Russia invades Ukraine, country braces for major Donbas offensive

In this file photo, a Ukrainian service member carries an American-made Javelin missile system in a trench position north of Kyiv, on March 13.
In this file photo, a Ukrainian service member carries an American-made Javelin missile system in a trench position north of Kyiv, on March 13. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

The Pentagon is convening a meeting of its top weapons makers Wednesday to discuss the industry’s capacity to support Ukraine in a protracted war with Russia, according to a defense official and an industry official.

The meeting today at the Pentagon will be classified and chaired by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks. The attendees will represent Boeing, L3Harris, Raytheon, BAE, Lockheed Martin, Huntington Ingalls, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman, a US official tells CNN. 

The three main topics to be discussed are supplying Ukraine, re-supplying partners and allies as well as resupplying US inventories.

With regards to Ukraine, they will discuss more about immediate security needs of Ukraine but also look out two to four years at least.

The official says the assessment is even if the Russian troops somehow leave, there will still be enduring security concerns. They will also discuss that over time, some of what is being provided will be obsolete production and new versions will have to be supplied as replacements.

With regards to partners and allies, the participants will discuss what might be in production or going into production that is a reasonable backfill (especially the Patriot system). US production will become obsolete with new versions over time, and they will discuss if those are available and exportable.

More on the meeting: The meeting between the defense contractors and the Pentagon, first reported by Reuters, was organized just a few days ago, according to the defense industry official with direct knowledge of the arrangements.

The official said the contractors have been told the focus of the meeting is on the “capacity of the industry” to support Ukraine if the war goes on for several years. 

The sense of things, the official said, is the US is “assuming this is going to be a years long endeavor” in a scenario where, at a minimum, Ukraine will not able to safely manufacture weapons in its own country. 

But in the meeting, the official said, the contractors are likely to bring up the serious challenges still facing defense manufacturing in the US including ongoing and severe supply chain issues and a lack of affordable labor. 

All of this continues to constrict defense manufacturing capacity right now, and could grow worse as increased defense spending in the budget and Ukraine contracts vie for manufacturing capacity, the official said. 

The issue of capacity is also impacting the manufacture of critical ammunition supplies, even though most of it is done in government-owned contractor-operated facilities.

The US has authorized more than $2.4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including more than $1.7 billion since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The US is expected to announce on Wednesday it is sending hundreds of millions of dollars in new military assistance to Ukraine, three sources familiar with the package tell CNN.

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