LONDON (Dispatches) – UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced on Wednesday that the country will send helicopters to Ukraine, which will be the first manned aircraft provided to Kiev by London since the start of its conflict with Russia.
According to the BBC and The Times, the shipment includes three former British military Sea Kings, one of which has already been delivered to Ukraine.
The UK defense secretary made the announcement in Oslo, where he was discussing military support for Kiev with London’s allies. He said Ukrainian service members had been training in Britain to operate and maintain the aircraft, which are intended to be used in search and rescue operations.
Wallace also noted that Britain would provide Ukraine with an additional 10,000 shells for unspecified artillery pieces.
“Our support for Ukraine is unwavering,” he said, as quoted by The Times, adding that this aid would “help Ukraine to secure the land it has reclaimed from Russia in recent weeks.”
The Westland Sea King is a license-built version of the U.S. Sikorsky S-61 and undertook its maiden flight in 1969. It was designed for anti-submarine warfare but was also used in early warning and assault transport roles. The aircraft was retired from the UK’s military service in 2018.
The helicopter shipment comes after UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new £50 million ($59.5 million) security assistance package last week, which included 125 anti-aircraft guns as well as some other military equipment.
A bipartisan group of 16 U.S. senators asked the President Joe Biden administration to consider giving Ukraine advanced drones to fight Russian forces.
In letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the signatories, including members on the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged the secretary to supply Ukraine with MQ-1C, also known as Gray Eagle, drones, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“The long-term upside of providing Ukraine with the MQ-1C is significant and has the potential to drive the strategic course of the war in Ukraine’s favor,” the legislators wrote in the letter.
“The timely provision of effective lethal aid to stabilize Ukrainian defenses and enable long-term resistance against future Russian aggression remains urgent,” they wrote.
The legislators asked Austin to explain by November 30 why the Pentagon had so far refused to provide Ukraine with MQ-1C drones.
Among the signatories were Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa), Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), who is the outgoing ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.), Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Sen. Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.).
The Biden administration has been opposed to providing Kiev with the MQ-1C over concerns that the Russians might get hold of one or more of the drones and find access to the technology used in the aircraft.
Military Aid Depleted Western Arsenals
The arsenals of Western countries are currently depleted to a critical point due to arms deliveries to Kiev, while manufacturers’ ability to replenish them is limited, according to a report.
“In order make Ukrainians able to withstand Russian strikes, the West pushed the doors of its arsenals wide open. This is particularly true of the United States, whose deliveries account for nearly two thirds of all military aid to Ukraine,” France’s Le Monde newspaper reported mentioning over 1 million of projectiles, tens of thousands of anti-tank weapons and man-portable air defense systems, drones and guided missiles.
“As a result, Western arsenals, including those across the Atlantic Ocean, have been depleted to the critical point,” Le Monde continued.
The paper referred to a number of analysts, who estimate U.S. stockpiles of certain kinds of weapons to be “below the level necessary for military planning and education”.
The report says Washington was forced to request the purchase of 100,000 155-mm artillery shells from South Korea for further delivery to Ukraine. However, Seoul is reluctant to authorize the deal since it opposes arms deliveries to the conflict sides.