US sends more artillery; Ukraine pounds Russian targets


US officials said Friday that they will send additional sophisticated artillery systems and ammunition to Ukraine, bolstering the country’s forces again as they carry out a coordinated campaign of strikes on Russian military targets.

The latest $270 million package includes four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, boosting the total number the United States has provided Kyiv to 16, said John Kirby, a White House spokesman. The package also includes 36,000 rounds of ammunition for howitzers and funding for up to 580 Phoenix Ghost drones, unmanned aircraft that can be used to target opposing forces directly or to perform reconnaissance for artillery strikes.

“This is an ongoing process,” Kirby said of supplying weapons to Ukraine. “It’s almost in near real time as we continue to follow events on the battlefield and talk to the Ukrainians about what they need.”

Ukraine’s strike campaign has put new strains on a Russian military that already has suffered at least 15,000 military fatalities since invading Ukraine in February, and is suffering hundreds more dead and wounded each day, according to Western estimates. Among those combat losses are thousands of lieutenants and captains, hundreds of colonels, and “many” generals, said a senior US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon.

Ukraine already has struck more than 100 “high-value” Russian military targets, including command posts, ammunition depots, air-defense sites, radar and communication nodes, and long-range artillery positions, the US defense official said. While Russia continues to launch thousands of artillery rounds per day, the official said, Moscow “can’t keep it up forever” and has now committed 85 percent of its army to the war in Ukraine.

“They have expended a lot of smarter munitions,” the senior defense official said, referring to precision-guided weapons. “Their capabilities are getting dumber.”

Ukraine, meanwhile, is still adding to its own cache of precision weapons, relying heavily on HIMARS, which can launch rockets from the back of a truck and then quickly relocate. The senior US defense official said that as of Thursday, Russia had not destroyed a single HIMARS provided to Ukraine, though it is likely that they will “get lucky” and do so at some point.

Counting the package approved Friday, the United States has set aside 16 HIMARS for Ukraine, while Germany and Britain each have provided a handful of similar weapons. Ukrainian officials have asked for dozens more to help them in launching a counteroffensive against Russia.

Kirby declined to say the maximum number of HIMARS the United States may provide Ukraine.

“As you’ve heard me say many, many times, we are in a constant dialogue with the Ukrainians, nearly every day at various levels up the chain of command, talking about their capability needs so that we can be as responsive as possible, ” he said.

Since Russia invaded, the United States has provided Ukraine with more than $8.2 billion in weapons. Allies have provided additional arms.

Karen DeYoung in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.

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