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US foreign policy

Pentagon revives team to speed arms to Ukraine and allies: Sources

The previously unreported effort comes as the Pentagon works to respond to a rapidly changing landscape for arms deals and transfers.

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The Pentagon is turning to a special team to respond to increased demand for new weapons sales and requests to transfer existing weapons among US allies as countries including Ukraine scramble to obtain arms following Russia’s invasion, three people familiar with the effort said.

The Pentagon’s office of Acquisition and Sustainment, the weapons buyer for the US Department of Defense, has been fielding increased demand from European allies hoping to ship weapons to Ukraine through third party transfers or to buy arms to bolster their own defenses, the sources said.

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The rapid response team was revived in recent days to coordinate and cut through the bureaucracy around sales and transfers while prioritizing requests from allies, the sources said.

The previously unreported effort comes as the Pentagon works to respond to a rapidly changing landscape for arms deals and transfers. The Pentagon, which made use of the rapid response team during the Trump administration, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The operation is being run in cooperation with the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees weapons sales and transfers to other countries for the Department of Defense.

According to an email seen by Reuters, DSCA recently asked the defense industry for devices that can be used to disable or shoot down drones that were either in stock or could be ready for delivery in 120 days.

“In light of the ongoing crisis in Europe, the USG (US government) continues its efforts to identify effective solutions which would assist Ukraine in the ongoing situation. One of our focus areas is C-sUAS,” the message said. Counter small unmanned aerial systems (C-sUAS) technology is used to defeat drones.

Counter-drone devices come in a variety of sizes, prices and formats including the portable radar gun-like Dronekiller made by IXI Electronic Warfare and the Dronebuster from Radio Hill Technologies that can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars each. There are also larger versions of the technology including one that could shield an area the size of a stadium made by SRC.

The larger systems can cost in the $3 million to $6 million range, industry executives have said.

In some cases allies are trying to leverage the Ukraine situation to “press for things they wanted even before the conflict,” one US official said on condition of anonymity, adding that supply chains are still stressed from the pandemic so there was uncertainty about how this demand could be immediately met.

Countries in Europe - and across the globe - are looking at expanding defense budgets to meet an increasingly uncertain security outlook, with Germany among those promising a sharp increase in spending.

Read more: US approves potential weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan

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