The US Defense Department is now reviewing 1,300 proposals from 800 companies for innovative new weapons and commercial capabilities they may be able to develop and produce for Ukraine to use in its fight against Russia’s invasion, according to a defense official.
The Pentagon expects to decide in the coming weeks on which ideas it will pursue, leading to possible eventual production for Ukraine as well as for the US military.
The proposals, requested by the department, center around key areas — including weapons capabilities for air defense, anti-armor, anti-personnel, coastal defense, anti-tank, unmanned aerial systems, counter battery and secure communications — which have been identified by Ukraine as key military needs.
They were sought as part of a broad initiative by the Defense Department to "fulfill Ukraine's priority security assistance requests," according to the original solicitation for ideas sent to industry. The goal is to get ideas and information in hand in order to accelerate production and build more capacity across the industrial base, as its now accepted the US and its allies are likely to have to support Ukraine long after its own existing weapons stockpiles run out.
This comes as the Pentagon continues its multiple billion-dollar weapons transfers. On Thursday, President Joe Biden said the US will soon announce another $800 million in new aid, including air defense systems and offensive weapons. So far, the US has committed $6.1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the Feb. 24 invasion by Russia. The US has been working with more than 50 other nations to see what weapons they can offer.
The preference has been for what they have in Russian weapons, because Ukraine's forces are familiar with those systems and would not need training. But as the war has gone on, more advanced weapons have been provided and Ukraine's forces have been trained in nearby countries.
The department's plan for potential new production contracts reflects some urgency as it looks for potential deliveries anywhere from less than 30 days to more than 180 days. It is also asking companies to detail what type of air, land or sea platform their weapon might be deployed on and if they already have something in production.
"In particular, the Department is exploring options which would accelerate production and build more capacity across the industrial base for weapons and equipment that can be rapidly exported, deployed with minimal training, and that are proven effective in the battlefield," the DOD said in its solicitation to industry for ideas.
The effort comes as a followup to a Pentagon meeting earlier this year with eight of the largest defense contractors, as well as approval by Congress for funding purchase contracts for weapons in addition to the ongoing drawdown and transfer of systems from the US military stockpile.
The Pentagon has put into place a detailed bureaucratic structure to assess Ukraine's needs and try to accelerate supplying them, it said. A new "senior integration group" of senior officials reviews Ukraine's latest operational needs.
The funding could potentially come from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which is a pot of nearly $1 billion for contracting for weapons for Ukraine. Nearly $240 million has been contracted for in areas ranging from Switchblade drones to secure communications devices.