Pentagon: Ukrainian troops will need training for some U.S. weapons being shipped

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U.S. officials in Europe are setting up training programs to show Ukrainian soldiers how to operate some of the military supplies being sent to them as part of the just approved $800 million security assistance package as Kyiv gears up for an expected major new push by invading Russian forces.

On Thursday, a senior defense official said Ukrainian troops will likely require instruction to use the artillery and radar systems included on the list. Ukraine will receive 18 towed howitzers along with 40,000 artillery rounds, 10 AN/TPQ-36 counter-artillery radars and two AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel air surveillance radars. U.S. and allied supplies are credited with aiding the surprisingly tough resistance the Ukrainians have put up to date against a larger and better-armed Russian invading force.

“We do not assess that it’s going to take longer than a few days, max, to get them trained up on those systems,” the senior defense official told reporters.

Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters — who wears two hats as both head of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander — is in charge of the training requirements. They will likely choose Ukrainian soldiers who already have some level of experience with artillery and radar to receive the training on the specifics of the American systems in the package, Pentagon officials said.

“It’s a ‘train the trainers’ approach. We’re not pulling out of Ukraine an exorbitant number of fighters. They don’t think this training is going to take very long to conduct,” the senior defense official said at a Pentagon background briefing.

The government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly pressed for more weapons to continue their fight against Russia, which launched a massive ground invasion on Feb. 24. President Biden and other NATO leaders have already ruled out contributing troops to the fight or establishing a no-fly zone over the former Soviet republic, for fear of sparking a direct shooting war with Moscow.

The training operation is being planned even as U.S. officials continue to locate the items on the latest list, which also includes aircraft such as 11 Mi-17 helicopters, 200 M113 armored personnel carriers, 500 Javeline missiles and thousands of other anti-armor systems. 

“Every single item is not going to have to come from the United States. Some could come from prepositioned stocks that are elsewhere,” the senior defense official said.

The first weapons and tactical equipment on the list could be in the hands of Ukrainian soldiers in about a week, officials said.

The briefing came on a day when U.S. and European officials both said that Kyiv’s claims to have hit a flagship Russian vessel with a missile strike appeared credible, although it was not clear how much damage the Russian Moskva had suffered. Ukraine‘s southern military command said a Ukrainian-made Neptune missile fired by its forces has scored a direct hit on the cruiser and it had begun sinking.

Russian defense officials acknowledged the ship had been hit in the Black Sea and caught fire, but said the crew had been rescued and the ship towed away from the war zone for repairs.

U.S. officials said they were still trying to get information, but said it appeared that Russian sailors were still struggling to control the fires aboard the vessel.

“We don’t have the capacity at this point to independently verify that but certainly, the way this unfolded, it’s a big blow to Russia,” White House National  Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Thursday morning.



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