Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said “more than half” of the 90 howitzer heavy artillery the US is sending to Ukraine are now in country, and 50 Ukrainians have been trained to use them.
“I can tell you without giving whole numbers that more than half of those howitzers are in Ukraine,” Kirby said at a press briefing.
He added that 50 Ukrainians have been trained on the howitzers as a “first tranche” in an undisclosed country outside of Ukraine. But he did not know if the second tranche of training has started yet.
The trained Ukrainians will train their teammates inside Ukraine, Kirby said.
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The Pentagon had announced last week an $800 million defense package headed to Ukraine. It included 72 155 mm howitzers, 144,000 artillery rounds, 121 Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial systems and vehicles with which to tow the howitzers.
That package was in addition to the previous 18 howitzers and 40,000 artillery shells, bringing the total number of howitzers to 90 and 183,000 artillery rounds.
The howitzers deliver long-range artillery fire in support of ground troops. It is used by US Army and Marine Corps.
The howitzers’ delivery come at a time when Ukrainians are anticipating “extremely difficult weeks” of heavy fighting ahead due to the large-scale offensive Russia is preparing to launch on the eastern Donbas region.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley had said earlier in April that fighting in the east would be more difficult for Ukrainians and would therefore need more armor and artillery.
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