The United States will be sending two vehicle-mounted anti-ship missile platforms to Ukraine as part of a new $1 billion military aid package to Kyiv.
The Harpoons, earmarked for coastal defense, are coming from the $650 million in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative included in the package, according to a statement from the White House.
Coastal defense continues to be an urgent need for Ukrainians, leading them to request this type of aid from the U.S., a senior official told reporters Wednesday.
The Russian Navy has effectively blockaded the coast of Ukraine preventing grain supplies from leaving the country.
The Harpoon systems will be vehicle-mounted, with the launchers coming from the United States and the missiles provided by allies, the official, who was joined by another senior defense official, said during the Wednesday press call.
The United States will be turning to industry in order to provide the vehicle-mounted launchers, the senior defense officials said. That came as an industry response to a query from the Department of Defense seeking systems that can help Ukraine’s defense, one of the defense officials said.
“Harpoon is intended for coastal defense,” the senior defense official said. “I think we’ve seen the negative impacts that the Russian blockade of the Black Sea has had and […] continued Ukrainian fears about Russia targeting Odesa and other critical ports around the Black Sea.”
Ukraine has already sent Denmark-provided Harpoon missiles to the edge of the Black Sea as part of its coastal defense, USNI News previously reported.
A truck-mounted Harpoon launcher is not something that is currently available from the Department of Defense, which is why the system comes from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and not the Pentagon’s inventory, which pulls from readily available supply, the senior defense official said. The DOD will have to procure the launcher.
It could take months for the vehicle-mounted system to be ready for Ukraine, the other defense official said.
“From execution of the contract, to building the systems, to delivering the systems, to including the training and all the pieces that go along with operating a package that has… more technology in it than we’ve been providing [with] some of the capabilities to date — that process takes a little bit of time to get there to be on the ground, on the battlefield, and be operationally effective,” the defense official said.
Although it could take weeks for the systems to arrive, they will still likely make a difference once they do, the official said. It is believed the current phase of the Russian attack could go on for some time.
In addition to the two vehicle-mounted Harpoon systems, the U.S. will also send thousands of secure radios and optic devices, including night vision capabilities, through the Ukraine assistance fund.
From Pentagon inventory, the U.S. will send 18 55mm Howitzers, 155mm ammunition, 18 tactical vehicles for towing the Howitzers, ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, four tactical vehicles for equipment recovery and other spare parts needed.