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Biden admin will provide Ukraine with longer-range rocket systems

A senior official said Tuesday that Ukraine had agreed not to use the new longer-range rocket systems, called MLRS, to fire rockets into Russia.
U.S. Marine Corps launch High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during Emerald Warrior 22.1
U.S. Marines conduct live-fire training with a Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) during Emerald Warrior 22.1 at Avon Park, Fla., on May 10, 2022.Senior Airman Joseph Leveille / U.S. Air Force

President Joe Biden said Tuesday in a New York Times opinion piece that he would “provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

The announcement was part of a piece that explained the Biden administration’s goals in Ukraine: “[A] democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.”

The White House National Security Council said Tuesday that the “more advanced rocket systems” were longer-range multiple-launch rocket systems. They are capable of reaching Russia, officials said, but are not intended to fire rockets into Russia or be used outside Ukraine.

On Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed that the longer-range missiles were part of an aid package worth $700 million, as NBC News had reported, and identified the specific longer-range missile systems, or LRMS, to be provided to Ukraine as High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS M142.

The Pentagon spokesperson said Ukraine has agreed not to use them to launch rockets into Russia, as NBC News previously reported. It marks the first time that Ukraine has agreed to restrictions on the use of a weapons system as a condition of obtaining it.

The spokesperson declined to say how many rockets the U.S. will provide, but said they will be precision-guided and have a range of about 70 kilometers.

The Pentagon spokesperson said the package also includes, among other items, five counter-artillery radars, 1,000 more Javelin missiles, 6,000 anti-armor weapons, four helicopters, and 15 tactical vehicles.

Sending Ukraine the MLRS had been under discussion in the Biden administration, as officials debated whether Russia would view the U.S.’s granting Ukraine’s request for them as escalatory because of their range. Officials said earlier Tuesday that Biden had reached a decision, and NBC News reported that an announcement could come within the next day.

Ukraine has for weeks pressed the Biden administration for the U.S.-made system, but defense officials cautioned that it is a complicated system that requires weeks of training.

A defense official said Tuesday that the Defense Department believes it can get the training for Ukrainian troops down to a week or two for basic operations and that there will be longer training courses for maintenance of the system. The official said that training will all occur outside Ukraine.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier Tuesday that Biden continued to consider providing Ukraine with the MLRS. She said Biden has noted that the U.S. won’t send rocket systems to Ukraine for use beyond the battlefield inside Ukraine.