US Trained Ukrainian Missileers Who Sunk Russian Warship, Pentagon Official Says
Bill LaPlante also praised the quick “innovation” that delivered truck-mounted Harpoon missiles to Ukraine.
Clarification: A Pentagon spokesperson said Bill LaPlante did not mean to say that Ukrainians were trained in the United States.
Ukrainian forces who sank a Russian warship with Harpoon missiles in June were trained by the United States, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer said.
That key detail of the strike and a few others were disclosed Wednesday by Bill LaPlante, defense undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, during a conference panel hosted by Defense News near the Pentagon.
LaPlante said the U.S. “brought the Ukrainians to train on [the Harpoon] over Memorial Day weekend, in our country, over Memorial Day weekend.”
A spokesperson for LaPlante said the undersecretary did not mean that the Ukrainians received training in the United States. Instead, she said, he meant that the weekend the Ukrainians received training is called Memorial Day in the United States.
“We got them off the ship, put them on some flatbed trucks, put the Harpoons, the modules on the flatbed truck, and then a different flatbed truck for the power source, connected a cable between it, figured out was exportable, brought the Ukrainians to train on it over Memorial Day weekend, in our country, over Memorial Day weekend, and the next week two Russian ships were sunk with those Harpoons,” he said.
The U.S. was part of a coalition team that did the training, a U.S. defense official said later. A "vendor" trained the Ukrainians, the official said.
The Boeing-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles used in the strike were given to the Ukrainians by a U.S. ally that LaPlante did not disclose. The missiles were removed from the ally’s ship and then mounted on the back of a flatbed truck. A second flatbed truck served as a “power source,” he said. “There's incredible innovation going on right now and we just don't talk about it enough.”
In mid-June, Ukraine said it deployed Harpoons provided by Denmark. Days later, reports emerged that the Ukrainian military had sunk the Russian naval supply ship Spasatel Vasily Bekh. A week later the Pentagon said Ukraine had sunk that ship with Harpoons.
On Wednesday, LaPlante said that Ukrainian forces had since sunk another Russian warship with the Harpoons. He did not name the ship and there is no reporting from the region of a second vessel being sunk.
In June, U.S. officials pledged to send Ukraine vehicle-mounted Harpoons as part of a $1 billion weapons package.
In April, Ukrainian forces used Neptune missiles to sink the Moskva, flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.