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Pentagon will double powerful HIMARS artillery for Ukraine

The United States and nearly two dozen partner nations said they would accelerate weapons production, expecting a sustained conflict with Russia

A Ukrainian military commander inspects the rockets on HIMARS vehicle in July. (Anastasia Vlasova for The Washington Post)
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The United States will more than double its commitment of long-range rocket artillery systems for Ukraine, the Pentagon said Wednesday, part of a long-term strategy by the United States and its partners to ramp up weapons production in response to Russia’s invasion.

The $1.1 billion package will include 18 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, the weapons that have wreaked havoc on command posts and logistical hubs behind Russian lines. The United States already has delivered 16 of the systems, capable of delivering precision munitions from up to 50 miles away, from existing stocks.

This new tranche will take a “few years” to build and deliver, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters, underscoring efforts to provide for Ukraine’s long-term defense infrastructure while allies and partners speed tailored packages of equipment and ammunition for the most urgent needs. The HIMARS represents a “core component of Ukraine’s fighting force in the future,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon.

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Separately, the Pentagon said Wednesday that the United States intends to increase production of “ground-based long range fires, air defense systems, air-to-ground munitions, and other capabilities” needed to sustain Ukraine’s military for the long haul. In a statement, defense officials said that nearly 20 other nations also agreed to expand their industrial base and accelerate the production of arms that can replace Ukraine’s Russian and Soviet-era equipment with modern systems used by NATO.

The announcements come as Russia presses as many as 300,000 conscripts into service to replace and reinforce beleaguered troops driven back by Ukrainian offensives in the east and south. Readying those new troops will be challenging for the Kremlin, a second U.S. official told reporters, given the logistics necessary to supply and train them. Many of the Russian troops who would train conscripts already “are in Ukraine,” the official said.

The most recent arms package includes weapons and equipment that will take between six months and two years to deliver and require defense contractors to restart or intensify manufacturing, the first defense official said.

Ukraine also will receive 150 additional armored Humvees, which will allow troops to transport foot soldiers and maneuver around the battlefield during offensive operations, and more than 200 vehicles that will help them haul heavy equipment, a logistical challenge that comes with supplying large amounts of heavy weapons.

The package also includes systems designed to mitigate weapons the Russians have used effectively, including radars that can detect incoming artillery and drones.