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Senior Defense Official and Senior Military Official Hold a Background Briefing

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL: All right, well, thanks very much for joining us. Today's background briefers will include (inaudible) and me, (inaudible). For attribution, please refer to (inaudible) as "a senior defense official" and to me as "a senior military official."

And with that, I will turn it over to our senior defense official for some opening remarks, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Good afternoon, everyone. I'd like to start by just recognizing where we are in this war. We're in over 300 days after Russia launched this war to try to stamp out Ukraine's existence as a free nation. And at this moment, we are welcoming President Zelenskyy to Washington, D.C., a sign of Ukraine's determination, its spirit, its resolve, and an opportunity for us to be able to reinforce our support for Ukraine during President Zelenskyy's visit.

So you will hear more from the White House later this afternoon about President Zelenskyy's visit. In the meantime, what I wanted to do is give you some important details about our new security assistance commitments that President Biden announced today, totaling $1.85 billion.

Now, these -- these commitments come in two parts, and we're announcing both of these together. First, we have a presidential drawdown package that's valued at $1 billion. This is the 28th such drawdown of equipment from DOD inventories for Ukraine since August of 2021. And then the second is an additional $850 million in commitments under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

So first, let me talk about the presidential drawdown package, and this package includes for the first time a Patriot air defense battery and munitions. This is another signal of our long-term commitment to Ukraine's security. As you know, Patriot is one of the world's most advanced air defense systems, and it will give Ukraine a critical long-range capability to defend its airspace. It is capable of intercepting cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and aircraft.

It's important to put the Patriot battery in context. For air defense, there is no “silver bullet.” Our goal is to help Ukraine strengthen a layered, integrated approach to air defense. That will include Ukraine's own legacy capabilities, as well as NATO-standard systems. Patriot will complement a range of medium- and short-range air defense capabilities that we've provided and that allies have provided in prior donation packages, and for us, that includes NASAMS and Avenger systems. Patriot does require training, and we expect it will take several months to ensure Ukrainian forces have the training they need to employ it successfully.

Now, in addition to Patriot, this drawdown package includes several other highlights. First, it includes an additional 500 precision-guided 155-millimeter artillery rounds, and it includes several different mortar systems and rounds for those systems. Second, it includes precision aerial munitions, and then third, it includes additional MRAP vehicles and Humvees, and I think important to note, this is 38 MRAP vehicles, but we've provided 440 to date, and it's 120 Humvees, but this comes on top of 1,200 Humvees that we've provided to date.

Now for the second part of today's announcement, the $850 million under USAI, I just want to remind that this is an authority under which we procure capabilities from industry, rather than drawing them down from U.S. stocks. So USAI capabilities typically take longer to deliver. Now under USA -- AI, we are committing to provide a range of different non -- what we call nonstandard ammunitions. This is what we formerly called Soviet-type ammunition. It includes 152-millimeter artillery rounds, 122-millimeter artillery rounds, and these will be able to help the Ukrainians bring more of its legacy systems, its legacy howitzers back into the fight in greater numbers. We also plan to -- to provide 122-millimeter Grad rockets, and this is to support Ukraine's Grad rocket artillery capability, as well as tank ammunition to help Ukraine sustain operations with its existing tanks. Another capability we're providing via USAI are satellite communication terminals and services. This will add resilience to Ukraine's communications infrastructure. And then as always, we have funding from (sic) training, for maintenance and for sustainment in support of the equipment we and our partners have provided.

So this brings us to, the United States has committed more than $21.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration. And as President Biden has said, we will continue to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces for as long as it takes. Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thank you very much, ma'am.

Just a reminder to everyone that today's discussion is on background. And with that, we are happy to take your questions. We'll start with Lita Baldor, A.P.

Q: Hi. Thanks a lot. One clarification, and then a question on the satellite coms. On the -- the Patriots, how quickly do you expect the -- the Patriot battery will be in country? And you said several months to train. I just want to make sure that's accurate.

And then secondly on the satellite communications, is this for the STARLINK system that's already being used there? Does this guarantee that that system would remain there for a while, or is this an effort to supplement the STARLINK system? Can you give us a bit more clarity on what that will buy, and how much money is in the USAI? Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Great, thanks. So on Patriot, I don't have the precise date for the system to be transferred, and obviously, we would be very careful about operational security details there. But I can tell you it is a several-month training process, and we're working through the details of the training right now. So several one -- several months is about -- about all I can give you in terms of a timeline.

And then on the SATCOM, this will augment existing Ukrainian capabilities, but since we're in the process of contract negotiations I can just say we're talking to a number of vendors, but can't be more specific than that. Thanks.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL: Thank you. Our next question will go to NBC, Courtney Kube.

Q: Can I just ask any more clarity at all about the Patriots? So I get -- I understand several months for training, but can we say that the training is going to begin in the coming days? Is it going to be potentially weeks? And are they training on the actual -- actual Patriot that will be sent into Ukraine for use, or is -- is there -- can you say anything about whether the actual system itself is going to be -- start moving in while they're being trained elsewhere on it?

And then I have one more.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, so Courtney, we're still working through some of the details on the -- the specifics of training, and I think we will have -- have more that we can, you know, share with you in the -- in the coming days, but, you know, for now, I can -- I can just say that, you know, the training will begin very soon, and again, it will take several months. And the -- the training is the -- the limiting timeframe here, that, the Ukrainians will have to complete the training in order to be able to, you know, field the system. And it's the Ukrainians who are operating the system, so that's absolutely essential.

And you had another question?

Q: Yeah, can you say how many Ukrainians will be -- will be trained on it? And the assumption is it's going to happen in Germany. Is that true?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: So -- so I -- I don't have a -- a -- a specific training location to confirm for you. We're looking at a number of options. And I -- you know, I'm afraid I don't actually have the -- the -- the precise numbers of -- of Ukrainians going through the training.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL: Thank you. All right, we'll go to Eric Schmitt, New York Times.

Q: Just a question on the -- the precision aerial munitions. They're using the JDAM kits, right? And if so, are -- is the U.S. also providing the bombs, the GBUs, that go with that? And when do you expect these kits and -- and/or bombs to be going into country, into Ukraine? What kind of modifications might be necessary for the Ukrainian Air Force to use that?

And then I have one other question.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thanks, Eric. I don't have any more details for you on the precision aerial munitions. I'm not going to get into any more specifics for OPSEC reasons.

Q: Okay. And my other question is will DOD permit reporters to observe training of -- of -- the Patriot training or any of the other expanded training that was announced earlier? And -- and just from an -- at an earlier question from counter-UAV equipment that's being sent to Ukraine, can you be any more specific about what that is, that -- that counter-UAV equipment?

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL: Hey, Eric, I'll -- I'll take this one. So on media access to training writ large -- that is something that OSD Public Affairs is looking at, speaking with various stakeholders, to include U.S. European Command and the services. I don't have anything today to announce on that front, other than we are very well aware of the interest and we'll continue to work toward what's in the realm of the possible.

On the counter-UAS capabilities that have been identified in previous PDAs, beyond what's in those -- in -- in that release, we're just not going to be able to go into specific details, again, for operations security reasons. Sensitive to the fact that the Ukrainians are engaged in the fight, we don't want to provide anything that the adversary could potentially exploit. So appreciate your understanding on that.

All right, next question, we'll go to Idrees from Reuters.

Q: Hey. Do you have any assurances from Ukraine that they will only use the system over Ukrainian territory and any assurances that they won't shoot down, you know, inexpensive drones that cost, like, a couple thousand, given how expensive the Interceptors actually are?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'm sorry, could you repeat the second part of what you just said? I heard something about a drone but I -- I just couldn't -- couldn't make out --

Q: Yeah, do you have any assurances that they won't shoot down, you know, drones that are small and inexpensive, given how expensive the Interceptors are?

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL: Yeah, I -- Idrees, I'll -- I'll take that one. So, you know, broadly speaking, we don't want to get into hypotheticals, as it relates to, you know, how the Ukrainians would employ the system -- obviously they're the ones that are going to be operating it -- other than to say that -- that this will be a air defense capability among others that they're being provided as part of an integrated air defense system.

And so certainly as they go through the training and as they continue to establish their air defense system, you know, various factors will be taken into account, in terms of how best to employ that capability. So, again, don't want to get into hypotheticals on the specifics of what they would employ it against, other than, again, it -- it provides them with a significant enhancement to their air defense capabilities.

In terms of ah, you know -- and -- and I think what you're asking is do we have assurances that they won't use it for something other than air defense -- I mean, it is an air defense system, it is by default, by nature, a defensive system. So no -- no concerns --

Q: (Inaudible) Defense Official, it was more about what about shooting down Russian planes over Russian territory? So I -- have you received guarantees it would only be used over Ukrainian airspace or Ukrainian territory?

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL: Again, we're not going to get into talking about how the Ukrainians will use it, other than, again, it's an air defense capability that can take down threats that threaten Russian forces and -- or that threaten Ukrainian forces and the Ukrainian population, so.

Okay, let's go to Nancy Youssef, Wall Street Journal.

Q: I -- I have to use Idrees' line -- can you tell us when the Patriot will be operational in Ukraine?

And on the JDAMs, can you say what kind of munitions they would be used on?

And lastly, I'm having a hard time understanding sort of the nature of the discussions that you had with the Ukrainians in terms of getting them in a position to use the Patriot? You've mentioned that it's -- it's not clear how long the training would happen and -- and a couple of other things you (inaudible). Can you give me a sense, in terms of what the discussions were with the Ukrainians? Were there extensive discussions about limitations on how they could use it? I -- I just -- I don't quite understand how -- how the process was to -- to deliver the Patriot to them.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, so Nancy, I -- I mean, I don't have anything more precise for you in terms of the timelines for operation. It will take several months of training. And, you know, what we're working on now is, you know, putting the finishing details on the specifics of the training plan, to include, you know, location and -- and starting to launch the training. And so we don't have a definitive timeline. We also would obviously want to be really, really careful, for operational security reasons, to not -- you know, to not be overly precise on a date, even -- even once we have it.

And so I don't -- I just -- I think some of the questions that you have, we'll have details over time but not today.

Q: I'm sorry, could you (inaudible) also on JDAMs, what kind of munitions they would be used on? Do you know?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We don't have anything for you on JDAMs.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL: Okay, thank you very much. We'll go to Mike Glenn, Washington Times.

Q: Thank you, sir. If I remember from my own Army training, the Patriot battery has about 90 to 100 soldiers. I (inaudible) the analysts I've talked to have told me that it -- it -- in and of itself, the one thing a battery would offer -- a modest improvement to Ukrainian air defense capacity. Is there -- is the reason that you're only sending one battery at this point now -- was (it designed as sort of a -- a test to see how well they can operate one before you possibly send others? Maybe a full battalion?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, Mike, what I'll say is, you know, this isn't a comprehensive air defense solution or Ukraine. So, this is another step in many steps that we have pursued and that our allies and partners have pursued to get air defense capability to Ukraine. There's also the NASAM systems, the two have arrived and there's six more on the way.

Our allies have provided a range of short and medium-range air defense capabilities. So, with this one battery we will be offering a formidable capability, but we will still be working, you know, the U.S. will be working, and our allies and partners will be working to round out Ukraine's air defense capabilities.

STAFF: Let's go ahead to Laura Seligman, Politico.

Q: Hi, sorry for the delay. I was trying to unmute myself. A couple of follow-ups to Idrees' question. Is there anything stopping the Ukrainians are shooting the interceptors with something other than incoming threats? I mean, I understand it's an air defense system, but it's also -- it's also -- it's also an interceptor that could potentially be deployed for other threats. So, that's my first question.

And then, where are the Patriots going to -- where is the Patriot going to come from? Is it going to be transferred from a deployed location or from somewhere in the United States?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, so I'll take a stab at this, although the Senior Military Official also touched on this earlier. You know, this is a defensive system, and the Ukrainians will use it to intercept incoming missiles or, aircraft that would pose a threat to their, their population, their military potentially. So, we expect that it will be used as this defense -- as the defensive system that it is.

The particular battery that we are providing, this is coming from U.S. stocks, but we -- we are not going to confirm the specific details of, where in the force we are obtaining this from.

Q: And then, if I could ask another follow-up question? Can you say how many missiles you are sending with the Patriot battery? And then just as a follow-up on the JDAMs, can you say how these weapons are going to be used? Will they be bolted onto aircraft or is there a way that they could be potentially be ground-launched?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, so in terms of missiles, we do not confirm numbers of missiles for operational security reasons. And there is nothing in this announcement on JDAMs, so I have nothing for you on that question.

STAFF: Thank you. Let's go to Jack Detsch, Foreign Policy.

Q: Thanks. I'm just curious since the air defense systems are being sent in different dribs and drabs, you sent the Hawks, of course, the Patriots coming, you've sent other systems. How the department is going to work and train up on integrated air defense or how you're thinking about integrating all these assets that are coming online at different times for the Ukrainians?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes, thanks, Jack. I think -- it sounds like you have a good appreciation for the complexity of this challenge. So, this is something that we are engaged with the Ukrainians on, even as we look to support them, you know, as they're -- I mean, they're still fielding their -- you know, their legacy systems, their S-300 systems and other short-range Soviet-type air defense systems.

And they are, you know, fielding them capably, very effectively. We are introducing a whole host of new systems to provide this layered array of air defense. So at the same time we are also, you know, in a conversation with them and in kind of technical consolations with them on how we can assist them to be able to manage and integrate a variety of capabilities.

Q: And just with regards to the Soviet systems you mentioned that are coming out of USAI in this package, is that an assessment the Ukrainians are -- need to move a little bit more slowly when it comes to the NATO systems? Obviously they're -- you know, still have a lot of Soviet-era artillery and other Soviet-era systems they're using.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes. On that we want to enable the Ukrainians to bring all the firepower to the fight that they can. And so, they have a lot of legacy Soviet-type artillery systems, but they were running out of ammunition. So we'd like to enable them to be able to continue to use those systems even as they continue to use the M777 howitzers that we've provided, the HIMARS and other NATO-compatible systems. We don't see it as an “either or” but rather an and.

STAFF: Thank you. Now let's go to James Levinson, Fox News.

Q: I'm sorry. Excuse me. I'm sorry to interrupt. I just -- I wanted an important clarification. This is Nancy from The Wall Street Journal. You said on the call that the U.S. is not provided JDAMs, but on the State Department announcement it lists JDAMs. It says explicitly. Can you please clarify?

STAFF: Yes. We'll have to take a look at that, Nancy. Again, for operation security reasons we're not going to be able to go into any more details in terms of what the precision aerial munitions capability consists of. 

Q: Wait. I'm not looking for more details. I'm looking for clarification to the details you've provided. The State Department briefing says it also marks our first transfer of joint threat attack munitions, and on this call you said you're not providing that. It's an important point. A lot of stories have gone out. I'd just like to point -- I'd like to clarify just with this as quickly as possible. I'm not looking for just different information. I'm looking to understand what is provided.

STAFF: Yes. Thank you, Nancy. We'll get a clarification.* And again, just to highlight in terms of what the DOD put out on its release is what the senior defense official was saying, is that that's what we read out.

Okay. Let's go to James Levinson, Fox News.

Q: Yes. Also wondering if we can get a little bit more detail about the USAI. In terms of will it go through the same process in terms of delivery? You said it might be delivered sort of later in the month in term -- or later in the time delivery because of the nature of the resourcing? So have you already been able to source all the ammunition, and is it going to go through the same organization group within EUCOM to get into the front lines for the Ukrainians?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes. Thanks. So with USAI, I mean, the way -- the way that we're procuring this ammunition isn't really that fundamentally different from how we procure other capabilities in USAI. And, you know, as we're making the announcement we are starting that process of contracting and procuring.

And so, it usually -- I mean, one of the biggest variables for us with USAI is whether -- whether something is already produced, and we can just pick it up and deliver it, and EUCOM uses the same process to do that for USAI as it does for drawdown in terms of organizing that logistical transportation and transition to the Ukrainians or is it something that actually has to be created from scratch. And, you know, so with some higher tech capability, some of the counter-UAS capabilities, for instance. It does take -- it does take quite a bit longer because industry is actually producing.

In this case, the ammunition is a fairly straight-forward process, but each particular kind has a sort of different timeline depending on the specific vendor.

STAFF: Thank you.

Q: Thanks, and one more -- one more quick question. In terms of the response for delivering your announcement, you know, Russia six days ago warned of the consequences for U.S. sending Patriot missiles. Did that all affect the announcement? Did that all affect the amount or number? Instead of a withdrawal are you guys further into the war?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, at this point, we're -- we're quite used to heated and threatening rhetoric from Moscow. What I can tell you on this capability is it is a -- a defensive capability, and I can just assert that, you know, once again, we will continue to support the Ukrainians with what they need, when they need it, never mind the rhetoric.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL: Thank you. We've got time for just a couple more. Let's go to Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.

Q: Thank you. I -- I apologize for the -- the novice question on the USAI funding, but if I heard you right, this is for 152, 122, and possibly 125 millimeter shells. Is it possible that American companies, like General Dynamics, could be producing Soviet caliber munitions?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, it -- it -- Jeff, no problem with the question. So we -- we source USAI from all around the world. I don't actually have the specific vendor information for, you know, these -- these exact rounds but -- but we source from -- you know, from -- from anywhere that we can find good supply.

Q: And how many rounds are you buying?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Sure. I can go -- I can run through that. So it's 45,000 rounds of 152, 20,000 rounds of 122, and then 50,000 122 millimeter Grad rockets, and 100,000 rounds of tank ammunition.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL: Okay, thanks very much. And final question, we'll go to Haley Bull, Scripps News Service.

Q: I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the training and the complexities for it to take, a month? And how the layered defense will -- I -- I guess what the plan is? The Ukrainians have been saying they need this, you know, urgently, as they're in the winter here. So it -- are there any efforts to speed up the training, I -- I guess, in this case, and what it would usually take for the -- this system?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thanks. So I could tell you -- I mean, the Patriot is one of our most sophisticated capabilities and -- and certainly in a class of its own when it comes to air defense. So, you know, this is a complex system to operate and to maintain.

And what we are looking at doing is seeing where we can compress to the greatest extent possible training to take as short a period of time as possible, but because of the complexity, we're still talking about several months.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Could I --

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL: Thanks very much, everybody.

Q: -- another reporter real quick? It's just one quick question.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL: I'm sorry, who is this?

Q: This is Jeff with Task & Purpose. We have a question from another reporter who asked if the NATO Patriot system will -- if the Patriot system will be linked to NATO systems to enhance its tracking capability. Can the Senior Defense Official answer that real quickly?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: So this is a Patriot system for Ukraine to operate on its own.

Q: So no?


SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes, this is not a NATO -- this is not a NATO-operated system. This is a Ukraine-operated system.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL: Okay, thanks very much, everybody. Appreciate your time and thank you for joining us today. Take care.

* ED NOTE: Today’s DOD press release regarding Ukraine Security Assistance included a reference to Precision Aerial Munitions. To be more specific and to clarify comments made during this DOD-hosted background briefing, this refers specifically to Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) capability. For reporting purposes, you may attribute this additional detail to a senior military official.