U.S. military personnel stationed in countries near Ukraine provide detailed targeting information for a majority of rocket launches Ukrainian forces conduct against Russian positions with certain U.S. systems, The Washington Post reported, citing officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
The U.S. and its allies supply Ukrainian troops with precision targeting analysis, or coordinates, for nearly every High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launch, one senior Ukrainian official told the Post. The practice, which one U.S. official and other Ukrainian officials confirmed to the outlet, should bolster U.S. confidence in Ukraine and soften the Biden administration toward providing longer-range weapons, Ukrainian officials said.
Ukraine targets Russian forces independently with other weapons, officials told the Post. Rockets guided by Global Positioning System (GPS) and launched from HIMARS have become a cornerstone of Ukraine’s war effort.
U.S. involvement in targeting and intelligence helps increase the Ukrainian army’s return on investment and conserves dwindling munitions stockpiles, a senior U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues told the Post.
Senior Pentagon officials declined to provide the Post with more details on the nature of U.S. targeting assistance, citing concerns about giving away sensitive tactics that could give Russia information on how to thwart future strikes.
According to a senior Ukrainian official, troops roughly identify which locations they want to strike. Senior commanders then liaise with American advisers positioned in nearby countries, who in most cases provide more accurate coordinates, and ferry that information back down to the requester, the Post reported.
When the U.S. refuses to provide coordinates, Ukrainian forces usually opt against launching an attack, the official added.
“We have long acknowledged that we share intelligence with Ukraine to assist them in defending their country against Russian aggression, and we have optimized over time how we share information to be able to support their requests and their targeting processes at improved speed and scale,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“The Ukrainians are responsible for finding targets, prioritizing them and then ultimately deciding which ones to engage,” he said, emphasizing that the U.S. is not involved in determining or engaging targets.
While the U.S. has vowed to support Ukraine for as long as is required to meet Ukraine’s war objectives, including driving the Russian military out of Crimea, it has simultaneously striven to posture itself as a non-aggressor. The U.S. even modified at least 20 HIMARS before sending them to Ukraine, shortening their range and mitigating the possibility that Ukraine might use U.S.-made equipment and U.S.-supplied ammunition to strike Russian territory.
Ukraine has lobbied for more advanced equipment, especially Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, that have a range more than three times that of the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS rockets, and can be fired from the HIMARS launcher.
The latest weapons package from the Biden administration included Ground Launched Small-Diameter Bombs that have a range of 94 miles, longer than the GMLRS supplied to Ukraine up to this point and capable of penetrating behind Russian lines.
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