Austin: U.S. will continue to push combat vehicles into Ukraine

By Tony Bertuca / July 18, 2023 at 2:02 PM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said today the United States intends to continue sending combat vehicles to Ukraine as the ongoing counteroffensive against dug-in Russian forces proceeds more slowly than initially projected.

“We're going to support Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he said during a Pentagon press conference, noting that meant the United States would send more Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Strykers and long-range artillery systems.

Austin said the United States and its allies “continue to generate combat power” for Ukraine, referencing the training and equipping of three brigade combat teams in Germany.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who spoke alongside Austin, said Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia is proceeding more slowly than war games first predicted, though he said that is to be expected as the Ukrainians are encounter complex minefields as they advance.

“That’s the difference between war on paper and real war,” he said.

At present, Milley said, Ukraine is keeping most of its combat power in reserve.

“What the Ukrainians have though is a significant amount of combat power not yet committed,” he said.

Milley, acknowledging that Ukraine continues to seek U.S. fighter jets, said it is minefields, not air attacks, that most threaten the Ukrainian military right now.

“The real problem is minefields,” he said.

Milley noted that ground-to-air defense systems are also more practical weapons to provide Ukraine as sending fighter jets -- and their associated sustainment tails -- would cost billions of dollars and take years of investment if Kyiv were to attempt to compete with Russia.

“Let’s just do a quick math drill here. Ten F-16s are $2 billion,” he said. “The Russians have hundreds of fourth-and-fifth-generation airframes. If they’re going to try to match the Russians one-for-one or even two-to-one, you’re talking about a large number of aircraft. That’s going to take years to train the pilots, years to do the maintenance and sustainment, years to generate a degree of financial support to do that. You’re talking way more billions of dollars that has already been generated.”

The United States has provided more than $40 billion of military aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.