The US Department of Defense (DoD) plans to strengthen Ukraine’s air defences with Gepard 35mm anti-aircraft tanks.

Under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, the DoD has contracted the small Florida-based business, Global Military Products, to manufacture the air defence systems in Amman, Jordan for $118.3m.

Originally produced in West Germany, the self-propelled anti-aircraft guns entered active service in the 1970’s. The US-produced platforms will be completed by 30 May 2024. The DoD has not specified how many units it will provide to the wartorn country.

The platform is not new to the Ukrainian armed forces: the German Ministry of Defence supplied its eastern European ally with 34 Gepard systems with 6,000 rounds of ammunition. The German donation increased to provide an additional 300,000 rounds in February this year.

To date, the US government has committed military aid worth $38.3bn since the beginning of Biden’s administration in 2021. The delivery of Gepard tanks, announced on 31 May, is the latest military support package for the country that is currently being bombarded by various projectiles, from Iranian uncrewed aerial vehicles to hypersonic missiles.

Ukraine’s air defence

Many observers expect a Ukrainian counter-offensive at any moment; especially now that Russian forces have secured the town of Bakhmut after a bitter and costly struggle.

Currently, the defiant and albeit exhausted country is locked in a stalemate, where Russian forces are dug-in along the eastern front.

Strong air defence systems will shore up any weaknesses in Ukrainian defences if the counter-offensive is to succeed. Air power is of additional importance too, and is currently dominating discussions about the war.

The Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan American think tank that urges transatlantic co-operation, asserted the need for Ukraine to exercise air superiority, a critical weakness where Russian forces have taken advantage.

“Ukraine will be hindered by its lack of air power and long-range fires, as well as an absence of amphibious or airborne platforms, making a frontal assault almost the only option,” a spokesperson for the organisation said.

G7 nations, an intergovernmental organisation made up of the world’s seven largest economies, attended a summit in Hiroshima, Japan where US President Joe Biden pledged to train Ukrainian fighter pilots on the F-16 aircraft.