Australia has become one of the latest US allies to ship weapons into Ukraine, devoting $50 million in arms and other security assistance amid reports that Western powers have flooded the country with more than 17,000 missiles in the space of just a few days.
Initially announced last week and set to include anti-tank weapons, ammunition and other gear, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the shipment had arrived to Ukraine on Monday, saying “Our missiles are on the ground.”
Canberra has been hesitant to detail exactly how the arms made their way into the country, but the Australian military released several photos over the weekend purporting to show the weapons arriving at an “undisclosed location.” The military previously shared images of C-17 cargo planes as they departed “for Europe” from the Richmond air base in New South Wales, though gave no specifics on their destination.
Following the PM of Australia’s announcement, an #AusAirForce aircraft departed #RAAFBaseRichmond for Europe today, carrying critical military equipment and medical supplies. 🇦🇺 will join other allies and partners to help the people of #Ukraine to defend their nation. #YourADF pic.twitter.com/ozkIDeuOh3
— Department of Defence (@DeptDefence) March 2, 2022
The latest weapons transfer comes as the United States and a long list of allies race to supply Ukraine with an arsenal of lethal military hardware to repel Russia’s ongoing invasion. A New York Times report on Monday noted that the US and other NATO members recently sent “more than 17,000 anti-tank weapons” in a period of just six days, adding that the arms are being flown to the Polish and Romanian borders and then brought into Ukraine by land.
The Pentagon has so far declined to confirm the figure cited by the Times, however, and Congressman Mike Waltz – a Florida Republican and retired Army colonel – said the number sounds “extraordinarily high” based on previous briefings to lawmakers.
“Is that 17,000 pledged or 17,000 in their hands?” he said in comments to Task and Purpose. “And what’s the breakdown, because it’s certainly not that many Javelins or even NLAWs [Next generation Light Anti-tank Weapons]. I’m curious what they’re classifying as an anti-tank weapon.”
Regardless of the true count, Washington and its allies have made no secret of their weapons shipments to Ukraine in recent days, with at least two-dozen countries announcing transfers including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, tank-killing Javelins, small arms and stockpiles of ammunition, among other gear. Discussions about providing Ukraine with fighter jets are also reportedly underway.
American arms dealer Raytheon has been a top beneficiary of the Ukraine weapons bonanza. The Massachusetts-based firm produces both Javelin and Stinger missiles, among the most common munitions supplied to Kiev, and has seen a healthy spike in its stock value since Russia launched its invasion on February 24. Before leading the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sat on Raytheon’s board – one in a long line of top military officials to go through the ‘revolving door’ between public service and private lobbying for weapons-makers.
Since Russia invaded over two weeks ago, Western officials and commentators have touted the strength and ferocity of the Ukrainian resistance, some even suggesting that Washington arm up an “insurgency” much like it did during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Officials in Kiev, meanwhile, claim their forces have destroyed thousands of Russian armored vehicles and killed around 9,000 soldiers. While the government may be exaggerating its successes, the Ukrainian military continues to share a steady stream of images alleged to show bombed-out Russian tanks, suggesting that Western arms shipments may be having some effect on the ground.