The Department of Defense has announced that it will send Avenger air defense systems and a number of other weapons to Ukraine, bringing US security assistance to Kiev to over $1 billion in the last month alone.
A Pentagon press release issued Thursday says President Joe Biden approved a $400 million weapons transfer to Ukraine. The White House claims it can directly send arms from American stockpiles to foreign governments under the Presidential Drawdown Authority, insisting it requires no congressional authorization for the massive arms shipments. While the military has warned its weapons supplies are dwindling after the White House greenlit 25 rounds of security assistance for Kiev since Russia invaded in February, the aid appears to be set to continue into the foreseeable future.
The latest weapons package will include four Avenger air defense systems, self-propelled platforms capable of firing Stinger surface-to-air missiles. Boeing assembles the Avenger vehicle, while Raytheon – the former employer of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin – manufactures its munitions.
This round of arms assistance also includes HAWK missiles, ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), over 100,000 artillery rounds, 100 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), 400 grenade launchers, small arms, demolition equipment for obstacle clearing and cold weather gear. The HAWK missiles will receive upgrades before being sent to Kiev, with all funding pulled from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan discussed the weapons package at a White House press briefing, saying “This increased air defense will be critical for Ukraine as Russia continues to use cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones to attack critical civilian infrastructure.”
Deputy Defense Department spokesperson Sabrina Singh told reporters that Washington is seeking to establish an overlapping network of defensive weapons to protect Ukraine from Russian strikes.
“We’re basically creating … a net of air defense systems of different ranges,” she said. “Whether it’s the Hawk missiles or the [IRIS-T medium range infrared homing missile] that the Germans provided or what we are providing today with the four Avenger air defense systems – all of them have different ranges, all of them contribute differently on the battlefield, which makes the Ukrainians effective.”
The Biden administration has accused Tehran of selling drones to Moscow for deployment in Ukraine. While Iran has acknowledged sending UAVs prior to the war, it maintains no weapons have been delivered to Russia since the invasion began, and that it will not take sides in the conflict.
As of Thursday, the Pentagon reported that total military aid to Ukraine since Biden took office stands at $19.3 billion, with the vast majority of that authorized after Russia’s attack commenced last winter. However, the Germany-based Kiel Institute for the World Economy has disputed that figure, instead claiming that overall US military support for Ukraine had surpassed $28 billion by October 3. For several months, Washington has announced new weapons packages for Kiev on a weekly basis.