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Ukraine Air Defense Overview

Updated: Mar 7

In April of this year, Ukraine made four primary weapons requests:

  1. Ammunition (in particular 155mm artillery shells)

  2. Armored vehicles (including tanks)

  3. Long-range missiles

  4. Jets (in particular, the US-made F-16)

My blog addresses the third request.

A Ukrainian Minister of Parliament confirmed that Ukraine is running low on their Russian-made S-300 Missile System, which could be depleted by April, and indicated the Soviet-era system was no longer "the main air defense system for us."

The primary air threats facing their country today are the Iranian-made HESA Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which, according to sources, have become "increasingly successful." A second predominant threat comes from Russian Kamov KA-50 "Black Shark" Battle Helicopters.

The depletion of Ukrainian's high-altitude air defenses could allow the VKS, the initials for the Russian Aerospace Force (Vozdushno-kosmicheskiye sily), to send more jets and bombers superior to those of the Ukrainian Air Force into Ukrainian airspace and tip the balance in Moscow's favor.

While Ukraine is scheduled to receive both refurbished HAWK missiles, and four Avenger Air Defense System along with several MIM-104 Patriot batteries from the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands, the small numbers of batteries will only likely protect Kyiv and other major cities rather than deter Russian airstrikes across most of the country.

Supplies of other missiles from Ukraine’s Western allies, such as NASAMs (Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System), IRIS-T (InfraRed Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled, and older MIM-23 Hawk missiles, will help, but they won’t likely be enough to close off most of the Ukrainian airspace to the VKS.

Tom Karako, the director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), was quoted as saying he wouldn't consider the HAWK air defense systems an upgrade from the Stinger (missile) systems, according to various video accounts, the man-portable system has been highly effective against Russian KA-50 Battle Helicopters. And some unconfirmed accounts of HAWKs are already being deployed against these same threats, as depicted in the attached photo and this video.

However, the United States has committed to sending Ukraine an undisclosed number of Boeing Avenger Air Defense Systems - possibly the most effective short-range tactical air defense system in our arsenal. A two-person team operates the Avenger within an HMMWV (Humvee), or it may be operated, for their protection, within 50 meters of it.

The Avenger system consists of two 360-degree missile launchers capable of firing up to eight FIM-92 Stinger missiles before reloading. It provides mobile protection against low-flying aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, and even cruise missiles.

Ultimately this system could become, if supplied in greater numbers, the coup de grace against the VKS because of its high mobility and ability to be rapidly deployed to battlefields and protect outlying Ukrainian towns and villages against direct Russian air attacks.

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Photo Credit: Bing Images Gagadget .Com

Sources: Axios World, BBC, Forbes, Algemeiner, MSN, Newsweek, Yahoo

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