Washington is preparing to send missiles to Ukraine which could strike almost the entire Russian-occupied region of the country, US officials have said.
Two officials said the weapons announcement would be made this week in a new $2 billion package of military aid, according to Reuters.
It would be the first time Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB), a new weapon designed by Boeing, were sent.
The cheap gliding missiles have a range of more than 93 miles due to fold-out wings which extend their range, a dramatic increase over the 50 miles range of the Himars rocket systems which changed the face of the war when Washington sent them last summer.
It would mean every inch of Russian-occupied Ukraine, apart from most of the Crimean peninsula, would be in range of Ukrainian forces, likely forcing Moscow to redistribute ammunition and fuel storage sites.
The small, GPS-guided bombs, which are reportedly capable of hitting targets as small as 3ft-wide, are fitted onto abundantly available rockets that can be fired from Himars, M270 launchers and aircraft.
Mykhilo Podolyak, the Ukrainian Presidential aide, said talks on the supply of the longer range missiles and attack aircraft were under way.
“Each war stage requires certain weapons. Amassing [Russia’s] reserves in the occupied territories requires specifics from [Ukraine] and partners,” Mr Podolyak wrote on Twitter.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said supplying the longer-range rockets “would not change the course of events” but would “escalate tensions,” a response often used by Moscow to stoke fears of nuclear escalation.
The GLSDB combines the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb with the M26 rocket motor, both of which are common in American inventories.
US stocks 'getting low'
Tom Karako, a weapons and security expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said buying missiles such as the GLSDB direct from industry, rather than from existing weapon stocks, was “about getting quantity at a cheap cost”.
Mr Karako said concerns over depleting US stockpiles are behind an ongoing production rush as current stocks are “getting low relative to the levels we like to keep on hand”.
A Western official said on Tuesday “what any armed forces needs is increased depth, increased accuracy and lethality and anything which contributes to that will be useful to [Ukraine]”.
The official dismissed Russian claims to have destroyed a lot of Ukraine’s artillery as “misinformation” adding Moscow’s narrative of claiming to have destroyed much more of Kyiv’s military capability than was actually the case was “a feature of this campaign”.