Package includes 15 Scan Eagle surveillance drones, 40 mine-resistant vehicles, 2,000 anti-armour rounds and howitzers that will help Ukraine regain Russia-occupied areas, American officials say.

It is the 19th time the Pentagon has provided equipment from Defense Department stocks to Ukraine since August 2021.
It is the 19th time the Pentagon has provided equipment from Defense Department stocks to Ukraine since August 2021. (AP Archive)

The US for the first time has said it will give Ukraine Scan Eagle surveillance drones, mine-resistant vehicles, anti-armour rounds and howitzer weapons to help Ukrainian forces regain territory and mount a counteroffensive against Russian forces.

A senior defence official told reporters on Friday that a new $775 million aid package will include 15 Scan Eagles, 40 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles known as MRAPs with mine-clearing rollers, and 2,000 anti-armour rounds that can help Ukraine troops move forward in the south and east, where Russian forces have placed mines.

The aid package also includes 1,500 anti-tank missiles, 1,000 javelin missiles and an undisclosed number of high-speed, anti-radiation or HARM missiles that target radar systems. 

"These capabilities are carefully calibrated to make the most difference on the battlefield and strengthen Ukraine’s position at the negotiating table," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

This latest aid comes as Russia's assault on Ukraine is about to reach the six-month mark. It brings the total US military aid to Ukraine to about $10.6 billion since the beginning of the Biden administration.

It is the 19th time the Pentagon has provided equipment from Defense Department stocks to Ukraine since August 2021.

The US has provided howitzer ammunition in the past, but this is the first time it will send 16 of the weapon systems. 

Conflict near 'operational standstill'

Russian forces have made some incremental gains in the east, but they have also been put on the defensive in other regions, as Ukraine ratchets up its attacks in Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. 

The Russian-occupied territory was seized by Moscow in 2014. Nine Russian warplanes were reported destroyed last week at an airbase on Crimea in strikes that highlighted the Ukrainians' capacity to strike deep behind enemy lines.

Russian leaders have warned that striking facilities in Crimea marks an escalation in the conflict fuelled by the US and NATO allies and threatens to pull America deeper into the conflict.

One Western official said on Friday that the conflict is at a "near operational standstill," with neither side able to launch major offensives.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said the whole tempo of the campaign has slowed, partly because both sides recognise that "this is a marathon, not a sprint and that expenditure rates and conserving their munitions is important."

But the US and Western officials both said that Ukraine has been able to launch successful attacks deep behind Russian battle lines, which is eroding logistics support and command and control of Moscow's forces and harming their morale.

Source: AP