In addition to humanitarian aid, Washington has supplied Ukraine with a laundry list of advanced military hardware including MLRS rockets, HIMARS launchers, man-portable FGM-148 Javelins, along with other anti-tank missiles, Stinger missiles, M777 155mm artillery howitzers, Switchblade and Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial systems (UAS), M113 armored personnel carriers (APCs), and Harpoon missiles.
So much ordnance has been sent, in fact, that there are concerns the U.S. military could face a shortage – and as a result, going forward, Ukraine will likely receive older TOW missiles and 105mm Howitzers and ammunition.
Despite the aid, Kyiv has pressed for more weapons, which it has stressed are necessary to victory.
Though there are several weapons that the U.S. would absolutely never supply, including nuclear warheads, warships of any size, B-52 bombers, and of course F-35 fighters, there are several systems that Ukraine would like – but likely won’t get.
The world’s most numerous fixed-wing combat aircraft, the F-16 Fighting Falcon is one of the most successful all-weather multirole jet aircraft ever produced. It is now in service in the air forces of some 26 nations, but it won’t be flying over the skies of Ukraine anytime soon. Not only are there fears that the aircraft’s deployment to the region could provoke Russia, and even drag NATO into the conflict, there is the fact that Ukrainian pilots aren’t trained to fly it, and Kyiv would likely be unable to service the fighter.
The U.S. Army’s main battle tank (MBT) would certainly be a capable weapon for Ukraine – and it proved more than able to stand up to the Soviet-designed T-72 in the Gulf War and again in Operation Iraqi Freedom. While there have been talks that the tanks could be sent to Ukraine, this is another case where a weapon presents more problems than opportunities. Ukrainians would need to be trained to use it, keeping it running would be an issue and Russia would again see it as a provocation – which is why the Biden administration sees sending the M1 Abrams as a non-starter – at least for the moment.
The U.S. Army’s HIMARS have proven critical in Ukraine’s recent offensives, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for weapons with far greater range – notably the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which would give Ukraine the ability to strike Russian targets from as far as about 180 miles (300 kilometers). It uses the same launchers as the HIMARS, but with three times the range. That could allow Kyiv’s forces to hit targets deep in Russia—and explains why Washington remains cautious about escalation.