WASHINGTON (AFP) - The first shipments of a new US military aid package have arrived at Ukraine's borders to be handed over in its fight against the Russian invasion, a senior Pentagon official said Monday (April 18).
The United States on April 13 unveiled a US$800 million (S$1.09 billion) tranche of equipment for Ukraine, including helicopters, howitzers and armoured personnel carriers.
"There have been four flights from the United States arriving into the theatre just yesterday," a senior Pentagon official said Monday, with a fifth flight due shortly.
The package includes 18 155mm howitzers for the first time, as well as 40,000 artillery rounds, 200 M113 armoured personnel carriers, 11 Mi-17 helicopters and 100 armoured multi-purpose vehicles.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the first shipment had arrived 48 hours after President Joe Biden authorised the aid delivery, an "unprecedented speed."
Mr Kirby also said that soldiers deployed on the eastern flank of Nato territory since the start of Moscow's invasion will begin "in the next several days" to train Ukrainian soldiers to handle the howitzers, which are the latest generation of that weapon.
The training will be done outside Ukraine, Mr Kirby stressed.
"It'll be a small number of Ukrainians that will be trained on the howitzers, and then they'll be reintroduced back into their country to train their colleagues."
Although the way the US howitzers are handled is not fundamentally different from the ones with which the Ukrainian army is familiar, the ones Washington has sent use 155-millimeter shells - common in Nato countries - while Ukraine still uses Russian-made 152-millimeter shells.
Many modern armaments use electronic chips whose main producers are Taiwan and South Korea, two US allies that have stopped exporting products to Russia in line with American sanctions.
"There has been an effect on Putin's ability to restock and resupply, particularly in the realm of components to some of his systems and his precision-guided munitions," the anonymous US official said.
Russia has formally complained to the United States over its military aid to Ukraine, warning of "unpredictable consequences" if shipments of advanced weaponry go forward, US media reported last week.