US adding armored vehicles to fresh $2.6B Ukraine aid package

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US adding armored vehicles to fresh $2.6B Ukraine aid package

WASHINGTON — The US will throw in powerful armored vehicles as part of its latest $2.6 billion security package for Ukraine — one of the largest since Russia’s invasion began 11 months ago, Pentagon sources tell The Post.

The assistance is expected to include nearly 100 Stryker combat vehicles and at least 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

The package, to be announced Friday, is another step toward giving Ukraine the tanks Kyiv has long asked for, with fighting expected to intensify later this year. Stryker combat vehicles and Bradley Fighting Vehicles are similar to tanks but have less armor and smaller guns.

The US has previously sent Ukraine thousands of other combat vehicles to help move troops — such as Humvees and mine-resistant vehicles — but Bradleys and Strykers offer increased combat capabilities with their 25 mm and 105 mm cannons, respectively.

Despite Ukraine’s repeated asks for tanks, only the United Kingdom has responded. Over the weekend, London announced it would send Ukraine 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks. Germany is also considering sending its Leopard 2 tanks.

While US officials have acknowledged the benefits tanks would provide Ukraine’s defenders, this week’s package will not include M1 Abrams tanks, which Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said “just doesn’t make sense” to send “at this moment,” at least in part due to upkeep requirements.

The latest security package for Ukraine from the US will include 100 Stryker combat vehicles.
The latest security package for Ukraine from the US will include 100 Stryker combat vehicles.

The armored vehicles are similar to the tanks Ukraine has requested, but have less armor and feature smaller guns.
The armored vehicles are similar to the tanks Ukraine has requested, but have less armor and feature smaller guns.


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The package will also include 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.
The package will also include 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.


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“The Abrams are more of a sustainment issue,” Singh told reporters Thursday. “I mean, this is a tank that requires jet fuel, whereas the Leopard and the Challenger — it’s a different engine, they require diesel. It’s a little bit easier to maintain.”

Details of the package come ahead of the Friday meeting of the Pentagon-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which brings together defense leaders from more than 50 nations each month to coordinate resources for the war-torn country. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin frequently times major military aid announcements to the group’s monthly meetings.

Austin is also expected to press other allies who use Leopard tanks to offer them to Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers carrying a wounded soldier to a hospital in the Donetsk region on January 9, 2023.
Ukrainian soldiers carrying a wounded soldier to a hospital in the Donetsk region on Jan. 9, 2023.
AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka
Ukrainian soldiers carrying the coffin of a fallen soldier at a funeral in Lviv on January 18, 2023.
Ukrainian soldiers carrying the coffin of a fallen soldier at a funeral in Lviv on Jan. 18, 2023.
Photo by YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP via Getty Images

“There are dozens of countries that have the Leopard tanks,” Singh said. “I think the secretary’s objective here is to secure and work with our partners and allies to get Ukraine the capabilities and the requests that it has for what it needs on the battlefield. That’s why the contact group is so important.”

US officials believe Russia is planning a fresh spring offensive in Ukraine. Discussions at the Friday meeting – to be held at Ramstein Air Base in Germany – are expected to focus on what Kyiv will need to counter the expected offensive and “launch attacks to take back the territory Russia has taken,” according to the Pentagon.

While those needs include a steady supply of air-defense and artillery capabilities, the upcoming fight will require armored weaponry, necessitating the Bradleys, Strykers and British Challenger tanks, a senior US official said Wednesday.

“What’s really important at this point is providing Ukraine with armor capabilities, and in particular, maneuver[able] armor capabilities,” the official said.

Ukrainian troops are already training on Bradley Fighting Vehicles at the 7th Army Training Center in Grafenwoehr, Germany, near Nuremberg, according to the Pentagon.

So far, the US has sent Ukraine roughly $20 billion in military aid from its own stock and through weapons purchases with congressionally-approved funds.

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