep, you know, keep sustaining it. So, it's a continuation of supply. We don't want them to get to the point where they run out. And then we will be able to use this procurement to ensure that they have this the steady supply, as they -- as they use the capability. I don't have a lot more that I can share on in terms of specifics of the system. And I'm sorry, I actually just don't have with me, you know, information on NASAMS. We did just initiate that procurement in the last Ukraine security assistance initiative. So, I just don't have that information yet.

STAFF:  Thanks, David. Tom Bowman, National Public Radio.

Q:  Yeah, thanks for doing this. You both talked about low Russian morale, discipline problems. Can you get any more specific on that? Are we're looking at disobeying orders, desertions, even fragging. And also, what is the scale of this? And for the military official, I'm hearing that the Russians are doing a lot more defensive work digging in and also bringing more tanks. And if you could offer anything on that.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Yeah. So, on the first one, in terms of morale there, you know, plentiful reports, and quite honestly, most of them are coming from you all because of the folks who got on the ground, but plentiful reports that talk about all the things you just talked about folks who are deserting their posts, individuals who are refusing to fight. And that goes -- I will tell you that that's not particularly one part of the -- of the area of operations that largely goes from top to bottom, not to mention back into Russia, as you -- as you see reports of Russians who refuse to participate in the war, who haven't even gone to the war. So, -- So, again, we continue to see that and reflections and conversations with -- with Ukrainians that -- that affirms that.

And then the second part about Russian defenses, I think, you know, again, we talked a little bit about this last week. They have slowed down considerably. And again, the -- the HIMARS isn't a silver bullet. We haven't thought it was a silver bullet from the beginning. But we know that the HIMARS is having an effect and their ability to mount offensive operations.

And when you aren't able to conduct an offensive operation, the way to preserve your life is to dig in. We -- I would expect they certainly are creating places where they're -- they're digging defenses, with an expectation that they might be attacked, but in a lot of cases are digging defenses because they're able to -- or the sort of the Ukrainians are able to fire now they're tubed artillery, in large amounts, because they've been able to eliminate the enemy's ability to respond because of limitations. So, I do think that we're seeing folks dig in -- in defensive positions.

Q:  And finally, the tank issue. Are you see more Russian tanks coming into both the east and the south?

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  I haven't -- I haven't received reports on that. But you know, as we get something, if we're able to share information like that, we'll certainly think through how we get that to you.

Q:  Okay, great. Thanks.

STAFF:  Thanks, Tom. Karoun, Washington Post.

Q:  Hi, sorry, can you hear me?

STAFF:  Yep, gotcha.

Q:  Okay, sorry. Took me a second to unmute. I've got a couple of questions. So, on the Phoenix Ghost, when you say to have a steady delivery of those, how many are we talking at a time? The 580 number is very large. But what are we talking about sending out at a time in terms (inaudible) the Phoenix Ghost? I am curious about also questions on planes. I know that you said that there have not been any U.S. planes sent there to date. But are there any plans to begin training U.S. -- Ukrainian -- Ukrainian pilots, other crew members on U.S. planes, U.S. systems for future planning?

And then one other thing I want to ask, which is just I can see in this package that it's, you know, the next tranche of primers has been sent and the accompanying firepower. But earlier this week, we had and long-term planning discussion coming from the Pentagon earlier this week. Your former spokesman, John Kirby, was at the White House podium sounding a note of kind of increased alarm and urgency, talking about for the second time this idea of annexation happening and there being an urgency around that of having to do something and just kind of hoping you can kind of talk a bit about, you know, how does the long term planning fit in with --  in this next time period of you know, we've been warned about, you know, September being a time fix move on to change. So, is this? Why aren't we seeing, I guess, more in this window right now in terms of just the -- the frequency, the intensity of, and the urgency behind what's being sent? Sorry about tripling up on you there.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Thanks. If so, let me try to take your questions in turn. So, on Phoenix Ghost, I don't have a specific number for you because we're going to be really mindful of Ukrainian usage rates. And I can't -- I can't make a prediction in terms of exactly how they will be using them in terms of numbers of quantities at this time. On -- on pilot training, we do not have any -- any pilot training underway, and in terms of (inaudible) was a broader one. So, let me -- let me attempt to address it. I think we do feel a tremendous sense of urgency, alongside the Ukrainians and alongside our allies, regarding the both the battle in Donbas but also the fate of Karson and southern Ukraine. We want to ensure that we are continuing to support the Ukrainians in maintaining their access to the Black Sea. And we are very alarmed by Russian plans to potentially annex additional territory. So, there is very much a sense of urgency. And at the Ukraine defense contact group meeting, we were rallying the international community, which was very receptive to this message of needing to provide capabilities to the Ukrainians very soon to support them in -- in this window of the next few months. But your question about long-term planning, I also want to be clear that we're not only looking at the next few months, we are making preparations so that the Ukrainians will be able to sustain their equipment over time, they will be able to continue to operate over time. So, we're -- we're building in support, so that -- so that they can do this. And we're making preparations with our allies to ensure that we can also sustain our own defense industrial base. So, it is -- it is also a longer-term, sustainable effort.

Q:  This is a follow-up. Sorry, can I follow up with clarification? So, on the urgency question, I mean, does that mean we should expect like the next drawdown packages to maybe expand because of that urgency that's being felt? And, you know, I understand that contract group unit was just this week, but should we expect to see more than like four HIMARS next time? And on the pilot training, I was asking about plans for training pilots, not if there's anything currently underway; wondering if you can just talk about if there's any plans underway to do that.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I don't have any -- any information on any plans, specific plans on pilot training. And, you know, in terms of this question of urgency and the translation into capabilities, the way that we build our drawdown packages is really focused on, you know, specific needs for the specific battlefield situation. So, again, I can't -- I can't really forecast for you precisely what would be in the next packages, but I can definitely tell you that we will be very mindful to ensure that it is what the Ukrainians need, based on the situation on the ground.

STAFF:  Right. Thanks, Karoun. Nancy Youssef Wall Street Journal.

Q:  Thank you. Earlier today, the White House said that the Pentagon was exploring potentially providing fighter aircraft to the Ukrainians. Can you tell us more about what was happening at the Pentagon? What are you exploring, how, what kind of aircraft, and under what timeline? Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  So, I'll go back to the earlier points about how we're focused on what's happening on the battlefield today, how we can provide the Ukrainians now what they need in -- in Donbas and in southern Ukraine. And that, you know, has really been a focus on HIMARS on artillery, air defense, and other capabilities that you've seen.

STAFF:  Thanks, Nancy.

Q:  No, if I could just follow up, though, the White House said that the deal DoD is looking at fighter jets – it’s the first time we've heard of that kind of advanced technology. I just think the public deserves some kind of insight about what precisely is happening at the Pentagon; we've heard this from the White House, we have no details on what it is at the Pentagon. It is looking at about fighter jets. Specifically, that was the White House reference in terms of what DoD is doing.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  For the immediate fight, that is not something that we are looking at; we are certainly engaged in a larger discussion with the Ukrainians about their future force needs. And we are looking across the entire range of capabilities to include aviation capabilities for that set of Future Force needs. But that is not something that we're looking at to support on the battlefield today.

STAFF:  Thanks, Nancy. Liz, with Fox News.

Q:  Hey, thanks for taking my question. Back to the HIMARS. Earlier this week, Ukraine's defense minister says that Ukraine needs at least 100 HIMARS or MLRS. So, I'm wondering, what's the reason for -- for not sending more, and why the U.S. is specifically sending four of them at a time.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Yeah, Liz, I'll answer that one. First of all, I would say as an Army officer, I never had enough, right. I mean, every time I did something, I wanted to have some more. And I expect that that's a very similar situation in Ukraine. No doubt they, the Ukrainians in particular, let alone the Russians, are seeing the effect of the 12 HIMARS that we've had there. And if you just extrapolate numbers, you'd like to think that that would have an equal effect.

Now, that said, we spend a lot of time talking to Ukrainians about what they need, in particular, how that will be employed. And then, as you would expect, we do. We're trying to be responsible. You're, we also take a look at, you know, that we balance our readiness and the impact ours. That's not to say that we are at a point where we're concerned, but -- But right now, we've been asked for, you know, 16; you saw the last four proved here. And that's what we're providing to the Ukrainians.

Now one other point, it's important to note that we're not the only ones that are providing this type of capability. And so, there are other countries out there that are able to provide this. I'll leave that to them to talk to you about it. But -- But certainly, they will be the synergy of those effects. We'll be able to hit the battlefield here in short order.

Q:  Thanks. Thank you. Is the U.S. specifically waiting on other countries to send more before we, the U.S., would?

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  No, I don't think we're doing that, Liz. I think you know, again, you know, the Contact Group is a great example. This is this past week. I mean, there's, there's, as you all have seen, I mean, there's some pretty super unity across the world right now in terms of how we're trying to get after this fight. And so, everybody is offering up various, not everybody, certainly, but -- but a lot of people -- organizations and countries, most countries, not organizations, strike that, Liz. A lot of -- a lot of countries are providing effects to the Ukrainians, we just happen to be one of them. And we're certainly proud to be a part of that group of people who are doing so.

Q:  Thank you.

STAFF:  Liz, thank you. Hey, Rich Hall from The Independent.

Q:  Hey there, thanks so much. And you mentioned earlier at the HIMARS are not a silver bullet, but the Ukrainians seem very happy with them. Can you talk more about the potential long-term impact of the HIMARS? Are they useful for offensive as well as defensive operations?

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Yeah, Richard, good question. I mean, certainly, I mean, we, you know, if you are looking at our doctrine, we employ fires as strongly in the offense as we do in the defense. And I would expect that they'll do just that if when they choose to move into an offensive mode. Right now, they're having a really significant effect on the Russian's ability to prosecute operations across the AO, our area of operations. I would expect the Ukrainians are good. I mean, we've been talking about this for the past couple of weeks. This is a -- this is a really good collection of leaders and soldiers. And I have no doubt that they will apply this in the offensive as well as they have the defensive.

Q:  Alright, one more follow-up if I may. Is the U.S. able to talk about being able to talk about us, to help with targeting, and the is a U.S. helping to pick targets, okay targets, that sort of thing?

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  We don't pick the targets. I think everybody knows that you know, we are working on information with Ukrainians, we've got a great relationship with them. So, we don't pick the target. You know, and I'll just leave it at that.

STAFF:  Rich, thank you. John Ismay from New York Times?

Q:  Sure. My understanding is there's about 54 billion that's been authorized for by Congress to support Ukraine and 11 billion that was set aside for PDAs. And now we're, what 8.2 billion in? Does that mean? Can you give an idea of sort of clarify how much money may be left in that authorization for these PDAs? And then, I had a question about the Ukraine contact group.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Could you maybe skip to the Ukraine context group question, because we're, I want to make sure that, you know, I'm, I'm terrible at reciting the numbers of right off the bat. I just want to make sure I get the right number. So, could you -- could you offer that question?

Q:  Yeah, absolutely. No problem. So, with the Contact Group, I believe, Secretary Austin in General Milley the other day sort of indicated that there were there's an increased focus on, you know, relying on the Contact Group and what -- what those nations could offer. And I'm wondering, besides sustainment and training, you know, what does that mean, in concrete terms. And, you know, we're also hearing what the U.S. is providing. But you know, the -- the number of items provided by allies is a bit of a black hole. At the moment, I was wondering if you can offer some -- some more data?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Sure, I can give you -- give you a sense of some of the kinds of things. So, you know, you heard recently about the great success of the Ukrainians and pushing the Russians off of Snake Island, well, that was enabled by the harpoon system, which was initially provided by -- by an ally. And I have to let the country speak for themselves about what they're donating. But I can tell you that was initially an ally donation. And then, the United States is coming in to follow with additional harpoon systems, and then multiple countries around the world are providing harpoon missiles. So, that's an example of a concrete capability where the U.S. is actually following on the heels of an ally and partnering with them. So, you know, definitely a lot of, you know, concrete contributions in terms of capability. We've talked about the HIMARS; there's other MLRS capabilities, the Allies, and donations of howitzers have been tremendous.

But what's interesting now is there's actually a lot of creativity, I think, in how we can support the sustainment of these capabilities. So, you see collaboration among allies on how we can help the Ukrainians repair equipment inside of Ukraine, both through, you know, parts, certainly spare parts packages, but also through kind of distance coaching, also how we can bring equipment out and repair it through collaborative efforts with multiple countries. So, I think that you know, you're seeing a lot of interest in not just making sure they get the capability and then in the first place, but also that we can sustain it. And I really have to give a shout out to the U.K. and their collaboration with our team at you calm, because they have this coordination sell there that really looks at how they can bring countries together in terms of the capability provision, but also that maintenance and sustainment piece...

Q:  Right. We don't know -- we don't know how many. There's more than 50 countries in the group. But we don't know, the names of you say we should go to those countries. I'd love to, depending on hasn't said, given a comprehensive list of, you know, that those countries; I think the last list had 43 countries, and now we're more than 50. And we haven't gotten an updated list.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Okay, I can look at -- look at a list. You know, I think, but if you have that initial 42, that is a great place to start. And there's a lot of contributions that have come from -- from those countries. So, I think I'll shift back to your -- to your earlier question. I think your question, but I hope I'm remembering this correctly, was about the kind of the presidential drawdown authorized in the supplemental. And, you know, we spent over 5 billion we have about 6 billion left is that Was that your question?

Q:  So, you have 6 billion left for PDAs under the current authorization? Yes. Okay. And that you think you could potentially get that refreshed or more added once that's expended?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well, I can't speak to, you know, the next -- the next cycle of our, you know, budget after -- after this supplemental. But I can't say that I've been, you know, tremendously pleased with how -- how much support we've received from the U.S. Congress. And, you know, I would foresee that we -- we will continue to have resourcing to support the -- the Ukrainians.

Q:  Okay, thank you.

STAFF:  Thanks, John. Mike Stone from Reuters.

Q:  Thank you. On just to clarify, the harpoon systems from the U.S., the Danes were the first ones to send that wheeled one in; how many systems are coming from the U.S.? And are those getting taken off of ships? So, that's the first one just to clarify that earlier point. My real question is, General Milley said yesterday, (or the day before) three months of HIMARS left and stocks, when are you going to have to go to the defense industrial base and put HIMARS rounds on contract?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Okay, so in terms of harpoons, from the last us AI package, we went out to procure two additional systems. And but it's important to distinguish the systems from the missiles. We're obtaining missiles from a number of donors around the world, and I don't have a ready count of missile donations to date. But it's -- it's a -- it's a package deal. And your last question on -- on HIMARS, which was kind of about just kind of forecasting the future of our expenditures, is that right?

Q:  Well, he said, we got 1-2-3 months of use under current expenditure rates from the podium, and that, the other way to look at that is there's only three months left of donations to give, right? So, I just want to try and get clarity on -- on, if that's the case, and if you need to go and put Hindmarsh rounds on contract.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  That -- that -- that figure that you cite is not one that I'm familiar with. That does not sound accurate.

STAFF:  Mike, let us take that question. Because that's -- that's not -- that's not registering with any of us around the table. So, we'll get back to you on that.

Q:  Copy.

STAFF:  All right. So, yeah, thanks. Val Insinna from Breaking Defense.

Q:  Yeah, thank you so much for taking my question. I'm going to take a swing on a couple more ghost Phoenix ones that you'll probably not be able to answer. Just because this is such a major step up from the 100 or so drones that Ukraine got, you know, a month or so ago. Can you talk about, you know, what type of feedback that you've been getting from the Ukrainian military on those? And this -- this contract? Is this all going to be with that original manufacturer, AEVEX Aerospace? Are you guys going to be getting other companies involved just because they're kind of a small shop and, you know, going from, you know, producing 100, you know, odd drones to now producing almost 600? It's quite a -- it's quite a big leap there.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Okay, so all that I can tell you is we've received tremendous positive feedback from the Ukrainians. Obviously, when we initially provided the capability, you know, we had to see how they would, how they would be able to, you know, make use of it. And now, we have a lot of confidence based on their feedback. So, that -- that is why we're investing in, you know, another procurement. You know, at this -- at this level, I'm not going to seek to specifics of, you know, the details of production.

STAFF:  All right, thanks, Valerie. Let's see here. Joe Gould from Defense News.

Q:  All right, thanks so much for taking my question. We've heard a couple of times now; Chairman Milley yesterday said again on this call that the Russians haven't been able to destroy any HIMARS provided to Ukraine. One can we get some insight into why, you know, we've heard generally that the Ukrainians have used these effectively, but why haven't the Russians been able to hit them? And then also, has Russia been able to use its own equipment to intercept HIMARS projectiles? And if not, why not? Thanks.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  So, Joe, all good questions. First of all, I got to tell you; I think this speaks to the -- to the exceptional abilities of the Ukrainians; I mean, you've got, you've got something out there that is inflicting a level of damage on the Russians that we know that they're having a hard time sustaining. And so, you know, that they're probably the most haunted things in all of Ukraine. And -- and again, the ability for these men and women to shoot, move, and stay alive is just exceptional. And so, I would say it's good, I think because their technical expertise is, would be my answer to you. In terms of the interception of HIMARS, we do have indications that they would like to intercept the HIMARS. You know, given the use of them now over a month, I'm sure they're there a couple of rounds that they were probably successful and intercepting. But if you look at the level of damage that the Ukrainians are inflicting on the Russians, they clearly are not intercepting very many. And so, I'll just leave it at that, no doubt they're going to continue to try. And, you know, it's really something to watch -- to watch these men and women from the Ukrainian side.

Q:  But is it the quality of the HIMARS that are like -- like that they're -- that they're mobile? Is there some -- is there something there in the -- in the equipment, aside from the, you know, the talent of the Ukrainians and using them?

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Well, I would love to tell you that they can, you know, like Star Trek being themselves around the battlefield, but they can't. Again, I think it just comes down to the expertise. The Ukrainians understand the ground, they understand how to employ them, they understand the places they can move them to, and they know how they can inflict the greatest level of damage against the Russians. And that's what we're seeing. And again, I've said these multiple weeks, I think, you know, our army is going to take a number of lessons from the Ukrainians. And certainly, we are seeing their employment of fires is one of those. And so, I'll leave it at that.

STAFF:  Thanks, Joe. Dan Lamothe, Washington Post.

Q:  Hey, thank you. We heard from a senior U.S. defense official yesterday that there's about 100 high-value targets that Ukraine has taken out on the Russian side. And that, assumingly, that would cause some chaos in the Russian system. Can you flesh that out a bit in terms of what you're seeing in terms of how the Russians have to adjust whether they need to jump their command posts more frequently? And I guess how this fits into a bigger picture if the Ukrainians are launching a counter-offensive?

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Yeah, sure, Dan. The first of all, we are seeing indications that the Russians are trying to adjust for the effect that the HIMARS are having on them. As I mentioned before, and as we've talked about before, that, you know, the Ukrainians have concentrated a great deal of effort on the Russian command and control their logistics supply areas, to include all sorts of classes of supply in particular ammunition. And so, as a result, you know, the Russians are attempting to mitigate those effects, through a number of means, camouflage movement, changing locations. And I, you know, I mean, I couldn't tell you what level of effect you're having. But it doesn't seem to be that good. You know that. And again, if you look at the mean, the real effect that I think the Ukrainians are having is when they hit these ammunition supply locations, as an example, or command and control, they may be well behind the Ford Edge of the battle. But the Ford Edge of the battle can't do anything. You know, we know from the way that the Russians fight that they need someone to tell them what to do. And when you are able to kill the people that tell him what to do, you're able to stop those -- those -- those folks from moving forward. And we continue to see that. So, I think their effect is -- is getting better and better.

STAFF:  Thanks, Dan. Mike Glenn.

Q:  Thanks a lot. My questions have already been asked. So, I'll just go ahead and -- you can go on to the next one.

STAFF:  You have -- oh, wow. Thank you. All right, Tom Squitieri.

Q:  Thank you. Good afternoon. Earlier this week, Ukrainian officials were talking about launching a counter-offensive into the Crimea. Are they ready to do that now? And if not now, when would they be ready? Thanks.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  I'll leave that up to the Ukrainians. Yeah, I'm not going to comment on -- on what they plan to do in the future.

Q:  I didn't. I didn't ask you to comment on what they plan to do, sir. I asked you are they capable from your military perspective?

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Listen, we've been -- we've been talking about Ukrainian since, you know, February 23rd-24th. And in a lot of cases, a bunch of us -- and that's everyone, in some cases, underestimated the capabilities of Ukrainians. So, I would -- I would not hazard a guess is what they are capable or not capable of at this point other than to tell you, as I said at the beginning, I think their will speaks a great deal for what they want to do. And when they set their mind to it, they seem to do it.

Q:  Thanks for lot appreciate that.


STAFF:  Hi, Heather, you there?

Q:  I am. I was wondering if you can speak to the -- I know you give a maritime update, but I was wondering if you could speak to any assistance that will be arriving to help protect against those ships with -- and if we've seen any more evidence of caliber cruise missiles being used by the Russians.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Heather, can you repeat that first part? Do you mind?

Q:  Yeah, absolutely. I was wondering if you can say if we're providing any more assistance to help protect against the ships that we're now seeing in the Black Sea like harpoons.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I think the focus right now on the in terms of the coastal defense is on bolstering the harpoon system. And so, there we -- as I, as I mentioned earlier, we are working with a number of donors who are providing additional missiles; we want to make sure that Ukraine has efficient systems, but also missiles to be able to protect their coastline, especially the port of Odesa.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  And Heather, the second question, I think, is, have we seen evidence of firing of calibers this week? So, it was a second question.

Q:  Yes, please.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  You know, that's -- I don't know. I'm not sure if we have or not the last -- the last caliber I know was fired that I'm tracking was the one that killed 22 civilians last week.

STAFF:  Thanks, Heather. And our last question, we'll go to Caitlin with Stars and Stripes.

Q:  Hey, thanks so much. Hey, I understand what John Kirby mentioned about the DoD exploring the fighter jet capability would be for the future fight. But can you tell us what has changed since March when the Pentagon said transferring such jets to Ukraine could be considered escalatory or is this still a concern?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  So, I think right now is really our first opportunity to have this -- this holistic look at Future Force requirements for Ukraine. So, at this point, we are still focused on the current fight. That is our primary focus. But we are devoting the time, attention, and ultimately, the resources to look at that -- that Future Force capability as well. And so, -- so that's just the stage that we're at -- at this point in time.