U.S. announces $400 million in new military aid for Ukraine

FILE PHOTO: Destroyed Russian T-72 tank is seen near a frontline in Mykolaiv region

By Idrees Ali, Mike Stone and Jan Lopatka

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Friday announced an additional $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, including refurbishing T-72 tanks and missiles for HAWK air defense systems for Kyiv.

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters that the U.S. would pay for 45 T-72 tanks from the Czech Republic to be refurbished and fund refurbishing some missiles for HAWK air defense systems.

Singh said in addition to the funds to refurbish the HAWK missiles, the pledged $400 Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds would refurbish the Soviet-era Czech tanks and give them "advanced optics, communications and armor packages." There was also funding to buy 1,100 Phoenix ghost tactical unmanned aerial systems and 40 armored riverine boats, among other capabilities.

The tanks would be refurbished by privately-owned Czech CSG, according to a person familiar with the matter, who added that once work is complete they would be equivalent to the T-72 AVENGER, which has been modernized to improve protective systems and to add modern night-vision and communications equipment.

Deputy Czech Defense Minister Tomas Kopecny told Reuters that in total 90 tanks from third parties and private stocks would be modernized. The U.S. funds would pay for 45, or half the fleet.

In October, Reuters first wrote about the initiative to furnish HAWK interceptor missiles to Ukraine. They would be an upgrade to the Stinger missile systems - the smaller, shorter-range air defense system - that the United States has already sent to blunt Russia's invasion.

The MIM-23 HAWK - a name that began life as an acronym for "Homing All the Way Killer" - was first introduced in the 1950s as the U.S. military sought ways to defeat raids of high-flying strategic bombers. It was upgraded over the years to deal with jamming and other countermeasures, and eventually exported to more than a dozen countries, according the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command.

The U.S. Army removed the missiles from service in the mid-1990s and the U.S. Marine Corps followed soon after. The Army replaced it with the MIM-104 Patriot, and the Marines shifted entirely to using smaller, more portable air defense systems.

Once the HAWK air defense missiles are refurbished, they could be included in future Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) which allows the United States to transfer defense articles and services from stocks quickly without congressional approval in response to an emergency.

Singh declined to provide a timeline or an amount if interceptors.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali, Phil Stewart, Mike Stone in Washington and Jan Lopatka in Prague)