WASHINGTON: A new rocket that would double Ukraine’s strike range in its war with Russia was included in a $2.175 billion US military aid package, the Pentagon said on Friday. The new weapon, the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), will allow Ukraine’s military to hit targets at twice the distance reachable by the rockets it now fires from the US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
The 151 km (94 miles) GLSDB will put all of Russia’s supply lines in eastern Ukraine within reach, as well as part of Russian-occupied Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014. “As part of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) package, we will be providing Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb to Ukraine,” Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing at the Pentagon. Friday’s aid pledge opens the door to many more deliveries of the GLSDBs.
When the new rockets arrive, it will mark the first time Ukraine has seen its rocket range grow exponentially since the US furnished HIMARS in late-June 2022. HIMARS have a 77 km (48 miles) range and were instrumental in Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russian forces, which invaded on February 24, 2022.
In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA news agency that it was important not to forget what President Vladimir Putin had said in Volgograd on Thursday. In a speech, Putin said, “we have the means to respond, and it won’t end with the use of armoured vehicles, everyone must understand that.” Reuters was the first to report on a Boeing Co proposal to field GLSDB for Ukraine in November. At the time it was expected GLSDB could be in Ukraine by spring.
“This demonstrates Boeing’s commitment to answer the nation’s call for rapid, effective capabilities for the United States and its international partners,” a Boeing spokesperson said. “Our team and Saab continue to work closely with the US Government to solve pressing security challenges with speed and agility.” GLSDB is made jointly with Sweden’s SAAB AB.
A $1.725 billion portion of Friday’s aid, comes from USAI funding, which allows President Joe Biden’s administration to buy weapons from industry rather than from US weapons stocks. The USAI funds pledged would also be used to buy two HAWK air defense firing units, counter-drone systems, counter artillery and air surveillance radars, communications equipment, PUMA drones, and medical supplies.
In addition to the USAI funds, $425 million worth of arms aid is coming from Presidential Drawdown Authority funds, which allows the president to take from current US stocks in an emergency.
That aid includes more precision-guided munitions for HIMARS launchers, 190 heavy machine guns with thermal imagery sights and associated ammunition to counter drones, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, claymore anti-personnel mines and Javelin anti-tank weapons. The US has now pledged more than $29.3 billion worth of security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion.