Biden set to double Ukraine’s strike range with high-tech smart bombs

Ukrainian crews reload a HIMARS launcher

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The US is set to ship over weapons that could double Ukraine’s strike range as part of a huge e$2.2billion (£1.79billion) aid package set to be announced on Friday. The ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDB) have a range of 94 miles and can be fired from many kinds of rocket launchers. This includes the HIMARS, a light multiple rocket launcher that is once of the most technologically advanced weapons developed in the US.

The longest-range bomb Ukraine currently has in its arsenal is the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, which has a range of 53 miles.

The rocket-powered GLSDB combines the GBU-39 small-diameter bomb, usually dropped from planes, with the M26 rocket motor, both of which are frequently used but the US military inventories.

The Air Force’s Small-Diameter Bomb is guided by GPS satellites. The navigation system means it can be steered around obstacles like mountains and known anti-air defences.

This is different to traditional artillery that follows a curves towards its target. The weapon is also equipped to avoid jamming attempts and has a programmable explosive.

However, officials said the weapons are unlikely to be deployed in the near future, with the deliveries expected to take up to nine months. Greater range for the Ukrainian military would let it attack Russian forces from a further distance, potentially allowing it to penetrate more deeply into Russian-held territory.

This comes after US President Joe Biden announced a $1.85billion (£1.5billion) security assistance package which included the lethal Patriot Air Defense Systems, pledging tens of billions in additional military aid in 2023.

So far, the US has provided Ukraine with over Over 1,600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 8,500 Javelin anti-armor systems, and 46,000 other anti-armor systems and munitions. It has also sent 700 Switchblade drones and 4,200 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds, as well as other forms of lethal aid.

Yesterday, the EU also promised to boost its military support for Ukraine by doubling its original target of training 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers to 30,000.

One key area of focus will be training the crews of tanks that Western countries have offered to send the invaded nation. It comes ahead of a summit between Ukrainian and EU leaders in Kyiv today.

This also comes after the UK said it will keep the option of sending fighter jets to Ukraine on the table. But Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned that these aircraft would not be a “magic wand” for defeating Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops on the battlefield.

He said: “On the process of jets, I’ve been pretty clear. One thing I’ve learned over the last year is don’t rule anything in, don’t rule anything out.”

Kyiv has put in a request for American-made F-16 warplanes and more high-end fighters to help repel fend off Russian troops. 

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This comes as missiles continue to rain down on Ukraine, with strikes hitting hit a shipyard, a school and residential buildings in the city in Kherson this morning, according to local authorities.

Meanwhile, Russia announced advances north and south of the eastern city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. According to Ukrainian military analyst Yevhen Dikiy, Russia is using vast troop numbers to try to cut off the encircled city, which is reportedly “covered with corpses”.

However, Ukraine and its allies say Russia has taken significant losses around Bakhmut as the troops pouring in are poorly equipped. Those sent in are said to include thousands of recruits from prisons.

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