(This July 22 story corrects first paragraph to show war about to enter sixth, not fifth, month)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is exploring whether it can send U.S.-made fighter jets to Ukraine, a White House spokesman told reporters on Friday, as the conflict with Russia is about to enter its sixth month and fighting rages in eastern Ukraine.
While the Biden administration was making preliminary explorations into the feasibility of potentially providing the jets to Ukraine, the move is not something that would be done immediately, White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters in a briefing.
“It’s not something that would be executed in the near-term,” Kirby said.
Such a move would be a major increase in U.S. support for Ukraine in its battle against Russia. So far the United States has provided $8.2 billion in security aid for Ukraine.
Kirby also disclosed details of the latest U.S. arms package for Ukraine, which totaled $270 million to aid in its defense against Russian aggression, including $100 million for drones.
The package, authorized by U.S. President Joe Biden, will allow Kiev to acquire 580 of privately held AEVEX Aerospace LLC’s Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial vehicles, Kirby said.
The package includes another tranche of up to around $175 million for other defense aid, a separate White House memo said.
It would include more high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) and other weapons that Ukrainians are using on the battlefield, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The additional U.S. funding comes as Ukraine seeks to fend off Moscow as the worst conflict in Europe since World War Two continued into its fifth month.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy this week said his forces could inflict major damage on Russia as Kyiv leans on Western weapons in planned efforts to launch a counterattack and recapture territory.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Katherine Jackson and Tim Ahmann; writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Costas Pitas, William Maclean and Marguerita Choy)