President Joe Biden has approved sending a new type of precision-guided artillery round to Ukraine that the administration believes will give Kyiv a technological edge in its battle against Russia, according to a senior defense official.
The 1,000 rounds of the new 155mm ammunition is part of a new $400 million aid package the White House is set to announce on Friday, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The package also includes four additional rocket launchers and ammunition, bringing to 12 the number of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems the U.S. is providing to Ukraine, the official said, noting that out of the total promised, 8 HIMARS have already been delivered to Ukraine. Upwards of 100 Ukrainians have been trained on the system to date, a senior military official added.
The latest tranche of aid also includes three tactical vehicles, demolition munitions, counter battery systems and spare parts and other equipment, the official said.
The new munitions offer a similar capability to the U.S. Army’s M982 Excalibur rounds, which provide GPS-guided precision targeting to the M777 Howitzers Washington has sent — and that Kyiv is now using against Russian forces. But the official would not confirm that Excalibur is part of the package.
Yet 1,000 is a fraction of the 36,000 rounds of standard Howitzer shells the U.S. sent to Ukraine in the last aid package. Ukraine typically fires 5,000-6,000 rounds of standard Howitzer ammunition a day, while Russia fires more than twice that amount.
But the administration hopes the new precision-guided shells will save ammunition as Ukraine battles to retake territory in the eastern Donbas region, the official said.
“It offers Ukraine precise capability for specific targets, it will save ammunition, it will be more effective due to the precision, so it’s a further evolution in our support for Ukraine in this battle in the Donbas,” the official said. “This kind of ammunition will not be used at a rate of [thousands] a day.”
Precision munitions are critical to avoiding civilian casualties, the senior military official added, noting that by contrast, Russia has been bombing civilians indiscriminately throughout the conflict.
“If you look at the impact on civilian casualties, the use of precision weapons is so important to protecting individuals who don’t have anything to do with this war,” the official said. “Certainly we are seeing that the Russians, their precision is not nearly the same.”