UPDATE 2-Longer-range rockets included in $2 bln U.S. pledge for Ukraine
(Adds Kremlin reaction to U.S. military aid, details of weapons package)
By Mike Stone
WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - A new rocket that would double Ukraine's strike range in its war with Russia was included in a $2.175 billion U.S. military aid package, the Pentagon said on Friday.
The new weapon, the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), will allow Ukraine's military to hit targets at twice the distance reachable by the rockets it now fires from the U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
The 151 km (94 mile) GLSDB will put all of Russia's supply lines in eastern Ukraine within reach, as well as part of Russian-occupied Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
"As part of the USAI package, we will be providing Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb to Ukraine," Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing at the Pentagon. USAI stands for Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI).
Friday's aid pledge opens the door to many more deliveries of the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB).
When the new rockets arrive, it will mark the first time Ukraine has seen its rocket range grow exponentially since U.S. furnished HIMARS in late-June 2022.
HIMARS have a 77 km (48 mile) range and were instrumental in Ukraine's counter offensive against Russian forces, which invaded on Feb. 24, 2022.
In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA news agency that it was important not to forget what President Vladimir Putin had said in Volgograd on Thursday. In a speech, Putin said "we have the means to respond, and it won't end with the use of armored vehicles, everyone must understand that."
Reuters was first to report on a Boeing Co proposal to field GLSDB for Ukraine in November. At the time it was expected GLSDB could be in Ukraine by spring.
"This demonstrates Boeing's commitment to answer the nation's call for rapid, effective capabilities for the United States and its international partners," a Boeing spokesperson said. "Our team and Saab continue to work closely with the U.S. Government to solve pressing security challenges with speed and agility." GLSDB is made jointly with Sweden's SAAB AB .
A $1.725 billion portion of Friday's aid, comes from USAI funding, which allows President Joe Biden's administration to buy weapons from industry rather than from U.S. weapons stocks.
The USAI funds pledged would also be used to buy two HAWK air defense firing units, counter drone systems, counter artillery and air surveillance radars, communications equipment, PUMA drones, and medical supplies.
In addition to the USAI funds, $425 million worth of arms aid is coming from Presidential Drawdown Authority funds, which allows the president to take from current U.S. stocks in an emergency.
That aid includes more precision-guided munitions for HIMARS launchers, 190 heavy machine guns with thermal imagery sights and associated ammunition to counter drones, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, claymore anti-personnel mines and Javelin anti-tank weapons.
The U.S. has now pledged more then $29.3 billion worth of security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion. (Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; additional reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Grant McCool)