WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said on Wednesday it would send an additional $1.1 billion in long-term military aid to Ukraine, including 18 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers, or HIMARS, one of the most vaunted weapons of the seven-month war with Russia.
But unlike the 16 HIMARS the military rushed to Ukraine from its existing stockpiles over the summer, these new weapons will be ordered from the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, and will take “a few years” to deliver, a senior Defense Department official told reporters.
Shifting the source of Ukrainian military supplies from the Pentagon’s own stockpile, which is large but not limitless, to items newly manufactured by the defense industry indicates that the White House and military leaders are transitioning to a sustainable model Kyiv can depend on for an open-ended war with Russia.
Privately, American commanders have also voiced concern that if the United States sends more HIMARS vehicles immediately, the Ukrainians will burn through the rocket ammunition provided by the Pentagon too quickly, potentially jeopardizing American military readiness in coming months.
The promise of new military aid comes at a critical time in the war, when Ukraine has the momentum on the battlefield, and has retaken vast stretches of land in the east and is pressing entrenched Russian forces in the south.
The Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, is mobilizing up to 300,000 reservists in an attempt to shore up his forces, and Ukrainian commanders are pushing to try to take back as much territory as they can before the winter freeze forces both sides to slow their operations and dig in. The HIMARs systems have proven effective at cutting Russian supply lines, destroying ammunition depots, bridges, rail links, and troop concentrations far beyond the lines.
Asked why the Pentagon didn’t just send more of the advanced rocket launchers from its own inventories — as President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has repeatedly requested — the senior Defense Department official sidestepped the question, saying the future delivery was to ensure Ukraine “will have what it needs for the long haul to deter future threats.”
Pentagon officials have said for weeks that with the American HIMARS and 10 similar rocket systems already delivered to the battlefield — 26 rocket-launchers in all —Ukraine has enough of the weapons to attack the Russian targets it wants. Indeed, the satellite-guided rockets fired by HIMARS have struck more than 400 Russian ammunition depots, command posts and radars.
The new shipment announced on Wednesday also includes 150 Humvees, 150 vehicles for towing artillery, radars, counter-drone systems and body armor, which the senior Pentagon official said would be delivered from manufacturers in the next six to 24 months. That brings to $16.2 billion in total military aid that the United States has committed to Ukraine since the war started in February.
The $1.1 billion in new equipment will be paid for by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a congressionally approved fund that allows Ukrainian leaders to purchase military goods directly from the defense industry.
At the same virtual briefing for reporters on Wednesday, a senior U.S. military official said the first “small group” of Russians from the 300,000 conscripts ordered mobilized had arrived in Ukraine. The official did not provide details on how many new conscripts had been sent to the battlefield or where they were located.
But the official, who like the senior Pentagon official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss operational matters, expressed skepticism that the Kremlin could properly mobilize, train and equip anywhere near that total number of new troops.
“Just the mechanics of outfitting that size of a force is very difficult,” the senior U.S. military official said.