U.S. package of $2.2 billion in Ukraine aid includes new guided weapon
Feb. 3, 2023 Updated Fri., Feb. 3, 2023 at 7:20 p.m.
WASHINGTON – The Biden administration has authorized a military aid package for Ukraine valued at $2.2 billion that will, for the first time, include money for Kyiv to purchase a new rocket-boosted weapon that can strike targets up to 93 miles away.
The Pentagon emailed details of the aid package to reporters Friday morning.
The weapon, called the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb, has not yet been fielded by the Pentagon itself, but it would give Ukraine’s army the ability to hit targets even farther away than it can currently reach with the American-made guided rockets fired by HIMARS launchers.
The new weapon Ukraine will receive can also be fired from American-made HIMARS and M270 launchers provided to Ukraine. In the air, its solid-fuel rocket motor propels a 250-pound bomb farther until they separate, whereupon it deploys scissorlike wings and glides to its target, guided by satellites.
The Pentagon’s press secretary, Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, said the range of the new weapon would help Ukraine’s military “to take back their sovereign territory in Russian-occupied areas.”
The winged munition carried by the rocket is a GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, which was designed to be dropped from warplanes. Intended for urban targets, it is half the weight of the 500-pound bombs that were frequently used in America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although mock-ups of a rocket-boosted version of the gliding bomb have been displayed at military trade shows, the Pentagon has never indicated interest in purchasing the weapon, which was developed by Boeing and Saab and tested as early as 2015.
According to Saab, the weapon has a range of 93 miles. Details provided by U.S. military documents show the GBU-39 bomb contains an explosive charge equivalent to 137 pounds of TNT.
By comparison, the guided rockets that the Pentagon has already provided to Ukraine for use with HIMARS launchers have a range of about 52 miles and carry a more powerful warhead. They have proved effective in taking out ammunition depots and attacking command-and-control centers well behind the front lines.
The aid package announced Friday also includes an unspecified number of 155 mm artillery shells, 120 mm mortar shells, heavy machine guns with thermal sights for shooting down drones, anti-tank rockets, armored vehicles and other materiel valued at $475 million from Pentagon stockpiles. The package is the 31st withdrawal from Defense Department inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.
The remaining $1.75 billion provided is to allow Ukraine to purchase items directly from defense contractors, including the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs, two HAWK surface-to air missile launchers, radars, anti-aircraft guns, encrypted radios, medical supplies and equipment for linking the Western air-defense weapons provided since the Feb. 24 invasion with Ukraine’s prewar supply of Russian-made air-defense weapons.
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