The US is expected to send small-diameter ground-based bombs that would double Ukraine’s current strike range as part of a nearly $2.2 billion aid package to be announced on Friday, according to people familiar with the matter .
The smart bombs have a range of 94 miles and can be fired from various types of rocket launchers including Himars sent into the country. The longest-range Ukrainian bomb is the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, which has a range of 53 miles.
Friday’s package follows a joint announcement by the US and Germany last week that they would be moving main battle tanks towards heavier and more offensive weapons as the West tries to prepare Ukraine to launch a counteroffensive again in the spring. Russia has massed more than 300,000 troops in Ukraine and is stepping up artillery strikes in brutal fighting in the east of the country. Ukrainian officials warn that Moscow is preparing to go back on the offensive in the coming weeks.
While the bombing system will help Ukraine attack Russian targets previously out of range, it falls short of Kiev’s plea for the even longer-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which can reach 185 miles.
US officials continue to deny Ukrainian requests for ATACMS, fearing Kyiv would use the systems to attack targets inside Russia and risking dragging Moscow into direct conflict with NATO.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Thursday that the decision to send longer-range bombs could prolong the war.
“Now we are trying to push off [Ukrainian] Artillery at a distance that does not threaten our territory,” Lavrov said in an interview with the state news channel Ria Novosti. “The greater the range of the weapons that the West is supplying to the Kiev regime, the further we must remove them from Russia’s borders.”
The US will provide contract funds to Ukraine to purchase the small-diameter ground-launched bombs, part of about $1.7 billion in assistance from a fund called the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. The package will also include $425 million in aid to come directly from US arsenals.
The relatively inexpensive system is a joint venture between Saab and Boeing that combines a 113 kg precision-guided munition with a missile. According to Saab, the system is so precise that it can hit within the radius of a car tire.
The package would also include air defense components, additional ammunition and spare parts for systems already on the battlefield, people familiar with the matter said.
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