With his prime-time vow to send more weapons to both Ukraine and Israel, President Biden sought to make clear on Thursday that the United States was not prioritizing one war over the other.
But hours earlier, a Defense Department official said that tens of thousands of 155-millimeter artillery shells promised to Ukraine would be diverted to Israel.
The shells are an example of the American weapons that officials and experts say are needed in both wars, which could stretch the U.S. capacity to keep up with demand. That will be especially true if Israel’s expected ground offensive in Gaza, in response to Hamas attacks, lasts for months.
“You’re going to probably see a steady flow of weapons continuing to flow into Israel,” Sabrina Singh, the deputy Pentagon spokeswoman, said last week.
Some of those shipments could include the same types of artillery and bombs that Ukraine has relied on in its own 20-month ground war to defend its territory from Russia.
For the most part, Ukraine and Israel are fighting different kinds of wars, and have different capabilities and needs, according to current and former U.S. national security and congressional officials.
In recent months, Ukraine’s counteroffensive has faced stiff resistance from Russian mines, trenches and other defenses, and the grinding artillery campaign has devolved into a war of attrition.
Israel is preparing to launch a very different kind of land war — an urban fight in the densely populated Gaza Strip, which has been pummeled by Israeli airstrikes since Hamas’s attacks on Oct. 7.
“There’ll be very little overlap between what we’re going to be giving Israel and what we give to Ukraine,” Michael J. Morell, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said last week.
Ukraine is poised to receive about $61 billion in new military aid, more than half of a $105 billion emergency package of mostly foreign assistance that Mr. Biden wants Congress to approve. Israel, whose military is far better equipped than Ukraine’s, would receive about $14 billion for its air and missile defenses in the proposal, which the White House announced on Friday.
Still, with global stockpiles of 155-millimeter shells and other weapons systems already thinned out, and manufacturers struggling to keep up with demand, “there will be trade-offs” in supplying both wars the longer they last, Mark F. Cancian, a former White House weapons strategist who is now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington wrote in an analysis.
Here are three key weapons systems that Israel and Ukraine may need from the United States.
Perhaps more than any other weapons, the NATO-standard 155-millimeter shells will be in high demand, as both Israel and Ukraine use them against targets within a few dozen miles.
The United States has sent Ukraine more than two million 155-millimeter rounds, and Europe has delivered hundreds of thousands more, since Russia’s invasion in February 2022. But Western military stockpiles are now nearing “the bottom of the barrel,” a top official in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Adm. Rob Bauer of the Netherlands, recently said.
In January, the Pentagon said it would tap into an American stockpile in Israel and ship hundreds of thousands of 155-millimeter shells to Ukraine. The stockpile is located in Israel, the closest American ally in the Middle East, to quickly supply arms across the region when needed.
About half of the shells in the stockpile in Israel were shipped out last winter. The Pentagon now plans to redirect at least some of the rest to Israel’s military, the Defense Department official said.
Maj. Charlie Dietz, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to discuss the details of any munitions transfer but said the top U.S. priority “was ensuring Israel has the resources it needs during this time.”