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Senior Defense Official Holds a Background Briefing

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It's a pleasure to be here with you all again. Today, I would like to focus my introductory comments on security assistance to Ukraine. We have another major security assistance package that we are about to unveil, and this continues our tradition of providing the Ukrainians what they need when they need it on the basis of very strong and robust dialogue between our military and theirs.

So this package that we will soon announce will be valued at up to $775 million, and this does come on the heels of our August 8th package that was $1 billion. This is a presidential drawdown package, and is the 19th presidential drawdown package since August of 2021.

So I'm going to walk through each of the capabilities. There are actually a number of different capabilities in this, many of which we have provided before, but I'll go through them each in turn.

So the first kind of bucket of capabilities that I'll cover relate to artillery, obviously a critical area of need. So first, we are providing additional ammunition for the HIMARS system. That's the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. We have been seeing Ukraine employing HIMARS masterfully on the battlefield. This long-range fire capability has changed -- really changed the dynamic on the battlefield. So we want to make sure that Ukraine has a steady stream of ammunition to meet its needs, and that's what we're doing with this package.

The second item in the -- what I would call the artillery bucket, is 16 howitzers. Now, these are the 105 mm howitzers, and then 36,000 105 mm artillery rounds to go with these howitzers. And this particular capability, it complements a capability that was previously provided by the United Kingdom. The U.K. provided 105 mm artillery systems, and we had previously provided accompanying artillery rounds. So this is an increase in artillery rounds, and also some of these systems. We've seen that the Ukrainians have been able to make great use of this on the battlefield, in combination with the previous artillery systems that we provided them, giving them a layered effect with this capability.

And then the third item, I'm putting this in the artillery bucket because it will assist the Ukrainians in their targeting. But this is an unmanned aerial vehicle, so (inaudible) will provide 15 ScanEagle systems. So this will give Ukraine additional ISR to conduct better reconnaissance around the front lines.

Now, the second sort of bucket that I'll identify for our -- this security assistance package relates to mine clearing. We know that Russia has heavily mined areas in parts of southern and eastern Ukraine. We know there's a significant amount of unexploded ordnance, so we will be providing mine-clearing equipment and systems, and we will also be providing for the first time 40 MaxxPro MRAPs, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles with mine rollers. So this is going to give the Ukrainians a resilient capability for transporting troops in this challenging terrain.

The next area to identify for this package: missiles and anti-armor. This is a few different things here. First, we are providing additional High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles. These are the HARM missiles. Ukraine has successfully employed these missiles. They have successfully integrated them onto Ukrainian aircraft, and this enables Ukraine to seek and destroy Russian radars, so we'll be providing additional HARM missiles.

The second in this kind of missile category is for the land domain, we're providing TOW missiles, so 1,500 TOW missiles. This stands for Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-Guided missiles, and here, you're very familiar with Russia's heavy use of armor. And so there is this ongoing need for anti-armor capability, and this is just another one of these capabilities.

Now, in addition to this, we are going back to a system that I know you're all very familiar with and the Ukrainians have made a terrific use of, especially in the early days of the conflict -- this is the Javelin system. So we will be providing 1,000 additional Javelin anti-armor systems. And we see this as a continuing aspect of Ukrainian success.

And then last in this category, we're providing 2,000 anti-armor rounds. Now, these are just the rounds because the Ukrainians have a number of existing anti-armor and anti-personnel weapons systems. Many of them were provided by allies and partners. One example is the Carl Gustaf system. So we're providing these rounds to complement those existing systems.

We are also, in the category of mobility, providing Humvees. In this package, we'll have an additional 50 armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, or HMMMVs. We've already provided hundreds of these and the Ukrainians have been using them and actually also are very capable in sustaining them and maintaining them.

And then I'm just going to quickly run through -- in every package, we have a number of other smaller items. In this package, it includes tactical secure communications systems, demolition munitions, night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, optics and laser range finders.

So in summary, the United States has committed approximately $10.6 billion in security assistance since the beginning of the Biden administration, and since 2014, more than $12.6 billion in security assistance. And this isn't the end, we will continue to consult with the Ukrainians to make sure that we are providing them what they need, when they need it.

So I am more than happy to take your questions.

STAFF: Ma'am, thanks very much. We'll open the questioning with Lita Baldor from the AP. Lita?

Q: Hi, thank you. Just more broadly, the Brits have been sort of saying that the operation as a whole, the war as a whole is at sort of a near standstill and neither side is launching major offensives right now. Can you talk a little bit about this as sort of the -- nearly the six month mark in the war and where you think things stand at this point and what this package of weapons hopes to do as you look to the future, in terms of providing the Ukrainians something that will allow them to continue this war as it moves on into the next months and year?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Great, thank you. I appreciate that question. Right now, I would say that you are seeing a complete and total lack of progress by the Russians on the battlefield. So in that sense, we are at a different phase than we -- where we were even a couple of months ago. 

You're seeing the Russians still paying, you know, a high price with Ukrainian attacks, especially using that HIMARS system that I referred to earlier, but they are incurring these costs and not able to advance. So as we look at the Ukrainian capability needs, it's very important for us to be able to both sustain the successes that we've seen from the Ukrainians on the battlefield so far -- I talked about how, in this package, we're providing additional Javelins. That's been a capability that we've been providing since the very start and since before the invasion, in fact -- but we're also looking at those new capabilities that will enable them to be successful in the changing battlefield, not just in the east but also in the south, and that's where the mine clearing comes into play.

STAFF: Thanks, Lita. Next, we'll go to Luis Martinez from ABC. Over to you.

Q: Hi, thanks again for doing this. When you talked about those rounds that the Ukrainians already have, these anti-armor rounds, is there a specific type that the U.S. is giving them? And is there any hesitation about that?

And just switching to those attacks in the -- Crimea, any guidance as to whether those are actually acts of sabotage, as has been claimed, or whether they're the result of missile fire? And is Crimea considered to be Russian territory for those restrictions that you've placed on the HIMARS? Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Terrific. So I'll start with the technical question. On the anti-armor rounds, I don't have a name for you but these are for Carl Gustaf systems, Carl Gustaf rifles, so I hope that -- I hope that is helpful in specificity.

And then when -- you know, of course it is absolutely U.S. policy that Crimea is Ukraine. So I want to be clear on that matter. And at the same time, of course we are providing Ukraine with support capability -- you mentioned the HIMARS systems -- but also intelligence so that they can defend themselves on the territory of Ukraine.

STAFF: Thanks. Next, we'll go to Felicia Schwartz of the Financial Times.

Q: Thanks so much for doing this and for taking my question. Ukrainian officials have told us that they feel U.S. weaponry is not reaching them fast enough to launch a major counter-offensive. I wonder what your response to that is? And then also, if you might describe how fast the HIMAR ammo, for example, is getting to them? Is that still the, like, 24 to 48 hour timeframe from when the drawdown happens that we heard about in the past?

And then on Crimea, the parts of Crimea that we're seeing explosions, HIMARS are out of range. So I was wondering if you might be able to say any more about what you think is happening there?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: OK, so in terms of the delivery timelines (inaudible) proud of how rapidly we have been able to provide capability to the Ukrainians, and it has only increased in rapidity since the early days of our security assistance surge.

We have already delivered -- with specific respect to the HIMARS, we have already accounted for delivery of all of the -- what we call the GMLRS, the Guided Multiple Rocket Launch System munitions from the Presidential Drawdown 17 and 18, the last two. 

And so now with GMLRS, we're in a mode where we are going to be providing these additional tranches of GMLRS in a very sustainable fashion, in a very predictable fashion for the Ukrainians so that they have exactly what they need to continue to use the HIMARS system. So this will be a recurrent effort, where we'll continue to deliver GMLRS regularly over time.

And in terms of the specifics of exactly what's happening on the ground in Crimea, I do not have any really specific details on that to offer.

STAFF: Thanks. Next, we'll go to Oren Liebermann of CNN. 

Q: Two questions here. First, I was wondering if you could just tell us your perspective on how you see the threats and the possibilities of what might happen at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Plant. I know there's a lot of both Russian and Ukrainian I.O. around that. But do you see something imminent happening there, some operation by -- on the part of the Russians? If you could just give us any perspective on that.

And then I was curious, just to come back to the HARMS, is there any background you can provide? Because it -- it's an American missile on essentially a Soviet-era fighter. How and when was that -- was the integration of that done? And what Ukrainian platforms are able to use the HARM?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Terrific. So first on the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Plant, this is a situation that the U.S. government across the board and the national security community is watching very, very closely. We are very concerned about military option -- military operations, rather, at or near any of Ukraine's nuclear power facilities, and you know, very concerned about any reports of damage to specifically Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Plant's power lines. We've been very clear that fighting near a nuclear power plant is dangerous, is responsible, and we want the fighters and Russia to operate with extreme caution and conduct no actions that would result in a potential radiological release.

I think, you know, all of us have seen how Russia has shown complete disregard for the security of Ukraine's nuclear power facilities. You know, we've seen Russia showing a willingness to fire on a nuclear power plant in the past, and so we see Russia's current actions in and around this plant as really the height of irresponsibility, especially when you consider the responsibilities that come with being a nuclear power. So we have been very clear with Russia, that we expect Russia to return full control of this plant, to comply with the request by the IAEA, to comply with its technical safeguards, and provide access to the plant. 

And I think the last thing I'll say on this plant is I think we all have to think about the heroism of these Ukrainian nuclear plant workers who have been operating under such dire circumstances in the face of this Russian atrocity.

So next, your question on HARMS. This is more of a technical question. The aircraft that the Ukrainians have integrated -- and you're right, this is a Western-produced missile. The aircraft that they have integrated it with is their MiG aircraft. They're -- they have actually successfully integrated it as something that we determined would be technically-feasible, and based on that feasibility determination, we provided them with this capability. So this is actually the second tranche of HARMS that we're providing.

STAFF: Thanks. Next, we'll go to Tom Bowman from NPR. Tom?

Q: Yeah, thanks. You mentioned that there's a lack of progress by the Russians. What about with Ukraine? Are they making any progress retaking territory, or are they just at a strong defensive mode? And also with the military equipment, what's the status of the NASAMS, the air defense systems? They were supposed to get two. And an update on the Phoenix Ghost. You folks said earlier hundreds would start moving out in August. What's the status on that? And then finally -- we never really got a good explanation about why you're not providing ATACMS, the longer-range missiles. The Ukrainians have already pledged not to fire the HIMARS into Russian territory, so why can't you provide them with the ATACMS?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, thanks, Tom. That's -- a lot of different pieces here. So first, just specifically on the NASAMS delivery, we're expecting that to be within the next two to three months. And on Phoenix Ghost, the concept here is for a rolling delivery, so we will be delivering starting, you know, later this month, but moving forward, we are able to replenish their supplies and ensure that they have sufficient Phoenix Ghosts on hand on a regular basis. So they have not ever reached the point where they have a gap in that capability.

And then I think your last question in terms of ATACMS, -- if I covered all your questions accurately, right now we see that the Ukrainians are able to successfully target Russian key capabilities, key command-and-control nodes, logistic nodes, and they're doing that with the existing GMLRS, with the existing HIMARS. So to your related question about, you know, are -- is there progress, we actually are seeing the Ukrainians on a daily basis successfully weakening the Russian forces as they're deployed throughout (inaudible), so in the east. 

Q: Yeah, but they're -- are they retaking territory, or just, again, more defensive and hitting the Russians behind their lines?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We haven't seen a significant retake of territory, but we do see a significant weakening of Russian positions in a variety of locations.

Q: Great, thank you.

STAFF: Thanks, Tom. Next, we'll go to Eric Schmitt of the New York Times. Eric?

Q: Thank you. I wanted to come back to Crimea, to -- there've been some -- on social media in the last couple days, some assessments about the impact that these explosions have had on the Black Sea aviation fleet for Russia. Can you give us any kind of assessment as to what kind of damage the air combat power of Russia in Crimea has suffered at this point? 

And then on HIMARS, I wanted to come back to this again, because if they're so successful and they're having such an effect, why not increase the number of HIMAR Systems in this pipeline that you have now and increase the sustainment capability of the GMLRS? Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thanks. Eric, I do not have an overall assessment for you of, you know, the total impact of the recent attacks, I think especially this -- the airfield in Crimea. But you know, certainly, we are seeing this overarching picture of Russian forces being much more vulnerable than they thought they were, and we are seeing movements of Russian forces as a result to try to protect their capabilities. 

And in terms of the HIMARS, it is important to note, it's not just the U.S. HIMARS. So the -- U.S. HIMARS, the -- 16 that we have provided are operating in conjunction with Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, MLRS systems provided from the UK and also from Germany. 

And what we are seeing the Ukrainians able to do is -- you know, is spread these capabilities out in a very effective way and, you know, concentrate these precision strikes on exactly the right Russian positions -- Russian command and control nodes, Russian logistics nodes -- to achieve a useful effect.

But, you know, we're always looking -- we're always looking at what Ukraine needs, we're always looking at whether -- there is a new capability or an additional capability that we need to provide them. So I wouldn't take our -- you know, our current security assistance posture as static in any way.

STAFF: Thanks, Eric. Next, we'll go to Tara Copp of Defense One. Tara?

Q: Hi, thanks for doing this. I have a question about the HARM missiles. Is -- and it -- forgive me if I missed one of the SDO briefings -- but is this the first time that the U.S. has said that -- admitted that they're providing HARM missiles? And if it is, why weren't they announced earlier?

And then secondly, have there been any additional conversations or considerations about sending fighter jets to Ukraine? Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Great. So on the HARMs, when we first announced the initial provision of HARM missiles, the way that we characterized it in the announcement was not specific. We described that we were providing a counter-radar capability.

But we have spoken to it publicly. I think Dr. Kahl is the most recent -- Dr. Colin Kahl recently did reference it in a briefing here at the Pentagon. We do want to be careful about how we talk publicly about capabilities that will give Ukraine a significant asymmetric and unexpected advantage. In this case, we have seen them using it successfully, so we are more comfortable discussing it, but we are not disclosing the specific numbers of missiles.

And then on your second question on fighters, this is something where we certainly are looking at the Ukrainian Armed Forces' needs in every domain in the -- in the current and in the future. In the current, our focus has been on capabilities that we can get them quickly, that they can use in the current fight in now east and south Ukraine. 

So in terms of aviation, we've focused on how we can enhance their existing aircraft fleet. That's where the HARM missiles come into play, giving that -- them that additional advantage. We've also sourced from around the world, you know, thousands of spare parts for their MiGs.

But in the future, we're also looking at other capabilities that we -- that we might be able to provide them and we're doing work now on what the future of the Ukrainian Armed Forces will look like and considering all possibilities.

Q: OK. Just one more -- just one more, if I may. You know, this was -- this announcement is just a week after, you know, a $1 billion announcement. How are you tracking how much of each of these tranches has actually been sent to Ukraine, you can say you've completed this tranche of $775 billion. How do you get a sense of that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We have very, very detailed accountability measures to ensure that we are tracking from the moment that we have authorization to provide a capability, we -- from the moment that we move that capability via U.S. Transportation Command to its destination, to go across the border to Ukraine, and then working with the Ukrainians, we also have information about how they are deploying these capabilities, how they are using them, and how they are, you know, consuming the capabilities that they need replenishment for.

So very, very detailed tracking by my military colleagues, both here at the Pentagon, also at U.S. European Command, and now also with our Defense Attache Office that is reestablished in Kyiv, Ukraine.

STAFF: Thanks, Tara. Next, we'll go to Alex Horton of the Washington Post. Alex?

Q: Hey, thanks for that. First question is on the -- you know, the ScanEagle. Is this the first time you guys provided that and is there any consideration for sending armed drones, as well, you know, this kind of larger platform?

And secondly, when it comes to the mine clearing in the south, is that, you know, a piece of evidence that you guys are looking to support a larger offensive so they can take more territory? And if so, what are the other capabilities that they have asked for to be more offensive-minded rather than defensive?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: OK, on ScanEagle, this is the first time that the United States is providing this capability but there is another ally that is also providing it. I don't have the specifics on whether it has actually been fielded yet from that ally but we are in partnership with that country, providing this capability.

And in terms of, you know, the kind of -- the range of capabilities that we're providing, the mine clearing is a really good example of how the Ukrainians will need this sort of capability to be able to push their forces forward and retake territory.

But I -- you know, the host of capabilities we're providing all reflect specific requests from the Ukrainians, specific operational needs that they have today and in the coming weeks, and our packages are built with that in mind.

STAFF: Thanks, Alex. Next, Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg. Tony?

Q: Hi, thank you for doing this. I wanted to follow up on that question. Is it fair to say that this package could better position the Ukrainian forces to launch a counter-offensive? You've got the Humvees, you've got the MRAPs, and you've got these Carl Gustaf recoilless rifles for infantry. These seem like offensive-minded weapons.

Then I had a follow up.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I would absolutely say that these are capabilities that are enhancing the Ukrainians' mobility as they look at this very challenging environment in southern Ukraine, in particular.

Q: OK. NASAMS, a quick question there -- will they be coming from existing U.S. stocks around the National Capital Region or is Raytheon going to go on -- be on -- put on contract to actually make two of these things from scratch?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: So this is -- it's under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, so it is not a drawdown from U.S. stocks, it is a procurement from industry.

Q: OK. One final question, then, to on ScanEagle -- is the concept of operation there to help use ScanEagle to cue HIMARS GPS coordinates and Excalibur round coordinates more effectively? Is that part of the minuet or concept of operations of the -- for you bringing this drone is to help the more precise weapons?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I would say in general, ScanEagle will enable the targeting of the whole host of artillery capabilities that Ukraine has available.

Q: OK, do they have the Excalibur? Are they using that periodically?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't have specifics on those use rates in front of me.

Q: Thank you.

STAFF: Thanks, Tony. We'll go next to Jeff Seldin of VOA. Jeff.

Q: Thanks very much for doing this. There have been some reports that the Wagner Group has been managing to grow and increase its force strength in Ukraine. What are you seeing from the Wagner Group and is the Wagner Group and its forces, are they facing the same moralE issues that have plague the regular Russian forces?

Also, early this week, Victor Zhora with Ukraine's SSSCIP said that Ukraine is not conducting any offensive cyber operations against Russia but that independent cyber actors who are trying to support Ukraine are. Does the Pentagon agree with that assessment? And how worrisome or dangerous is it that some key cyber operations apparently are being carried out with any real oversight from the Ukrainian military? Is there a chance that some way that could by announcing the actor could alter or enlarge the scope of the conflict?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: OK, so on the Wagner question, yes, we do see Wagner having a presence in Ukraine and conducting operations as part of the Russian military's overall operational effort. 

I think that with Wagner, obviously what you see as Russia paying more and more to obtain the human capital it needs for this operation. Russia is resorting increasingly to Wagner as it finds its own regular forces have been depleted, and as you suggest, suffering very low morale. 

So Wagner is in part a numbers game and another tool in Russia's tool kit. But I would (inaudible) it a tool that also has its limitations. And of course based on Wagner's track record, what we have seen of Wagner elsewhere in the world in the Middle East and Africa, we know the lawlessness with which they tackle their operations. So this is also a concerning trend in that regard. 

I don't have anything specific for you on your question about non-state cyber actors. It's not something that I have information on. 

STAFF: Thanks, Jeff. Next we'll go to Agence France-Presse, Sylvie, over to you.

Q: Hello. Thank you. You said that you didn't see any significant retake of territory by the Ukrainians. Does it mean that they wait for launching their counter offensive to -- because they need more time for training? Can you give us some details on the training?  How many fighters were trained by the U.S. so far? And it is going as fast as you want?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thanks. So in terms of the timing of Ukraine's operations, I really would have to defer to the Ukrainian government on that for them to speak to their own operational timelines. 

On training, I can say that we have a number of training efforts underway and they have different purposes and different timelines. The U.S. has been particularly engaged with a number of allies in ensuring that the Ukrainian armed forces are well trained on the equipment that is being provided to them. And so we have training programs in a number of different countries in that regard.

The U.K. has recently launched a training initiative to be able to provide a broader array of more basic training to new recruits. And I think what you're seeing is the NATO countries, in particular, but our partner countries surging to make sure that Ukraine will not just have training that they need today but will have sustainable training programs so that they continue to refresh their force and send them back into the field.

Q: Thank you.

STAFF: Thanks, Sylvie. We'll go next to Paul McLeary of Politico. Paul.

Q: Thank you. As far as that training goes. As you said, several European countries have pledged to train Ukrainian infantry and other things. Is the United States focused on training on like MRAPs and ScanEagles, things like that? Can you provide a little bit more detail to characterize what the United States is doing in training the Ukrainians?

And secondly, quickly on the Excalibur that Tony asked, are there any of those in this package or are these only 105 millimeter rounds in this package?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thanks, I'll take the last one first because it's easy. This is just 105 millimeter rounds plus also GMLRS for the HIMARS in this particular package. 

And in terms of training, I just want to slightly adjust your wording at the beginning because you mentioned that several countries have pledged training. I just want to be clear, there are many countries that are actually conducting training as we speak and have been for weeks and in some cases months. 

So this is a real current commitment not just by the United States but by a number of other countries. 

And then to clarify how we approach training, before we even select a particular capability to provide to the Ukrainians we assess what the training requirements would be if it is a new capability. And European Command actually develops and runs training for any new capability that we're providing. So that would include UASs, vehicles, everything. Because we want to make sure that the Ukrainians can be proficient from the moment they receive this equipment.

STAFF: Thanks, Paul. Next we'll go to Stars and Stripes. Caitlin, are you with us?

Q: Yes, I am. Thank you. Hey, could I just have you -- I just want to make sure I have exactly what is new in this package that has not been sent before. I'm tracking the ScanEagles, the MRAPS, the tow anti-tank systems and the anti-radiation missiles, the HARM missiles are those all new?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The HARM missiles are not new. We have provided HARM missiles in one previous package. And I think you did not mention the 105 millimeter Howitzers, I'm not sure if you mentioned. Let me just go through my list, I might not have totally caught what you said because I was looking at my list quickly; 105 millimeter Howitzers are new. 

We previously provided rounds to support another ally's donation of these systems, but this is our first howitzer donation at 105 mm. ScanEagle is new. The MRAPS are new. The TOW missiles are new, and these anti-armor rounds that I described, the 2,000 anti-armor rounds that are for use with the Carl Gustafs, this is the first time we've provided that.

Q: Thank you, and that 105 mm howitzer, is that the M119?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'll have to take that -- I'm not -- I'll take that back.

Q: Thank you.

STAFF: OK, Caitlin, we'll get that info for you. Thanks.

Next, we'll go to Al Jazeera. Fadi, are you with us?

Q: Hi. I am with you. Thank you for doing this. So I have two questions. The first one is are you seeing any indications that because of this resistance by Ukraine, because of taking the fight to Russia, that the Kremlin is maybe considering to delay any potential referendum to annex parts of Ukraine, whether in the south or in the east? And I have a second question. Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thanks. I don't have any indications along those lines.

Q: OK. And then you -- I think you -- I believe you said that the war entered a new phase. You've talked how the Russians are unable to make any progress. You talked about the HIMARS making -- changing the dynamics of the battlefield. I mean, however, we've been hearing from various Pentagon officials for a while now, long while, that the Russians are stalled. They're not making progress. So I was wondering -- and the Ukrainians, on the other hand, you said they're not taking back any major territories. So I was wondering how the HIMARS actually are changing the dynamics, if the Russian have been stalled for a while and the Ukrainians aren't making any progress, real progress on the field. So what is the change here? Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thanks. I think I'd look at a couple of things here. First, you really have to look at Russia's original war objectives and how sweeping those war objectives were, and how little Russia has been able to achieve in terms of those original objectives, when you look at the overall progress of this war since the February 24th invasion. And second, you have to look at not just inches of territory and whether inches of territory have moved in the past, say, few weeks, but rather, what kinds of capabilities are being degraded, what kinds of positions are being destroyed. And that's where the HIMARS have been exceptionally successful. So you're seeing this hollowing out of the Russian forces in Ukraine, but with implications for their longer-term sustainability.

STAFF: Thanks, Fadi. And next, we'll go to Howard Altman of War Zone. Howard?

Q: Yeah, thanks a lot. I appreciate it. I have a couple of questions. First, are you seeing any of the weapons that were left behind in Afghanistan, you know, the aircraft, the aviation assets that were flown out by the Afghan Air Force or any of the $7 billion of stuff that was left behind in Afghanistan, is any of that making its way into the battlefield in Ukraine? And then I have another question.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'm not familiar with any instances of that equipment transfer.

Q: Do you have any concern about that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No. I'm -- I'm not sure I fully understand your question. 

Q: Do you anticipate that any of those weapons, say, the aviation assets that might come to Ukraine forces or any of the equipment that was left behind in Afghanistan that might go to Russia, is there any concern that that might happen?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, I'm not concerned about that.

Q: And then the other -- can you give an assessment of the Afghan -- the Ukrainian Air Force right now, their capabilities and the number of sorties they're flying, given that they've been resupplying with spare parts and whatnot?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thanks. I don't have specific sortie numbers for you, but what I can say is the Ukrainians make exceptional use of the resources that they have, and we have been really pleased to see how well they can incorporate spare parts, sustain their equipment, use their highly-effective pilots, and now, integrate U.S. HARM missiles into their aircraft to defeat Russian radars.

STAFF: Thanks, Howard. And folks, I think we can get a couple more in if we move really quickly, so I'll go to Jeff Schogol next from Task & Purpose. Jeff?

Q: Thank you. Do you have any indications that the Ukrainians have used American weapons to attack targets in Belarus?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't have any information on the attacks in Belarus.

Q: And is the USS Harry S. Truman staying in the area a little bit longer to kind of deter Russia?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't have any information on our force posture.

STAFF: Jeff, we can take the question about the Truman and -- and get back to you -- check with our Joint Staff colleagues and get back to you on that.

Q: Thanks.

STAFF: Last, we'll go to USNI and Heather. Heather, over to you.

Q: Great. If I can also get that information on the Truman, that's be great.

STAFF: Yeah.

Q: But I also want to get -- for the -- the mines that -- or the mine-clearing equipment, is that just for land mines, or would that be used for the Black Sea area?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, this is for land use.

Q: OK, if I can quickly follow up, have you seen any indications that mines have been left -- cleared out completely from the Black Sea, or anything -- update on those mines, given the ability for grain to be coming out of Odesa and those other ports?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thanks. We have been encouraged that there is this movement of grain outside of Ukraine, but I don't have a specific, you know, mine clearing update for you.

STAFF: Yeah, and Heather, this is (staff) again. We can take that one, as well, for the record, and try to get you some additional detail if we can.

And folks, I think that's all the time that we have got today. We're going to need to get our senior defense official off to the rest of her day. Thanks very much for joining us. I know we owe you, some of you some specific info, and we'll get back to you as quickly as we can on that. Thanks very much.

Q: Thank you so much.