Ukraine gave assurances they will not be fired into Russian territory
The rocket systems are part of a new $700 million tranche of security assistance for Ukraine CREDIT: The Olympian
The United States will send more advanced rocket systems to Ukraine capable of travelling nearly 80km, a senior US official confirmed.
It came after Ukraine gave assurances to the US that it would not use the precision-guided munitions against targets inside Russia.
Ukraine will be provided with a small number of the medium-range M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars), a senior Biden administration official said.
The system can launch a rocket capable of 48 miles (77km), the official said. They are mounted on a truck and can carry a container with six rockets.
It can also fire a longer-range missile, the Army Tactical Missile System, with a range of about 190 miles but those will not be sent by the US.
Ukraine had also asked for the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), which can fire rockets hundreds of kilometres.
A senior US official said: “At this time we decided not to provide the longer range munitions, and have communicated that to the Ukrainians.
“The range of the munitions with the Himars allows them to range out to about 80km. It gives them a bit of precision munitions toward unique targets.
“The Ukrainians have given us assurances they will not use these munitions against targets in Russian territory.
“Given those assurances, we are very comfortable that they will not.”
The official said the rockets would “strengthen Ukraine’s hand on the battlefield,” and the US was giving them a “range of capabilities commensurate with the fight”.
He said: “These systems will be used by the Ukrainians to repel Russian advances on Ukrainian territory. But they will not be used on targets in Russian territory.”
The Himars were part of a new $700 million tranche of weapons being sent by the US. That will also include counter-fire radar, air surveillance radar, additional Javelin ant-tank weapons, additional artillery rounds, helicopters, tactical vehicles, and spare parts particularly for artillery.
In announcing the delivery of the Himars, the US ended days of speculation about what rocket systems would be sent to Ukraine.
The decision was an attempt to strike a balance between boosting Ukrainian firepower and not escalating the war.
It is expected Ukrainian forces will use the rockets in the eastern Donbas region to intercept Russian artillery, and take out Russian positions in areas including the city of Severodonetsk.
Mr Biden, in an op-ed for the New York Times, said: “We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.
“That’s why I’ve decided that we will 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.”
Mr Biden added; “As much as I disagree with Mr Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow.
“So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces.
“We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.”
Mr Biden said he would not pressure the Ukrainian government “in private or public” to make any territorial concessions.
He added: “I know many people around the world are concerned about the use of nuclear weapons.
“We currently see no indication that Russia has intent to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, though Russia’s occasional rhetoric to rattle the nuclear sabre is itself dangerous and extremely irresponsible
“Let me be clear, any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences.”