Ukraine Situation Report: Patrol Boats, More HIMARS In New U.S. Aid Package
U.S.-supplied patrol boats could be a boon to Ukrainian forces operating on inland waterways and off the country’s Black Sea coasts.
President Joe Biden's Administration has authorized another $450 million in military aid for Ukraine. The complete package includes four more M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, 18 patrol boats, and 36,000 rounds of 105mm howitzer ammunition, as well as tactical vehicles, small arms, and more.
"Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) announces the authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $450 million to meet critical needs for Ukraine’s fight," Acting Pentagon Press Secretary Todd Breasseale said in a statement. "This authorization is the thirteenth drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021."
"The United States has now committed approximately $6.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including approximately $6.1 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked invasion on February 24," Breasseale continued. "Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $8.7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine."
The Pentagon also provided the following list of items in this new tranche of military assistance:
- Four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems
- 36,000 rounds of 105mm ammunition
- 18 tactical vehicles to tow 155mm artillery
- 1,200 grenade launchers
- 2,000 machine guns
- 18 coastal and riverine patrol boats
- Spare parts and other equipment
The Associated Press first reported earlier today that a new aid package was to be announced and that it would include more of HIMARS, among other items. On June 1, the U.S. government had announced plans to transfer an initial batch of four M142s, along with precision-guided 227mm M30/M31 rockets able to hit targets out to ranges of around 43 miles (70 kilometers), to the Ukrainian armed forces. At the time, this had reflected a new willingness on the part of the Biden administration to send more advanced and complex weapon systems with longer-range strike capabilities to Ukraine.
American officials had subsequently said that the Ukrainian military could receive additional HIMARS if certain conditions were met. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the first group of 60 Ukrainian soldiers graduated from a three-week training course on HIMARS and was ready to deploy them in combat. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said today that the first four HIMARS units arrived on the battlefield this week.
Both the U.K. and Germany are also each sending three variants of the U.S.-made M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), a tracked rocket artillery system that fires the same type of ammunition as the wheeled HIMARS. So, all told, is looking at receiving 14 advanced rocket artillery systems. Though that does not seem like a large number of weapons for a battle in the east that has become an artillery duel, the guided rockets fired by these systems are very precise and could be particularly useful against high-value targets, as you can read more about in this past War Zone explainer. Also, because of their accuracy, one rocket would suffice where a barrage was needed to take out a single object, like an enemy artillery piece.
Though the additional HIMARS have gotten the most attention of all the items in this new batch of U.S. military aid for Ukraine, the inclusion of 18 unspecified "coastal and riverine patrol boats" is also notable. In response to a query from The War Zone, the Pentagon declined to say what specific types of boats the Ukrainian military is now in line to receive. However, all of the items in this particular tranch of military assistance come from a "drawdown," indicating that whatever they are they are coming from existing U.S. military stocks.
The U.S. Navy acquired a number of different types of small patrol boats in the past two decades or so, many of which it now has or is looking to divest. This includes its entire fleet of relatively young Mk VI patrol boats, something The War Zone was first to report on and you can read more about here. Before Russia launched its all-out invasion in February, the U.S. government had approved a potential sale of 16 Mk VIs in a slightly different configuration from the U.S. Navy's boats to Ukraine and the country's navy had expected to receive the first three this year. There are other boats in U.S. military inventory that fit the "coastal and riverine" description that might also be included in this new military aid package, too.
Regardless of what type of types of boats the U.S. military is now planning to transfer to its Ukrainian counterparts, these watercraft could be useful for missions on rivers and canals inside Ukraine. Inland waterways have proven to be important focal points in the fighting in the eastern Donbas region.
These boats could also support operations off Ukraine's Black Sea coastline. The Ukrainian military said earlier today that it is still in the midst of a major operation targeting Russian forces on Snake Island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, in the western Black Sea, which has become a major flashpoint in the conflict as you can read more about here.
That this new batch of American military assistance also includes 105mm ammunition is not a typo. British authorities previously announced plans to transfer 105mm L118/L119 howitzers to the Ukrainian military. Ukrainian troops are now in the United Kingdom training to use these weapons with the help of instructors from the British Army and New Zealand's military. Though shorter ranges than the 155mm howitzers western countries have been sending, these lightweight guns could still provide valuable indirect fire support and can be employed in a direct fire role, including against armored vehicles or buildings, if required.
All of this comes as Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have been repeatedly asking the United States and other western countries for more military aid amid the still very intense fighting in Donbas. Ukrainian forces that had been holding out in one particular pocket of that region may have now pulled back to avoid being encircled, but Russian forces still appear to be, at best, making only incremental advances overall.
WARNING: Some of the updates below contain graphic material.
Before getting into the rest of the latest news below, The War Zone readers can first get themselves up to speed on the existing state of the conflict in Ukraine through our preceding rolling coverage here.
POSTED: 9:18 PM EST—
In the past four days, Russian troops have moved about five kilometers, or three miles, toward the southern edge of Lysychansk, in the middle of a salient that Ukrainian forces have held for weeks, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s latest publicly released intelligence assessment.
Some Ukrainian units appear to have withdrawn from the Severodonetsk pocket, where they have been surrounded on at least three sides by Russian forces, in order to not be completely encircled, British officials said. Russia is massing its artillery in the area to facilitate a "creeping advance" westward, but closing the siege around the area has not occurred.
Ukrainian troops have maintained supply lines, however tenuous, with troops on the far side of the Donets River even using rubber boats and a tow line strung between its banks.
As they retreat from certain areas, Ukrainian forces are leaving behind minefields near Lysychansk. Russian explosive ordnance disposal personnel were seen clearing areas of Soviet-era TM-62M anti-tank mines.
Russian forces have been employing mines of various types, too. The video below reportedly shows a Ukrainian commercial-type drone modified to release improvised munitions being used to clear what appears to be anti-tank mines on a road. Small unmanned aircraft, especially modified commercially available designs, have been another significant feature of the conflict in Ukraine.
Ukrainian troops are fighting back across the country's front lines in a variety of other ways, too. Today, video, seen below, emerged online showing a battery of Ukraine's Tochka-U short-range ballistic missiles being salvoed off at Russian positions.
Interestingly, a video showing a Russian 9A83-1 TELAR (transporter erector launcher and radar) on a wheeled transporter reportedly in the Luhansk region of Donbas also appeared online today, as seen below. The 9A83-1 is part of the S-300V1 (SA-12 Gladiator) surface-to-air missile system, which has some ability to engage ballistic missiles in the terminal stage of their flight.
Ukraine is looking to bolster its air and missile defenses, as well, including through the purchase of ground-launched IRIS-T surface-to-air missile systems, which you can read more about here. Ukraine's Ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, reportedly said recently that his country had signed a formal contract to buy 10 of these systems. He had previously called IRIS-T "the coolest" surface-to-air missile system "in the world," and suggested that it was akin to the U.S.-made Patriot, despite the latter system being a much longer-range and higher-tier air defense asset.
The European Parliament approved Ukraine's candidate status for European Union membership, as well as that of Moldova, in a resounding manner, with members voting 529 to 45 in favor. This begins what is likely to be a years-long process for Ukraine to become an actual member of that economic bloc, something that the Russian government claims it does not oppose, but that has drawn the ire of the Kremlin in the past.
The video below reportedly shows a Ukrainian T-72B tank in the Azot area of Severodonetsk.
Azot has seen some of the most intense fighting in Donbas recently.
The video below shows Ukrainian women in the Zaporizhzhia region being trained to use Kalashnikov-style assault rifles in preparation to potentially resist a future offensive by Russian forces.
The Russian military has released the video below of Ka-52 attack helicopter operations in the east of Ukraine. The clips show helicopters equipped with 2 B8V20A rocket pods and 4 Vikhir anti-tank missiles. From the footage, it is clear that Russian helicopter pilots continue to conduct strikes using unguided rockets fired obliquely at targets from a distance.
The video in the Tweet below shows that Ukrainian helicopters, among other aircraft, continue to be available to launch strikes aimed at Russian forces. In this case, a Ukrainian Mi-8MSB-V helicopter is seen launching a full pod of S-8 80mm unguided rockets on the target using the same kind of indirect fire tactics that Russian helicopters are employing.
Seen below is another improvised ground-based light rocket launcher that fires S-8 aircraft rockets being used by Ukrainian forces. This system looks quite competently put together and reportedly uses components salved from Russian Ka-52s.
The picture below appears to be the first public sighting of an ex-Polish 2S1 Goździk 122mm self-propelled howitzer in Ukraine, identified by its distinctive camouflage pattern. According to publicly available information, the Ukrainian Army has received approximately 20 of these vehicles from Poland.
Below is a rare sighting of a U.S.-donated AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel radar now in Ukrainian service. The U.S. government first delivered Sentinels to Ukraine in 2014, but has sent additional examples since Russia launched its all-out invasion. The Sentinel was originally designed to support short-range air defense systems, but newer variants also have valuable counter-battery capabilities allowing them to trace incoming artillery rounds back to their source. With that information in hand, friendly forces can then attempt to engage those enemy artillery units.
The pictures below show an Australian-supplied Bushmaster armored vehicle armed with a EOS R400-Mk2 remote weapon station currently serving with Ukrainian forces in the eastern end of the country. These mine-protected vehicles have reportedly been well-received by Ukrainian soldiers.
A volunteer Ukrainian unit known as Kraken has released a video highlighting how they reuse military aid from Russia, including damaged vehicles. The clip shows BMD-2 infantry fighting vehicles, multi-purpose MT-LBVM tracked carriers, BM-21 Grad artillery rocket launchers, and trucks being repaired. Destroyed vehicles also don't go to waste and are used as sources of spare weapons and parts.
Russian forces also say they are capturing Ukrainian equipment, including foreign supplied systems. Russia's state-owned armored vehicle manufacturer Uralvagonmashzavod (UVZ) has "thanked" France's President Emmanuel Macron for sending CAESAR mobile howitzers to Ukraine, where they were later captured by Russian forces, Defence Ministry-controlled Zvezda TV reported on 23 June.
The weapon was later sent to UVZ for analysis by its weapon engineers, French politician Regis de Castelnau claimed on his Telegram messenger channel on 22 June.
"Another victory for Macron," de Castelnau said. "Two French CAESAR guns have been captured intact by the Russians. They are now in the UVZ factory in the Urals, so they can study them and reverse-engineer them."
"Good day, Mr Regis. We ask you to send a word of thanks to President Macron for the gift of the self-propelled howitzer," a reply from UVZ's Telegram account read. "The kit is, of course, so-so. Not our Msta-S. But nonetheless it's useful. Send more - we'll take a look."
The video below shows a previously undocumented loss from the Ukrainian Air Force, a Su-24M Fencer swing-wing combat jet that came down in the earlier stages of war, possibly in the northeastern Poltava Oblast. Both pilots survived.
Pictures have emerged on social media reportedly showing the remains of a Russian Kalibr cruise missile found in Ukraine's western Vinnytsia region.
Russian air and artillery strikes have littered Ukrainian cities with dangerous unexploded ordnance. The pictures below show Ukrainian explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) personnel removing an apparently unexploded Russian FAB-500 high-explosive bomb from a high rise in the northeastern city of Kharkiv.
The picture below offers evidence of a previously unseen loss of a Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2 armed drone. This unmanned aircraft was reportedly shot down by a Russian Osa (SA-8) surfaceot-air missile system near Vuhledar in the eastern Donetsk Region sometime between April 28th and May 20th.
The Ukrainian military put together the slickly produced video seen below touting aid the country has received from the United Kingdom, particularly NLAW anti-tank missiles. The video is full of British cultural references from music by punk rock band The Clash to clips from James Bond movies.
The video below shows a reported explosion at a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) depot in the Russian town of Talitsa in the country's central Sverdlovsk region. Reports said 1 person was wounded in the incident, the cause of which is not entirely clear. Though Talitsa is hundreds of miles from Ukraine, this is the latest in a string of explosions and fires that have occurred across Russia since it launched its war on Ukraine, which has prompted speculation about possible links between these incidents and the conflict. Just yesterday, an oil refinery in Novoshakhtinsk, which is relatively close to the border with Ukraine, appeared to be attacked by ‘kamikaze’ drone, underscoring potential threats to targets inside Russia proper, as you can read more about here.
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