A new ground-launched, bomb-tipped rocket to be ordered from Boeing Co. will be part of the latest package of US.` arms for Ukraine that will be announced Friday by the White House and Pentagon, officials said.
The long-range hybrid weapon combines two proven devices: an Air Force Small-Diameter Bomb guided by GPS satellites that’s currently in wide use and an Army rocket already being operated by Ukraine’s forces. Like some other equipment provided by the U.S. and allies, it won’t be deployed in Ukraine anytime soon: An industry official said it would take about nine months for the first deliveries once the Air Force issues a contract.
Funding for the precision-guided rockets would come from $1.75 billion in the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative expected to be announced Friday. No more than $200 million would be allocated to the Boeing weapon initially, according to one of the officials, who like others asked not to be identified in advance of the weapons announcement.
An additional $475 million in authority to draw down existing Defense Department stockpiles for Ukraine also will be announced Friday, including additional Claymore antipersonnel mines, winter parkas, GPS-guided 155mm Excalibur rounds, Patriot missile support equipment and Mk 153 shoulder-fired rocket launchers, according to a U.S. official familiar with the list. Items in a drawdown generally can be provided much more quickly.
Boeing’s new bomb-tipped rocket has been tested three times since 2015 in partnership with Saab AB of Sweden. In an exercise, it flew more than 81 miles (130 kilometers) and hit a target within 40 inches (102 centimeters) of its GPS goal, according to a industry official familiar with the results. That’s roughly double the range of the current rockets fired from Himars launchers that have become a prized asset for Ukrainian forces.
Boeing said in a statement that this order would mark the first sale of the weapon. Reuters reported earlier that the bombs were expected to be included in the package for Ukraine.
The U.S. Air Force introduced the 250-pound GPS-guided Small-Diameter Bomb in 2006. The new Boeing-Saab weapon is designed so that after launch from a Himars unit, the bomb would separate from the rocket in flight, sprout mini-wings and fly to its GPS-identified target, according to the industry official.
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