WASHINGTON―The U.S. State Department has cleared a potential sale to Ukraine of 16 Mark VI patrol boats and other gear worth $600 million, it was announced Wednesday.
The Ukraine sale is the first of its kind since President Donald Trump was acquitted in February in congressional impeachment proceedings that centered on his administration’s freeze on military aid to Ukraine.
With the modern and fast patrol boats, the sale includes various weapons, sensors and communications gear expected to help deter Russia from muscling Ukraine in the contested Kerch Strait and key ports along the Azov Sea.
According to a State Department official, the sale will improve the capability of the Ukrainian armed forces to “sustain river and littoral water patrols throughout Ukraine’s [maritime] Exclusive Economic Zone.”
“Ukraine’s military has an urgent need to strengthen its capabilities to patrol and police their EEZ, territorial waters, and protect other maritime interests due to persistent maritime threats posed by the Russia‐led forces in eastern Ukraine and surrounding waters and the credible threat of Russian conventional military maritime attack,” the official said.
The 16 boats follow two boats announced earlier this month as part of the Pentagon’s package of Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding, the official said. Kyiv will pay for the purchase with its own funds, with support provided by the State Department’s foreign military financing program.
For the U.S. Navy, the Mark VI is a heavily armed replacement for its Riverine Command Boat. The prime contractor is SAFE Boats International, of Bremerton, Wash.
Wednesday’s announcement includes 32 MSI Seahawk A2 gun systems; 20 electro-optics-infrared radar, or FLIR systems; 16 Long Range Acoustic Device 5km loudspeaker systems; 16 Identification Friend or Foe systems; 40 MK44 30mm cannons, as well as unspecified communications and support equipment.
The notifications were posted on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. DSCA notifications are not final sales; once cleared by Congress, the sales enter negotiations, during which quantities and costs can shift.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a partner country that is a force for political stability and economic progress in Europe,” the DSCA announcement reads.
The news came as the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv announced the delivery of a $60 million aid package that includes Javelin anti-tank missiles, radios and ammunition and a week after the approval of a $250 million military aid package to Ukraine. The $39 million Javelin sale was announced in October, 2019.
Ukraine has depended heavily on U.S. support during a six-year war with Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country that has killed more than 14,000 people.
In 2019, U.S. military assistance to Ukraine became a cornerstone of a presidential impeachment case. Trump was accused of withholding the aid in order to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Trump’s rival, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden’s son.
The aid was eventually released after a whistleblower complaint brought to light a phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy that became a basis for the congressional impeachment inquiry.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.