The White House is looking to aid Ukraine with advanced anti-ship missiles against Russia’s naval blockade either via direct shipment or with help from a European ally that can facilitate the transfer, officials said on Thursday.
The warships being considered include Boeing’s Harpoon and Kongsberg and Raytheon’s Naval Strike Missile, in a move that could bring Washington in increased conflict with Moscow.
The move is a response to a shopping list provided by Kyiv, that included a request for missiles to end the Russian navy’s control of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports so it can resume the trade of grains and other agricultural produce.
Concerns have been raised in the US that sending longer range, more powerful artillery across the continent will require lengthy training, create challenges in managing the equipment and even risk seizure of the weapons technology by Russian forces. There is also the possibility of Russia viewing the move as an escalation of the US’s involvement in the conflict.
According to the US officials, some countries are willing to send Harpoons to Ukraine but do not want to be the first or the only nation to do so, fearing backlash from Russia in the event a ship is sunk with a Harpoon from their military aid to Ukraine, an official told the Reuters news agency.
But that could soon change as one “well stocked” country is considering sending the missile to Ukraine and if it succeeds, others might follow suit, the officials said.
At the same time, the US is trying to work on a plan for Ukraine to receive the Naval Strike Missile and launchers from its European allies.
If secured, Ukraine could use the naval missile from its coast and target points at a range of 250km (155 miles).
Considered less logistically challenging than Harpoons, it takes less than 14 days to learn how to operate Naval Strike Missiles.
These can be launched via mobile ground launchers which are easily available via Nato allies, and with warheads which can be loaned by Norway.
Another option for western nations is to get the Naval Strike Missiles donated by Norway to Ukraine, which has been backed by Norwegian lawmakers.
Other artillery requested by Kyiv includes Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS) like the M270 by Lockheed Martin, which can take out a target beyond 70 km (43 miles) away — three times the range of the howitzer rounds in Ukraine’s existing stock.
All weapons carrying US tech like Harpoons and Naval Strike Missiles will have to be cleared by the US State Department, which gets final approval from the White House.