Exclusive-US preparing $1 billion weapons package for Ukraine, officials say

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian serviceman prepares a howitzer to fire towards Russian troops in Donetsk region

By Mike Stone and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States is preparing a $1 billion military aid package for Ukraine, the first to be sourced from the yet to be signed Ukraine-Israel bill, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

The aid package includes vehicles, Stinger air defense munitions, additional ammunition for high-mobility artillery rocket systems, 155 millimeter artillery ammunition, TOW and Javelin anti-tank munitions and other weapons that can immediately be put to use on the battlefield, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

President Joe Biden had asked the U.S. Congress to provide $60.8 billion in aid to Ukraine, but the initiative stalled when Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to move the measure forward for months.

On Tuesday the Senate was expected to vote on four bills now passed by the House. One for Ukraine, a second with $26 billion for Israel, a third with $8.12 billion "to counter communist China" in the Indo-Pacific and a fourth that includes a potential ban on the social media app TikTok.

The Ukraine bill also calls for the transfer of ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile Systems) with a range of up to 190 miles, which Kyiv has pledged not to use inside Russia's territory.

Russia has increased its long-range bombardment of Ukraine's energy infrastructure and its cities in recent weeks, ratcheting up the pressure on Kyiv as Moscow's more numerous and better equipped forces slowly advance on the battlefield in the east.

Once the Ukraine bill is signed, funds to replenish stocks would rebound, alleviating Pentagon concerns that the use of Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) to aid Ukraine would compromise U.S. military preparedness.

Tens of billions of dollars in the bill was earmarked to buy replacements for weapons sent to Ukraine along with transportation and administrative overhead.

The bill gives the president $8 billion worth of further Presidential Drawdown Authority. This added to the $3.9 billion remaining from previously authorized PDA means Biden can transfer $11.9 billion worth of excess weapons from U.S. stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency.

As the replenishment funds are deployed, U.S. defense companies would gain more contracts as the Russia-Ukraine war grinds on.

Experts expect a boost in the order backlog of RTX along with other major companies that receive government contracts, such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, following the passage of the supplemental spending bill.

(Reporting by Mike Stone and Steve Holland in WashingtonEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)