VAMPIRES To Feast on Russian Drones in $3B Ukraine Weapons Package

August 24, 2022Matt White
The truck-mounted VAMPIRE system, which is designed to shoot down drones. The system is part of a $3 billion weapons package for Ukraine annnounced by the Pentagon on Wednesday, August 24. Photo courtesy L3Harris.

The truck-mounted VAMPIRE system, which is designed to shoot down drones. The system is part of a $3 billion weapons package for Ukraine annnounced by the Pentagon on Wednesday, August 24. Photo courtesy L3Harris.

The US announced a $3 billion weapons package for Ukraine — three times larger than any other arms shipments the US has made to Ukraine to date — aimed at long-term defenses rather than immediate battlefield supplies.

The package includes large air-defense missile systems intended to combat Russian airplanes, cruise missiles, and a smaller, truck-mounted missile platform — dubbed VAMPIRE, or Vehicle-Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment — designed to take out slow but elusive drones.

The larger systems are the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASMS, which fire from the ground a missile that is essentially identical to the large air-to-air missiles carried on fighter jets for dogfighting.

"Many of these capabilities aren't intended to directly contribute to today's fight," Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin H. Kahl said. "They will form the backbone of a robust future Ukrainian force."

US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cambrie Bentley, an unmanned aircraft systems operator with Hotel Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, prepares to launch an RQ-20B Puma during a training evaluation on Marine Corps Outlying Landing Field Atlantic, North Carolina, Feb. 24, 2022. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Noah Braswell.

The Pentagon said it would also send 24 counterartillery radars, which can spot and quickly target opposing artillery units by tracking the shells they fire. Also included are Puma unmanned aerial systems — small gliderlike drones that can be launched by a single soldier in the field — and maintenance supplies for the slightly larger Scan Eagle drone system the US recently pledged.

Full list of announced arms and supplies:

  • Six additional NASAMS with additional munitions for NASAMS.
  • Up to 245,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition.
  • Up to 65,000 rounds of 120mm mortar ammunition.
  • Up to 24 counterartillery radars.
  • Puma unmanned aerial systems and support equipment for Scan Eagle unmanned aerial systems.
  • VAMPIRE counter-unmanned aerial systems.
  • Laser-guided rocket systems.
  • Funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment. 

Though the variety of "laser-guided rocket systems" were not specificied, Kahl said they were designed to hit targets from 8 kilometers away.

Besides the long-term defensive nature of the package, the weapons will be sourced differently than they have been for other announced aid packages, Kahl said. The $3 billion will be spent over the next three years to acquire the weapons directly from manufacturers. Most of the aid sent by the US so far came as presidential drawdowns, which sent weapons already in the US inventory.

"This type of package does not presume any particular outcome of the conflict," Kahl said. "If the war continues for years, it's relevant. If there's a ceasefire or a peace settlement, still relevant because Ukraine needs the ability to defend itself and deter future aggression."

The VAMPIRE weapon is a truck-mounted, canister-launched rocket made by L3Harris.

READ NEXT: Defying Russia, Ukrainians Celebrate Their Independence Day

Matt White
Matt White

Matt White is a former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.

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