US Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin III has revealed plans to send four more high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine.

The announcement was made at the fourth virtual Ukraine Defence Contact Group meeting of defence leaders.      

Aside from the 12 delivered earlier, the four HIMARS systems will further strengthen the Ukrainian forces’ long-range fires capability.

Austin said the US government will announce another security assistance package this week and the additional HIMARS systems will be part of it.

Apart from HIMARS, the 16th military package will also include guided multiple launch rocket systems, he said.

So far, the US has supported Ukraine with over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 6,500 Javelin anti-armour systems, and up to 700 Switchblade drones, among other equipment and related ammunition.

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Austin said: “Ukrainian forces are now using long-range rocket systems to great effect, including HIMARS provided by the United States and other systems from our allies and partners.

“Ukraine’s defenders are pushing hard to hold Russian advances in the Donbas, and the international community has also worked hard to provide Ukraine with better coastal defence capabilities.”

He added: “As this fight rages on, the contact group will keep finding innovative ways to sustain our long-term support for the brave men and women of the Ukrainian armed forces, and we will tailor our assistance to ensure that Ukraine has the technology, the ammunition, and the sheer firepower to defend itself.”

He said while countries including the Czech Republic, Poland, and the UK are partnering with their local industrial bases to support Ukraine, other allies have been supplying aid from their own stockpiles.

At a press briefing after the meeting, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman army general Mark Milley said as many as 200 Ukrainians have been trained on the use of HIMARS.

The soldiers are now able to quickly deploy the artillery rocket systems to hit Russian command and control nodes, logistical networks, and other targets, he added.

The US and allies are considering the option of providing training to Ukrainian pilots to establish a strong air force, reported Reuters, citing Air Force Chief of Staff general Charles ‘CQ’ Brown.

The Ukraine Defence Contact Group allows nations to coordinate their assistance to enhance Ukraine’s defence capabilities.