The Pentagon’s top arms buyer shed new light Wednesday on how the United States supplied Ukraine with RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile systems that he says were used to sink two Russian ships in June.
“There’s incredible innovation going on,” William LaPlante, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said at the annual meeting. Defense News Conference.
LaPlante said one country, which he wouldn’t name, “had harpoons that were on a ship. They said maybe we could do something with them.
So working with this country and a contractor he also didn’t name, “we got them off the ship and put them on flatbed trucks.”
One truck contained the harpoons and modules and another the power source.
Then a cable was used to connect the two.
Realizing that there was now a practical method to convert an airborne Harpoon system into a rapidly exportable truck-launched version, Ukrainian troops were brought to the United States to train on the system over Memorial Day weekend, LaPlante said.
“And the next week two Russian ships were sunk with those harpoons after about three weeks,” he said.
In June, the Ukrainian navy claimed it struck a Russian ship near the infamous Snake Island in the Black Sea, just over 20 miles off Ukraine’s southwest coast.
The incident apparently involved a Russian salvage vessel, the Vasily Bekh, which would have transported personnel, weapons and ammunition to the island, which was at the time occupied by Russian forces and had been so since the very beginning of the conflict. Notably, Ukrainian officials claimed the ship was hit twice by harpoons.
At the time, there was little solid evidence of exactly what happened, although Ukraine’s Defense Ministry released footage taken from a Bayraktar TB2 drone that allegedly shows the engagement. The video appears to confirm that two separate missiles hit the ship.
And in June, the US Department of Defense announced its own delivery of two Harpoon missile systems, which included launchers and spare parts, but no missiles.
The harpoons, which have a range of around 70 miles, have helped compensate for the lack of a Ukrainian navy, helping to prevent Russia’s Black Sea Fleet from launching amphibious operations against ports like Odessa.
Although LaPlante did not name any sunken ships, at least now we know a bit more about how Ukraine managed to pull off these attacks without ships capable of supporting a Harpoon system.
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