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US military task arms maker to produce anti-air missiles for Ukraine

File photo of a NASAMS anti-air missile system

The US military has signed a $182 million contract with major American weapons maker Raytheon to manufacture NASAMS (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems) for the Ukrainian armed forces.

The production of the short-and medium-range air defense weaponry will be carried out at Raytheon’s plants in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, with an estimated completion date of August 23, 2024, the Pentagon announced in a Friday statement.

The statement was issued just days after US President Joe Biden unveiled yet another huge military aid package for Ukraine in Washington’s persisting efforts to help Kiev continue its war against Russia, which started a special military operation in the neighboring country as a security measure against the eastern expansion of the US-led NATO military alliance.

The nearly $3 billion military assistance marks the largest single US arms package for Ukraine so far, and will include six NASAMS systems.

The weapons shipment will reportedly be funded as part of the so-called Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which means that the military equipment will be specifically produced for Kiev, and not taken from US arms depots.

NASAMS were described in an article published in Air Force Magazine earlier this month as a vital piece of technology that could enable Ukrainian forces to shoot down Russian cruise missiles, which have so far been striking targets in the country “nearly unhindered.”

The latest military aid for Ukraine was announced just a week after Pentagon unveiled another $775 million package of armaments for the country, including Himars missiles, artillery, and mine-clearing systems.

“We want to make sure that Ukraine has a steady stream of ammunition to meet its needs, and that’s what we’re doing with this package,” a senior US defense official told reporters last week.

According to local press reports, Biden would authorize the military aid using his Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows him to authorize the transfer of excess weapons from US stocks.

The US has so far shipped billions of dollars worth of weaponry to Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a “special military operation” in Ukraine with the aim of “demilitarizing” and “denazifying” the country.

Ranging from anti-armor missiles to helicopters and beyond, the publicly-announced lethal aid packages have already exceeded $10 billion, with the vast majority of transfers happening under the Presidential Drawdown Authority.

Since the beginning of August, the Pentagon has announced two other military aid packages worth $550 million and $1 billion. They include HIMARS ammunition, artillery ammunition, Javelin missiles and other anti-armor weapons.

Most of the funding for those weapons comes from money that Congress has set aside to arm Kiev. Congress has approved two aid packages for Ukraine, including $13.6 billion in March and $40 billion in May. Half of those amounts were earmarked for military assistance.

Meanwhile, US media outlets also unveiled last week that Washington was providing Ukraine with more weapons than the Biden administration had publicly announced.

"Rumors are swirling around Washington that the United States" military provided Ukraine with more weapons than announced, Politico reported last Monday.

According to the report, a senior Pentagon official had revealed earlier that the US military had quietly been supplying the Ukrainian forces with High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM) for some time to target Russian radar systems.

This is while Interpol raised concern that many of the arms shipped to Kiev will be sold, ending up in the hands of criminals.

“The high availability of weapons during the current conflict will result in the proliferation of illicit arms in the post-conflict phase,” Secretary General of the International Criminal Police Organization Juergen Stock warned.

Moscow has long been critical of weapons supplies to Kiev by Washington and its allies, saying that they only prolong the conflict and increase the risk of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.

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