President Joe Biden disclosed Thursday that the United States will provide more than $1 billion in arms and humanitarian aid to Ukraine in response to the country's ongoing conflict with Russia.
In addition to artillery and ammunition, the U.S. will supply coastal defense weapons and advanced rocket systems to the eastern Donbas region to support the country's defensive forces.
Wednesday morning, Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to reaffirm U.S. support for the war-torn country, promising to "stand by Ukraine as it defends its democracy and support its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of unprovoked Russian aggression."
A further $225 million from the United States will be used to aid Ukrainians by providing safe drinking water, medical supplies, health care, food, shelter, and money for families to purchase essentials.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced at a news conference in Brussels on Wednesday that the latest installment of aid includes for the first time two Harpoon anti-ship missile systems, 18 additional M777 Howitzers and the tactical vehicles required to tow them, and 36,000 rounds of 155-mm ammunition.
Other nations have supplied Ukraine with coastal defense systems, including a number of Danish Harpoon systems. However, this is the first time that the U.S. has sent these weapons, which Ukrainian authorities say are essential for fighting Russian fleet attacks in the Black Sea.
A senior defense official told reporters after the announcement that the U.S. will give a vehicle-mounted launcher that, when combined with Harpoons provided by partners, will be able to fire the missiles from the shore to protect against the Russian fleet.
A second senior defense official stated that the Pentagon will offer a contract to industry for the new configuration in the coming months. The official added that the proposal was one of 1,300 submitted by the defense sector in response to the Defense Department's request for new artillery weapons.
"The Harpoon is designed for coastal defense," said the second official.
Ukrainians are concerned that Russia will strike Odessa and other vital Black Sea ports. Therefore, this feature considerably strengthens their deterrence, military analysts said.
In addition to the three Multiple Launch Rocket Systems from the United Kingdom and the four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems from the U.S., Germany will send three Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and guided munitions, Austin said.
Austin added that the three nations are now "working together" to educate the Ukrainians to operate the weapons as soon as possible.