US sending longer-range precision rockets to Ukraine
Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder speaks during a news briefing at the Pentagon on February 3, 2023 in Arlington, Virginia. Ryder held a news briefing to answer questions from members of the press. Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) -- A new $2.2 billion US arms package for Ukraine includes a new rocket-propelled precision bomb that could nearly double Kyiv's strike range against the Russians, the Pentagon said Friday.

Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said the new package includes the ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDB), a munition that can fly up to 150 kilometres (93 miles), which would threaten Russian positions and depots far behind the front lines.

"This gives them a longer-range capability... that will enable them to conduct operations in defense of their country and to take back their sovereign territory," Ryder said.

Ukraine had been asking the United States for munitions that can fly farther than the HIMARS rockets with an 80-kilometre (50-mile) range.

The GLSDB potentially gives Ukraine forces an ability to strike anywhere in the Russian-occupied Donbas, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, and the northern part of occupied Crimea.

That could threaten key Russian supply lines, arms depots and air bases.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted his thanks to President Joe Biden for the new aid.

"The more long-range our weapons are and the more mobile our troops are the sooner Russia's brutal aggression will end," he said.

The GLSDB, made by Boeing and Saab, is a gliding rocket with a small bomb attached.

Saab says it can hit a target from any angle within one meter.

"The precision of GLSDB is so high it can hit within the radius of a car tire," Saab said on its website.

Writing in December, John Hardie and Bradley Bowman of the Washington security think-tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies said the GLSDB can be launched from a variety of standard launchers, including the HIMARS and M270 MLRS systems already in use in Ukraine.

"But it can also be fired by non-traditional launchers, such as from the back of an ordinary-looking truck or from a nondescript shipping container hidden in plain sight," they said.

"That would make it more difficult for Russian forces to find and destroy the system."

But they said it could take up to nine months for the first deliveries of the system to Ukraine.

The Pentagon did not immediately reply to a query on the delivery time.

A Boeing spokesperson said in an email they were not sharing any details on how long it would take to get the GLSDB into the hands of Ukrainian forces.

The new arms package included a wide range of arms, ammunition and other equipment, including HIMARS ammunition, armored vehicles, Javelin anti-tank rockets, medical supplies and cold-weather gear.

The package also focuses on air defense, with two HAWK air defense units, anti-aircraft guns, air surveillance radars, counter-drone systems, and 190 heavy machine guns with thermal imagery sights to shoot down enemy drones.

It took to $29.3 billion the amount of total defense aide from the US to Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24, 2022.

The new package was announced just three weeks shy of the first anniversary of the war.

Despite Ukraine's strong pushback, Russian forces still occupy some 20 percent of its territory, including Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014.

Intense fighting continues along a long front line in southern and eastern Ukraine.

The new arms aim "to help Ukraine continue to defend itself against Russia’s brutal war," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

"Russia alone could end its unprovoked war today. Until it does so, we will stand united with Ukraine for as long as it takes."

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