US Military Aid to Ukraine Shows Defense Is Upgrading US Forces and Capabilities as Well as Defending Ukraine

Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

One of the constant criticisms of our military aid to Ukraine is that it allegedly goes to Ukrainian oligarchs. I understand why Putin’s boosters frame it that way, but our military assistance is much more significant to the US than keeping Ukraine in the fight.

To understand where the money appropriated for Ukraine aid goes, let’s take a look at what has been spent so far. I’m borrowing heavily from a thread by Thomas Theiner, @noclador, on Twitter. He did the yeoman’s work of pulling it all together. The information isn’t classified; it is available to anyone with the tenaciousness to dig it up (by that, I mean not me). A lot of it can be found simply by googling the dollar amounts. So let’s look at it. If you aren’t a VIP member yet, sign up using the discount code STREIFF. Baby needs new shoes.

Pentagon budget realignment files are a magnificent source of info about what the US military is up to, what classified programs US Special Operations Command runs in Ukraine, and what equipment has been sent to Ukraine.

Let’s dive in – a thread

These Pentagon papers include all items the Pentagon ordered to replace equipment sent to Ukraine up to 12 August 2022.

  • $1,381,308,000 of Javelins and $73,123,000 of Javelin Command Launch Units (CLU) to replace the Javs sent to Ukraine.
  • $808,811,000 of Stingers. Interestingly $505,054,000 worth of the Stingers is for the Marine Corps, which hasn’t ordered Stingers since 2005.

This last item is a bit of news as back in April, the CEO of Raytheon was making noises to the effect that the whole system had to be redesigned due to obsolete components being impossible to find.

  • $31,136,000 M777 howitzer spare parts have been ordered to replace the spares sent by the Marines to Ukraine
  • $237,188,000 of M795 projectiles have been ordered and $92,108,000 of M982 Excalibur projectiles
  • $396,944,000 are being spent on M232A1 propelling charges, various fuzes, and M82 primers
  • $1,698,000 for EPIAFS fuze setters to set Excaliburs

Even more interesting – the Pentagon spends:

  • $10,000,000 to increase 155mm ammo production at the existing plant
  • $200,000,000 for a new M795 metal parts plant
  • $30,000,000 for a new M795 load, assemble and pack plant
  • $265,850,000 for a new propelling charges plant
  • $33,000,000 to increase M739A1 fuze production
  • $7,000,000 to increase M82 primer production
  • $8,000,000 for 155mm production line spare parts
  • $30,000,000 for a dedicated XM1113 and XM1210 production line to speed up introduction of these new projectiles

Look at this segment carefully. Putin’s War has been artillery intensive. Arguably, the world hasn’t experienced such a war since the late stages of the Korean War. Moreover, the burn rate of artillery ammunition revealed severe shortcomings in our manufacturing capacity. This is from Colonel (retired) M. Thomas Davis writing in RealClearDefense:

A recent report by The Hill newspaper indicates that as of now the United States has given (or soon will give) the following items of equipment to Ukraine: 806,000 155mm artillery shells; 1,500 TOW anti-tank missiles; 8,500 Javelin anti-tank missiles (the Russian army have – or had – a large tank force); and 16 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). There were numerous other systems mentioned in the report, but for this discussion let us just focus on the two that have drawn the most commentary: 155mm artillery shells and HIMARS rockets.

A review of the justification books (J-Books) submitted by the Army with its fiscal year 2023 (FY23) budget shows potential disconnects between strategic demands and defense industry supplies. The J-Books show that the total number of high-explosive (HE) rounds requested for the coming fiscal year is about 70,000. For the entire 155mm ammunition family it is 93,000.

Looking back five years, one sees that the average HE production has been 75,000 and total 155mm production about 175,000. In other words, the number of 155mm artillery shells flowing to Ukraine equals four to ten years of overall production depending on the type shells being requested and provided. Looking forward, over the coming five years, the total 155mm production is projected at 700,000 rounds, 100,000 fewer rounds than currently headed to Ukraine in just the past six months!

Regarding consumption rates, some reports indicate Ukrainian forces are firing some 6,000 artillery shells per day. That would translate to over two million rounds per year, some twelve times the annual U.S. production. This is clearly a sustainment and production challenge that will be difficult to meet without significantly dipping into American war reserve stockpiles.

The HIMARS story is clear in one regard and less clear in another. Regarding the launchers themselves, the Army only expected to buy 23 systems with the FY23 funds. That means that the launchers given to Ukraine account for about 60% of that year’s production. The launchers fire rockets, either the older unguided MLRS rocket or, the newer guided version, GMLRS. Each launcher carries a pod of six rockets. If each Ukrainian-crewed launcher only fired one rocket per day, that would amount to 5,760 rockets per year. The FY23 GMLRS requested procurement is for 4,674 guided rockets, only 80 percent of possible Ukrainian usage. Moreover, each rocket costs about $170,000.

The last group of expenditures is focused on increasing capacity to produce ammunition. If nothing else, Putin’s War may have been a wake-up call to the Pentagon that we need to focus on mundane things like artillery ammunition rather than spending unreasonable amounts of money on the next big-ticket shiny object.

Back to Theiner’s thread.

Staying with artillery:

  • $298,000,000 for counter battery radars (and $53,000,000 for AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel air-defense radars)

To replace M777 howitzer towing trucks and ammo transporting trucks, the Pentagon ordered:

  • $74,267,000 worth of FMTV
  • $13,361,000 worth of FHTV

Now let’s have a look at everyone’s favorite American icon – the M142 HIMARS. The Pentagon ordered $399,913,000 worth of M142 HIMARS launchers. That’s at least 100 launchers… but in the Pentagon papers one can find a hint that the Army is replacing its M777 with M142.

Again a critical piece of information. A few weeks ago, there was a Twitter boomlet from someone saying they were a USMC artilleryman and complaining that all of their M777155mm artillery pieces had been sent to Ukraine. This is a two-part story. First, the USMC is getting rid of nearly all of its tube artillery under its controversial “Force Design 2030” reorganization. Most of the remaining tube artillery will be replaced by HIMARS. It looks like the Army has elected to move that way, too. It is really difficult to conceive of a place on the modern battlefield for towed artillery when evaluated in terms of economy, deployability, tactical versatility, or reduction in manpower requirements. So yes, most Marine artillery is going the way of Marine armor. This has nothing to do with Ukraine and everything to do with the current USMC Commandant’s vision for his service; to portray it otherwise is the height of dishonesty.

Until 12 August the Pentagon ordered $139,599,000 of GMLRS rockets. According to these Pentagon papers M31A2 rockets cost $774,750 per pod of six… so we can assume (with a margin of error) that Ukraine received around 180 pods with 1,080 rockets in July.

And the Pentagon is also increasing M142 and GMLRS production:

  • $77,000,000 to procure long lead items for GMLRS
  • $44,000,000 to shorten GMLRS production times
  • $71,500,000 to increase M142 HIMARS production

Note there is still more investment in increasing ammunition production capacity.

Other interesting info in the ammo section:

  • $30,913,000 for 7.62mm machine gun ammo
  • $74,750,000 for .50 machine gun ammo
  • $72,415,000 for 40mm grenades for Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers ($12,094,000) and M320A1 grenade launchers ($5,268,000)
  • $26,832,000 for AT-4 anti-tank rockets
  • $19,115,000 for M72 LAW
  • $47,323,000 for a non defined “shoulder launched munition” (I have no clue what that could be)

I had no idea that the M-72 Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW) was still in use but, yes, there is an L-72A7 that has a longer effective range than the original and no backblast allowing it to be fired in restrictive spaces. The “shoulder launched munitions” category contains the AT-4 anti-tank weapon and the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition (BDM). The M141 has been used in Ukraine, so that would be my bet.

The ammo section has just small amounts for hand grenades ($3,618,000) and mines ($1,635,000) – either the US Army has enough of these, or Europeans deliver most of the stuff here.

Mortar ammo orders are also rather small:

  • $11,204,000 for 60mm ammo
  • $11,308,000 for 81mm ammo

But a lot of body armor, helmets, etc. have been ordered: $321,068,000

Other interesting stuff:

  • $867,020,000 for Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) to free up M113 for Ukraine
  • $77,508,000 to replace “small, medium, and large assault craft” for the US Navy

But now comes the REALLY juicy stuff!

• $50,000,000 for a program “to integrate design features that enhance interoperability of systems [identified for possible future export] with those of friendly foreign countries”

Likely this program includes stuff like the AGM-88 HARM on Ukrainian Mig-29 integration.

I posted on the AGM-88 HARM integration that took everyone, the Russians most of all, by surprise in Putin’s War. Week 26: A Bizarre Assassination in Moscow, a Nuclear Power Plant Held Hostage, and Ukraine Launches (Maybe) Its First Offensive

Air-defense missiles:

  • $74,264,000 for 78 AIM-120D for the Navy
  • $112,348,000 for 118 AIM-120D for the Air Force

which makes sense as the US needs to replace the AIM-120 that will be sent to Ukraine with the NASAMS 3 systems, but the Pentagon also ordered

  • $288,491,000 for 76 Patriot PAC-3 MSE missiles

Either these are for the US Patriot battalions in Poland, or they are the first sign of US Lend-Lease for Ukraine.

Read about NASAMS in Putin’s War, Week 19. Political Uncertainty, Lots of New Weapons, and a Replay of the Western Front.

The Patriot acquisition is for the newest version of the Patriot missile. It is more likely than not intended for use by US Army systems in high-risk areas. Even though Patriot would make life in the Russian Air Force much more interesting, I don’t see us making that move.

Also in the Pentagon papers is a $3 million funding for an undefined classified program… and $9,123,000 for two “Military Intelligence Programs” run by the US Special Operations Command for a “classified requirement.” Where these programs are taking place – I don’t know. What these programs are about – I don’t know. But as the funding for these two is listed in a publicly accessible Pentagon document, I assume they are not classified as “secret” and, therefore, more likely something like “training Ukrainian Special Forces” rather than something like “ISTAR behind Russian lines.”

There are also dozens of entries for the funding of US forces deployed to Europe, but I believe what the US has sent to Ukraine and is now back ordering to be more interesting.

As the @DeptofDefense released the last file on 12 August, I am looking forward to the next one, as that will have more GMLRS ammo, 105mm ammo, likely HARM backorders, and I am sure a lot of unexpected stuff.

The key takeaway is that military aid to Ukraine is not like Barack Obama sending bales of non-sequential, unmarked $20s to Iran. Instead, the expenditures focus on replacing donated US equipment and ammunition with new items. War stocks of ammunition are being cycled out for use in Ukraine and replaced with new ammunition. New manufacturing capacity is being developed based on the hard lessons learned on battlefields in Ukraine. The end result is that we are much better positioned to face China than we were only a year ago.


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