U.S. Sending a Key Battlefield Tool to Ukraine Critical to Retaking Territory

A new shipment of U.S. military equipment to Ukraine will be critical to Ukrainian forces' efforts to retake territory from Russia ahead of new spring offensives.

On Friday, the U.S. announced a new military assistance package for the Eastern European country that is valued at $400 million.

The latest package includes more ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), howitzers, and Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, as well as Armored Vehicle Launched Bridges (AVLB), demolitions munitions and equipment, and other maintenance, training and support, according to the State Department.

An AVLB is a portable folding metal bridge attached to an armored fighting vehicle. It will help Ukrainian troops deploy tanks and other armored vehicles across rivers, trenches, and other gaps on the battlefield quickly.

The U.S. and its European allies, including Germany and the United Kingdom, announced they will also provide tanks to Ukraine.

Jack Watling, a senior research fellow for land warfare at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, told Reuters on Friday that these bridges are "critical" for Ukraine's offensive operations.

"Assault bridging is essential for combined arms operations," Watling said. "It allows armored vehicles to cross narrow rivers and ditches that would otherwise cause a whole force to slow down."

He added that by sending this equipment, the U.S is preparing Ukraine to "continue retaking its territory" from Russian forces. Both Ukraine and Russia are expected to launch new offensives this spring after the conflict slowed to a stalemate during the colder winter months.

Armored vehicle-launched bridge to Ukraine
Ukrainian tankers ride a tank on a position near a front line in the Kharkiv region on March 2, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The United States announced it will send an armored vehicle-launched bridge to Ukraine to transport tanks and armored vehicles over rivers and other obstacles on the battlefield. ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images

This comes as Ukrainian forces have strategically destroyed bridges near the city of Bakhmut as part of a "likely" preparation for a withdrawal from the embattled city, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

In a report released Friday, the ISW said geolocated footage confirmed Ukrainian forces destroyed two critical bridges in the Bakhmut area—one across the Bakhmutivka River in northeastern Bakhmut and one along the Khromove-Bakhmut route just west of Bakhmut.

"The preemptive destruction of bridges is likely an indicator that Ukrainian troops may seek to inhibit Russian movement in eastern Bakhmut and limit potential westward Russian egress routes out of Bakhmut," the report state.

The bloody battle for control of Bakhmut has been a focal point of the war since the summer. While some experts have said that the city is of little strategic value, capturing it would represent a massive symbolic win for Moscow and Russia's first major battlefield victory in months.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. "continues to rally the world to support Ukraine."

"Russia alone could end its war today. Until Russia does so, for as long as it takes, we will stand united with Ukraine and strengthen its military on the battlefield so that Ukraine will be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table," he said in a statement Friday.

Anatoly Antonov, Russia's ambassador to the U.S., said Washington's support to Ukraine will end in failure.

"All of Washington's efforts aimed at inflicting a strategic defeat on us are doomed to fail," he told reporters Friday, according to the Russian Embassy in the U.S. "The Russian Federation is making strong progress in achieving its goals."

Antonov also said the U.S. is enabling Ukrainian forces to engage in "inhumane actions," including what the Kremlin says was a "terrorist attack" in Russia's Bryansk region.

"Washington stands behind those who shot peaceful civilians and therefore bears responsibility for these atrocities," he said. "The blood of the victims is already on the hands of the U.S."

Antonov added that Russia "will not be intimidated" by the U.S.'s continued support to Ukraine.

"The American support will prolong the agony of the Kiev regime," he said. "The threat it poses will be pushed back to the necessary distance from our borders, and all foreign weapons that fall into Ukrainian hands will be ground to dust and destroyed."

Since the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago, the U.S. has provided nearly $32 billion in aid to Ukraine.

Newsweek reached out to the Ukraine Armed Forces and the Russian Defense Ministry for comment via email.