UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

U.S. Department of Defense

July 8, 2022
Transcript

Senior Defense Official Holds a Background Briefing

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Great. Thank you. Happy to be with you today. I thought I'd offer a few framing remarks on our approach to Ukrainian security assistance before talking about the specifics that are important for today.

The United States first initiated a training program for Ukraine in 2015 -- yes, 2015 -- on helping Ukraine with its capacity to man, train, equip, deploy and sustain combat arms units. It is this background that's important for understanding how early in the war, Ukraine was able to face a larger, more capable Russian force, able to stay nimble, empower subordinates, achieve commendable successes, already be trained on certain capabilities that the United States as well as other countries had provided -- notably Javelins but not only Javelins -- and therefore, Russia was walking into a battle back in February with a far more capable military than it expected and that it -- it had frankly faced back in 2014.

And then early in the war, the surge of assistance from the United States and allies and partners ended up proving vital to supplement the training and capability Ukraine had built over those seven years in thwarting Russia's multi-access offensive, which was aimed at overthrowing the legitimate government of Ukraine and that is evidenced in the fact that Kyiv was one of the major priority axes of attack.

And what we saw in Ukraine's successful fighting off of the initial attack was that the years of training, equipping and advising, coupled with the surge of key capabilities such as 11,000 anti-armor and almost 1,500 anti-air weapons just in those first weeks, along with critical intelligence sharing, enabled the Ukrainian Armed Forces to successfully defend Kyiv and force the Russians to pull back and reassess their battlefield objectives and their approach.

And part of this -- a main element of this that we're kind of forgetting, I think, as the months have gone on, is that Russia's large scale invasion also was thwarted by Ukraine's very capable use of air defense capabilities, both those that Ukraine owned at the start of the battle -- legacy Soviet capabilities -- and the surge of assistance that the United States and allies immediately turned to in order to provide Ukraine with additional Soviet era legacy air defense systems, spare parts, repairs, more missiles.

And as a result, Ukraine denied Russia from gaining air superiority. And Russia -- and Ukraine continues, to this day, to sustain that capability and to deny Russia air superiority, which has forced Russia to limit its operations to the battle we're seeing today.

Now, coming to the battle today, as Russia's focus shifted to the offensive in eastern Ukraine, our assistance shifted, as well, because it's a different kind of battle, it's a different kind of set of requirements.

At first, Ukraine relied upon, again, its Soviet legacy howitzers, artillery and armored capabilities, but the United States immediately moved to surge over 100 NATO standard 155 millimeter howitzers and over 260,000 155 millimeter artillery rounds from DoD stocks to support what was clear to our military leaders was going to be primarily an artillery battle, and that's what you're seeing play out.

Then, in the next couple of weeks, in the next stage that you will see in this package today, which is the focus on higher capability, precision, further range weapons, and in the case of the United States, that's the provision of the HIMARS system, and the multiple launch rocket systems and the ammunition to enable Ukraine not just to conduct defenses with artillery, which are effective and important but not precision strike capabilities with insufficient range to be able to range Russian C2 nodes, logistics nodes.

And what we've seen now, as the United States surged HIMARS systems and the missiles for those systems, that Ukraine has now been successfully striking Russian locations in Ukraine, deeper behind the front lines, and disrupting Russia's ability to conduct that artillery operation.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: So the President -- the White House will be announcing the President has decided to provide another round of presidential drawdown authority the following capabilities: four high-mobility artillery rocket systems, HIMARS, and additional ammunition for those HIMARS. This is the capability I just referred to as being especially important and effective in assisting Ukraine and coping with the Russian artillery battle in the Donbas.

Three tactical vehicles to recover equipment, to support Ukrainian efforts to repair, resupply as this battle continues. 1,000 rounds of 155 millimeter artillery ammunition. This is a new type of 155 millimeter artillery ammunition. It has greater precision. It offers Ukraine precise capability for specific targets. It will save ammunition. It will be more effective due to the precision, so it's a further evolution in our support for Ukraine in this battle in the Donbass.

In addition, the package will include demolition munitions, counter battery systems, and importantly spare parts and other equipment because it's not just the new weapons systems but it's the ability of Ukraine to repair, maintain, and sustain the effectiveness of the systems that we and allies and partners have been providing over the last few months. So that is what you'll be hearing announced from the White House later this afternoon.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: All right, everybody. I'm going to open this up to questions. I'll start with Lita Baldor from the Associated Press.

Q: Thanks a lot. Just one quick thing. What is the total funding value of this package? And then on the HIMARS, are we at about 12 that the U.S. has sent to Ukraine? Do you know of those, are these replacement for any of them that may have been destroyed? Is there any way to give us some sort of assessment about whether they still have all the others and if they're all working in battle right now in Ukraine.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Great. Yes, thank you. Thanks. I failed to -- and so, thank you for asking. I failed to lay out that this PDA package is assistance valued up to $400 million, so that answers I hope the first question. On the second question, yes. This will bring to a total of 12 HIMARS launchers units that the United States has provided to Ukraine, and the ones that have already been provided are fully accounted for, the Ukrainians are still using them in the fight. I know there's been some Russian reports that they have destroyed Ukrainian HIMARS systems. That is not correct. The Ukrainians have those systems and are making use of them. And yes, with this package they will have 12.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: All right. Idrees from Reuters.

Q: Hey, thanks for -- thanks for this. Two quick questions. You mentioned the 155 munitions and they're a bit more advanced. Can you give a bit more details on what that is? And just more broadly, do you see Russia now having the momentum in the war or do you still sort of see the battle in terms of momentum?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes, I can't -- other than describing the -- this new set of 155 munitions, I can't get into details for, you know, operational reasons -- but simply to confirm that these are precision capable systems compatible with the 155 howitzers, so that's what I can share on that.

On momentum, I mean, the Russians are making very, very incremental, limited, hard-fought, highly-costly progress in certain, select, small spaces in the Donbas. They're way behind on their timelines. They're far behind on their objectives. The Ukrainians are in localized places launching effective offensives. And now increasingly in the last week what we've seen is the ability of the Ukrainians to use these HIMAR systems to significantly disrupt the ability of the Russians to move forward even where they make that grinding, slow offensive.

So we don't see this at all as, you know, Russia winning this battle. Certainly they're not winning relevant -- related to their initial objectives. They've been very much thwarted, but the fighting is hard, and the Ukrainians are having to fight hard to prevent the Russians from achieving their objectives, but they're doing so effectively and we're seeing that in the slowness of the Russian advance.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Barbara Starr, CNN.

Q: I wanted to just come back on thing and then ask you a follow up question if I may. It's just on the munitions, the precision munitions. You describe it -- maybe you could -- maybe you can just clarify this one point. You describe it as a new set of munitions. Is it new even for the United States? In other words, is it something newly developed or is it new to supplying it to Ukraine? Can you tell us that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Sure. Absolutely. That's a very good question. That's for the opportunity to clarify. No, this is -- this is a capability the United States has. New refers to it's a new pack -- new element of our security assistance to the Ukraine.

Q: OK. And if I could, can you say -- you just mentioned there are places where the Ukrainians are -- I think the words you used are significantly disrupting Russia. Where is that happening?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I can't give you specific locations -- as other of my colleagues have said, we don't want to help the Russians do their battle damage assessment or anything like that, but it is -- these are locations behind the frontlines of where the Russian forces are concentrated, where you see every day the battle is going on. It is the lines behind C2 logistics nodes, so in the Donbas definitely and in the battle space just further back behind the front lines.

Q: And very quickly, is there any consideration being given to any kind of oversight or monitoring mechanism for the vast amount of weapons and value of the weapons that you're transferring to ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands? Is there anything you're either doing to monitor that or considering monitoring that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes. We absolutely track the -- from the time we send the capabilities to Ukraine, deliver them to Ukraine, they move them to the battlefield. Our military leaders and experts and professionals are in communication with the Ukrainians to understand how they're employing those capabilities, what their usage rate is, what their -- I mean, it's a really important element of deciding what goes into our next assistance package is to understand how they're employing those capabilities, what their usage rate is, what their -- I mean it's a really important element of deciding what goes into our next assistance package is to understand how they're employing them, at what rate they're employing them and battlefield conditions they are employing them.

So we are tracking that very carefully and we are very mindful of our duties and obligations to maintain awareness of the capabilities we're providing to Ukraine.

STAFF: Thanks, Barb. Jen Griffin, Fox News.

Q: Thanks, can you tell us -- you mentioned at the start that you -- that the training that was done starting in 2013 was a real changer when the Russians invaded. What are you doing at this moment in time in terms of training in Taiwan? Is there any training going on? Can you outline that for us?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Can you clarify, I don't understand training in Taiwan.

Q: Yes, is there any U.S. military training taking place or any efforts to -- again, as the lessons from Ukraine are being gleamed, is there any taking place right now?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That is -- it's an interesting question. That is out of the scope of my responsibility and readiness to talk with you today. My area of responsibility at DoD focuses on -- does not focus on that part of the world.

Q: Excuse me, I thought it was international security assistance.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, that's fine.

Q: Then I'll just follow-up by asking, what is the next type of weapon that you are considering sending that you think would be -- the kind that you think that they are going to be needing? And there's been criticism that four or 12 HIMARS that the U.S. could have done this faster and more sooner.

What is the reasoning for sort of four at a time going in?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Sure, on the question of -- let me do the second one first since it's directly connected with what we already talked about. The HIMARS system is a very high-end system and so there was a -- I would say weeks long training process where Ukrainian crews needed to be trained on these systems. They were new to them because it's not a Soviet legacy system and it's a higher end capability.

And so the sort of limiting factor was having trained crews and we have been training successive sets of crews to be ready to, I'm going to say staffed not manned for obvious reasons, staff the use of the sets of four HIMARS systems at a time as the crews were ready to be able to use them effectively.

On the kinds of weapon systems that we're considering to send, we have already been looking at and discussing with allies and partners systems for coastal defense capabilities, moving away from Soviet legacy air defense capabilities are key. But a lot of the focus needs to be now.

The Ukrainians have a lot of equipment, the challenge for them is they are using it at such an intense pace given the battle that they need a lot of training and resources for sustainment, repair, logistics. So a big element of what we are looking at now is that list which is vital for the Ukrainians to be able to continue the fight.

And most importantly, I would say, for the Russians to know that the Ukrainians are going to be able to continue the fight. Because if the Russians think they can outlast the Ukrainians they need to rethink that because this effort -- we are already pivoting towards thinking about what the Ukrainians will need in the months and years ahead.

STAFF: Thanks, Jen. Tom Bowman, NPR.

Q: Yes, do you have sense when these additional HIMARS will arrive? We talking several weeks? And you talked a bit about training on the HIMARS system. Will you continue to train Ukrainians on the system? And ball parking the numbers.

And then finally, as they mention in the "Economist" magazine by an unnamed military official, who said he expects the peak of western military assistance to arrive in Ukraine sometime in October that would allow them to mount a counter offensive.

Does that ring true with you?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: So I can't get into -- again, this is operational security details on the timing of when the HIMARS will get there. But I will tell you, we have -- we have anticipated that this new set of HIMARS would be part of a Presidential drawdown authority and already work to ensure that they can get their -- the battlefront rapidly. But I won't give you a timeline.

On the comment by an unnamed defense official, as I had suggested, we are ready for and thinking about Ukraine's needs over months and years. So I wouldn't put a peak on it. You are going to talk about operational details later and so I would leave that conversation to there.

But I'll say, from a security assistance perspective this is a steady drumbeat now and it is a long-term commitment to Ukraine. So we'll be ready for whatever the experts tell us is required for the battlefield. And if there is a peak or an ebb or flow I'm sure we'll work that in. But I can't speak to that right now.

Q: And the additional training of Ukrainians?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Sorry, yes, what was that -- I'm very sorry, what was that question?

Q: Will you -- will more Ukrainians be trained on HIMARS or do you have sufficient number they just need the systems?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We'll be continuing to train them because, again, we see this as a sustained battle and the crews will need to take rest. I mean there's all kinds of reasons that you would want to continue to train sets of -- units of Ukrainians to be able to operate the systems.

Q: OK and ballpark on how many are trained so far on HIMARS?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's an operational security issue too. I can't give you numbers. But it is sufficient as we're seeing because you're seeing the effects of the HIMARS strike to staff what we've delivered.

Q: All right, thanks.

STAFF: Thanks, Tom. OK, so I've got both Joseph and Nadia from Al Arabiya. I'll let you guys decide who's going to ask the question.

Q: That's a tough decision.

Q: OK, I can start just very quickly and maybe Joe has a different question. But thank you so much for giving us the opportunity. I just wanted to see if you can give us some assessment of where is the Russian intention militarily? In the beginning there was talks that they might extend and go to a Baltic state. Today, the Russian Foreign Minister has warned Lithuanian and the European Union that it could adapt harsh measures, as they call it, against them if they're trying to do some good to and from Russian exclave as you know.

Do you see this as a serious threat militarily towards the Baltic states? And just give us what you think in terms of the assessment that actually it can go further than just Ukraine? Thank you so much.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Sure. Well I think it's been very clear in President Putin's statements what his objectives are in Ukraine. Which is the subjugation of Ukraine militarily and politically so that Ukraine is not an independent, sovereign country. The specific military objectives were, -- as I said at the outset -- to move to Kyiv, to overthrow the government and control it.

They've had to -- I think the objective remains the same, which is to prevent the existence of a sovereign, independent Ukraine. It's just the specific military objectives have shifted as they failed in that initial take on it and you know, I don't think those political objective have changed, it's the military means or operations have.

On Russia's broader intentions, -- I'd answer it in broader terms, that we take very seriously the threats that Russia poses to NATO allies and the NATO alliance, and that is why, at the Madrid Summit last week, the United States announced this set of significant additions to our posture and capability in Europe in order to contribute to an effective defense and deterrence against Russian threats against NATO allies, of which Lithuania is one.

So it's precisely for that reason that President Biden made those decisions and the United States has made that commitment to our NATO allies.

STAFF: Thanks, Nadia. Courtney Kube, NBC?

Q: Hi. Thanks. One quick question -- you mentioned specifically that there -- the reports that the Russians have hit one of the HIMARS is not true. Do you have any indications that the Russians have hit any other U.S.-provided equipment? Since you have some visibility into the HIMARS, I'm hoping there'll be visibility in some of the other systems.

And then also, I'm curious about one of your answers to Tom Bowman's question about not being able to say how many Ukrainians are trained on the HIMARS for operational security reasons. That's just curious because we've had very specific information in the past about other systems, and specifically how many Ukrainians are being trained. So I'm just wondering why that's an operational security concern when other systems have not been in the past?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I can't speak to those numbers but the reason it's an operational security issue on that question is cause that training is ongoing, right? So maybe -- I mean, I can't speculate why there were some numbers earlier but I can't give you those numbers cause those are ongoing.

On Russian damage to other -- Russian damage to other U.S.-supplied capabilities, same thing -- we're not going to do the -- Russia's battle damage assessment for them. I can clarify and deny that they have not damaged HIMARS. I'm not going to get into, you know, sort of any other, you know, speculation or evidence about -- that would help the Russians figure out what's going on on the battlefield, other than ...

(CROSS-TALK)

Q: Thanks. I appreciate that. I just got to say -- we have gotten, on these same backgrounders, specific information about numbers of Ukrainians being trained, training that is ongoing, for other systems in the past. Candidly, the same thing with, you know, it -- you're willing to say that they haven't hit any HIMARS but won't talk about other systems.

It truly feels like you guys are cherry picking information to provide us here and saying that other things are operational security concerns, and I don't -- I really, candidly just don't understand the justification of it. Is it possible to take both of those questions and see if there's any more visibility that can be provided? I'd appreciate it. Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I can take the question on the number of trainees on the HIMARS and get back to you. My guidance right now is to not provide that because of operational security concerns. So, you know, please understand.

On cherry picking, I was simply responding to a specific question of how many systems there are and do the Ukrainians have those systems. So I don't think that's cherry picking, I think that's being responsive.

STAFF: Thanks, Courtney. John, New York Times?

Q: Yes, hi. I was wondering -- can you be more specific about the 155 projectiles? We're -- we're talking about Excalibur rounds here, right?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I can't get into the specifics here.

Q: Wait -- so if -- if they're not Excaliburs, is there any plan to provide the precision guided kit fuses for standard, high explosive 155 rounds that would give 10 meter CEP?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I can't get into that at this point either.

Q: OK, thanks.

STAFF: Thanks, John. Let's see here. Luis, are you there from ABC?

Q: Yeah, I'm here. I had a question about the - Harpoon systems. The Russian Defense Ministry was claiming that they have struck Harpoons -- I think that might be the point that Courtney was trying to make earlier.

And then as to the assurances, I mean, you discussed that the Russian systems -- excuse me, that the HIMARS systems are striking beyond the battlefield. Are you still continuing to get assurances from the Ukrainians that they will not strike into Russia proper? Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: On the Harpoons, I don't have anything for you on specific Russian claims about the strikes. I'm not aware of that. We can certainly take that, but no, OK?

And Russian claims about using HIMARS to strike beyond -- outside of Ukrainian territory, those claims are false. Ukraine is using those capabilities to fight the battle that its forces are facing and they are using them effectively in that battle.

STAFF: Thanks, Luis. Lara? Politico?

Q: Thank you so much for doing this. Two questions.

One, you've said that this package will provide 1,000 rounds of ammunition, and I -- and I just wanted to ask -- I know that doesn't go very far. Ukraine has said they fire 5 to 6,000 rounds a day and Russia fires twice as much as that. So is there some difficulty cobbling together enough ammunition for Ukraine to keep up with this battle?

And then second -- my second question is if you could just give us an update on what you're seeing on the ground in Kherson and the Ukrainian resistance there please? Thank you.

STAFF: Hey, just -- just real quickly, I want to make sure that I was -- I may not have been clear earlier -- for the sort of operational questions -- the things about what's happening on the ground, -- anything that involves, you know, what we call operations work -- we're going to reserve that for the Senior Military Official who will be briefing on background at 1330 today, which coincides with the lifting of this embargo.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: First of all, the Ukrainians have substantial stores still -- or, you know, equipment stores of the standard 155 millimeter -- they're using every day and that's the use rate you quoted -- you know, 3,000 a day that they are using. So they have stores of that. They're not out of that.

We've supplied it, other countries have supplied that. We are -- in response to an earlier question, I made clear, you know, we know what their use rate is, we know what their store rate is, and we're monitoring that as we continue to supply them capabilities. So that was one of the reasons why that was not a capability that was required in this package.

The reason for providing this capability in this package was because the Ukrainians have asked for it, they've asked for more precision capabilities, and HIMARS are not the limit of what the United States is able to provide them for precision capabilities.

So it is absolutely -- this kind of ammunition will not be used at a rate of 3,000 a day. It's a different kind of ammunition with a different set of purposes, which is not quite HIMARS but it's akin in the sense of more precise targeting.

STAFF: Thanks, Laura. Let's see here. Howard?

Q: Can you say whether there's any preclusions within occupied Ukraine territory on the HIMARS? And is the Kerch Bridge fair game for that system?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I can't tell you specific -- anything about specific targets but Russian forces' capabilities and logistics nodes within Ukraine are absolutely fair targets.

Q: But can you talk about any preclusions? Would the -- would the Kerch Bridge be not precluded as a potential target?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: As I said, there aren't any preclusions that I'm aware of about the Ukrainians fighting on their sovereign territory against Russia.

STAFF: Thanks, Howard. Hey, Mike, are you there from Washington Times?

Q: Yeah, I'm here. Thanks a lot. Just a quick question -- I was wondering if you can comment on some concerns I've heard up on the Hill about the sustainability of this after, you know, going on into months and years, and whether or not it's dipping too -- too much into the U.S. military's own supplies, if they're -- if you all were doing something about that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Great -- that's a great question. And part of the process of deciding which systems and the numbers of systems is absolutely validated to ensure that these are sustainable capabilities that we can donate to Ukraine and does not have negative impact on U.S. readiness.

Q: OK, thanks a lot.

STAFF: Thanks, Mike. Tara Copp, Defense One?

Q: Hey, thanks for doing this. Just real quick -- how many HIMARS have been delivered to date?

(CROSS-TALK)

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Sure. Eight have been delivered to date. With the package that is being announced today of four, it will be 12, but eight have been delivered to date.

Q: OK. And then is there any consideration, I realize you were just talking about, you know, providing the Ukrainians longer range and be able to fire -- have this counter offensive against Russia and be better protected?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: So again, our security assistance is shaped by clear Ukrainian requests, and the clear Ukrainian request is for capabilities to enable them to counter and thwart the Russian operations right now in the Donbas. Those are the capabilities that we are providing them.

Q: But they haven't asked for ATACMS?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: They have asked for capabilities to help them prosecute the -- the current battle in the Donbas, and that is what we are providing with the HIMARS and the GMLRS.

Q: Could you say whether or not it's been considered or is on the table?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I'll just repeat -- the focus is on helping Ukraine defend its territory and fight the Russians on Ukrainian territory, and that is, I think, welcomed by and -- and worked actively with the Ukrainian military and political leadership.

STAFF: Thanks, Tara. Jared, AI-Monitor?

Q: Hi, thank you for doing this. A quick question -- actually, two, if I may. Let's see if -- if this can be covered.

Obviously, the fallout of Russia's war against Ukraine extends well beyond Europe. It's something that the -- you know, the President is likely to address in his upcoming trip to the Middle East. Regarding tangible bilateral security assistance to Middle Eastern countries, is the administration still working on, you know, possibilities there, what may be on the table during this trip, or has that been settled?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The U.S. has robust bilateral security relations with countries around the world, including in the Middle East and strong relations with countries in the Middle East, so that is the fact that Russia is conducting a war against Ukraine and Europe does not in any way takeaway from those strong defense relationships, so...

Q: No doubt.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: ... I have nothing specific to announce for the trip, but you know, that is -- that is solid. We are -- we work -- continue to work with partners and close allies throughout the world even as we are supporting Ukraine.

Q: Understood, thanks. And if I can just ask real quick. We've seen a report or two, claiming that the Russians have used repurposed civilian-style ships on the Black Sea to resupply their forces. Have you guys seen any evidence that suggests this?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I can't -- I can't speak to that. Sorry, I can't answer that question and I can't speak to it. I have nothing to give you on that.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thanks, Jared. Jeff, Task and Purpose.

Q: All right, I just wanted to try again on the 155 mike-mike rounds. Is there a reason you can't say if they're Excalibur rounds? That's the first thing I assumed, and quite frankly I'm not very smart. The Russians are a lot smarter than I am, so they have probably figured this out, too. So given that, can you say if they're Excalibur rounds?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I've given -- I've explained this. I think the important aspect of the security assistance is that these are precise, that we expect them to be used by the Ukrainians to great effect given their success so far in HIMARS, and we're really focused on effective use on the battlefield on what those weapons requirements are.

Q: But if you can say you're giving Ukrainians HIMARS, you're giving them Stingers, you're giving them Javelins. Is the Army requesting that you not say that these are Excaliburs?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Jeff, let -- she's answered the question. Every time this question's asked she's going to answer it the same way. It's a clever recombination of words, so points, but I'm going to -- I think I'm going to go to the next person. Abraham, you there from Air Force Magazine?

Q: Yes, I am. Thank you for calling on me. Two questions. One, I was wondering if you can give us on the NASAMS? All right, they -- is the contract signed? When would you expect those to reach the frontline? And secondly, there's some legislation in Congress. Ukraine keeps asking. Is DoD doing any advanced planning for pilot training for Ukrainians to fly F-16s or advanced planning or discussion regarding the transfer of F-16s or facilitating that transfer? Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: So on the NASAMS question, it's moving forward, you know, now that it's been decided by the president. I can't give you details of where it is in the contracting process, but you know, we don't see any challenges. It -- as your question suggests and you're right that use of USAI is a different authority. And so, it has a different timeline, but you know, that was expected. But we don't foresee any specific challenges and I can't give you a specific timeline at this point. But no issues at all with that. It's been -- you know, it's well underway.

On training of pilots, there are no current plans to train Ukraine on any, you know, air platform other than those that they are using everyday effectively in the battle right now, and those pilots already trained on those platforms.

Q: And just a follow up on that. Is there even like a number of months away that you think that that would be in the battlefield? Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I can't give you a number, but it's certainly -- and again, it's a good question. It's a reasonable question. I would say it's several months.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thanks, Abraham. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner.

Q: Hi. I think my question's actually better suited for the afternoon briefing. Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: All right, thank you. And we've got time for one more question. Heather, USNI?

Q: Yes. Thank you so much. I noticed in the past couple packages that there haven't been as much maritime equipment as there were in previous ones. And I was just wondering about what that says about the shift in the Ukrainian strategy?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, it's a terrific question. Our eyes are still on the ball of coastal defense capabilities and the Russian threat to the Ukrainian coast, but/and because of the intensity and the urgency of the fight and because those are the capabilities that Ukraine is right now prioritizing, that's why you've seen more focus in the last couple of packages on capabilities for that fight.

https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/3088129/



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list