The Pentagon has announced that the US will allow Ukraine to fire the long-range missiles sent to the country at Kiev's discretion.
It is up to the government in Kiev to decide how to use new rockets being delivered for the US-supplied HIMARS launchers, the Pentagon said on Friday.
Pentagon's statement is a confirmation that the latest batch of munitions sent by the US military to Ukraine to fight Russia will include Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) rockets.
The Boeing-manufactured GLSDB rockets consist of a rocket motor mated with an airplane bomb, with an estimated range of up to 150 kilometers.
While Friday’s announcement listed “additional ammunition” for the HIMARS and “precision-guided rockets,” Brigadier-General Patrick Ryder told reporters that this indeed included the GLSDB rockets, confirming the information leaked to Reuters earlier this week.
Ryder also pointed out that the US would not stand in the way of Ukrainians using the missiles to strike deep inside Russia.
“When it comes to Ukrainian plans on operations, clearly that is their decision. They are in the lead for those,” he said on Friday. “So, I'm not going to talk about or speculate about potential future operations, but again, all along, we've been working with them to provide them with capabilities that will enable them to be effective on the battlefield.”
Meanwhile, Reuters claimed to have seen a Boeing document saying the first deliveries of the new munitions could be “as early as spring 2023.”
Bloomberg cited unnamed government sources as saying that the timeline for munitions delivery could be as long as nine months, depending on when the US Air Force issues the contract. Bloomberg also reported the GLSDB order would account for $200 million of the $1.75 billion in the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding, referring to contracts for arms and munitions not coming out of the Pentagon stockpile.
Kiev has repeatedly requested the West to supply its forces with the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) rockets, which have a range of some 300 kilometers.
Till now, the Ukrainian forces have used the HIMARS launchers supplied by the West to strike both military and civilian targets.
Back in October, a Russian Foreign Ministry official told TASS news agency that supplying long-range missiles were a "red line" for Moscow and Russia's military will respond to suppliers with specific measures.
The US and its allies have not directly taken part in the hostilities, but continue to send weapons and ammunition to Kiev amounting to over $32 billion, since Russia launched its 'special military operation' almost a year ago.
Moscow has warned the West against flooding Ukraine with arms and munitions, asserting that such a move will not stop Russia from reaching its objectives and would merely add to casualties and destruction.