A new US government package to support Kyiv in its fight against Moscow’s invasion includes helicopters and loitering munitions.
The $800 million package includes a range of systems, with an emphasis on mobility as well stand-off strike.
A key element are 11 Mil Mi-17 utility helicopters, a Russian-designed type that is not operated by the USA. Media reports suggest the rotorcraft were originally planned for the former Afghan air force.
Cirium fleets data shows that there were 52 Mi-8/17s in Ukraine before the Russian invasion on 24 February.
Of these, Ukraine Army Aviation had 28 examples, and the Ukrainian Air Force three. In addition, 10 examples were operated by other Ukrainian government ministries.
It is not clear how fast the Mi-17s can be dispatched to Ukraine. The Mi-17 can carry up to 24 passengers and has an internal payload of 2t.
The package also includes 300 AeroVironment Switchblade loitering munitions, following a previous consignment of 100 examples.
The weapon comes in two variants, the 300 and 600, both of which are highly portable.
Operated via a laptop, the Switchblade 300 has a range of 5.4nm (10km) and an endurance of 15min. AeroVironment says it can engage fixed and moving targets.
The Switchblade 600 is more capable, with a published range of over 21.6nm and an endurance of over 40min. The system is operated by a special tablet and has a tank-killing capability that would be of great utility in Ukraine.
At a Pentagon briefing, a senior US defence official touched on the issue of training Ukrainian forces in the use of the Switchblade munitions.
“We took advantage of some of the Ukrainians that were in the United States for some previously scheduled training to get them trained up on Switchblades,” he says.
“We are looking at options for additional Switchblade training and where and when that might occur and how we would do that. And certainly one option that would be available to us would be to utilise troops that are closer to Ukraine, obviously troops that are on NATO’s eastern flank.”
In addition to the helicopters and Switchblades, the package also includes armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles, unmanned vessels for coastal defence, howitzers, and 500 Raytheon/Lockheed Martin FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles.