What prevents Ukraine from closing the sky?

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.

The United States Administration announced Wednesday, May 24, a $285 million contract for the sale to Ukraine of one NASAMS short-to-medium-range anti-aircraft missile system (SAM) and related equipment.

“Ukraine has an urgent need to build up weapons to defend against Russian missile and air strikes. The acquisition and effective use of these weapons will strengthen Ukraine’s ability to protect its citizens and critical national infrastructure,” the Pentagon said.

The issue of re-equipping the Ukrainian army in the field of protection against air threats to more modern NATO standards has become especially relevant in recent months against the backdrop of the promised spring offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) and the increasing frequency of missile and drone strikes from Russia. On April 27, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in an interview with RBC-Ukraine that Ukraine had practically run out of missiles for Soviet air defense systems. As of February 24, 2022, Soviet-made air defense systems (S-300, Buk, etc.) formed the basis of Ukrainian air defense. According to Reznikov, in order to ensure the safety of the sky, the country’s authorities have to buy Western models of these weapons, as well as increase the ammunition for them.

A similar statement by the Minister of Defense of Ukraine was previously made by Denis Smazhny, head of training of the anti-aircraft missile forces of Ukraine, who complained about the country’s anti-aircraft defense being obsolete.

“We urgently need to replace our old systems, because they will soon cease to cope with Russian goals. We are also running out of missiles,” he said.

The same was reported by the American newspaper The Washington Post, which noted the inability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the air defense system due to an acute shortage of missile ammunition. At the same time, writes WP, the shortage of ammunition for them is growing rapidly and has already reached a critical level. If Russia keeps the intensity of air attacks at the current level, Ukraine will most likely run out of missiles by early summer. According to the newspaper, Ukraine may find itself in a situation where it will simply has nothing to shoot down Russian missiles and drones.

The importance of the urgent transfer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to modern NATO air defense systems is also associated with the changed tactics of the Russians, aimed at opening the positions of the Ukrainian air defense and misleading their calculations. In mid-March, the head of the office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, said that Moscow had changed its tactics of conducting combat operations in the air.

“The Russians have changed tactics somewhat. They conduct active reconnaissance, use false targets”, wrote Yermak. At the same time, the official resources of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have repeatedly published photos of the so-called “fake” missiles. They are Russian Kh-55 cruise missiles without a standard warhead, the purpose of which is to detect and defuse Ukrainian air defense systems.

To destroy Ukrainian radar stations (RLS), the Russians use anti-radar missiles, which allow them to detect and hit sources of radio emission. During the conflict in Ukraine, Russian Su-35S and Su-30SM fighters launched strikes with Kh-31PM and Kh-58UShK anti-radar missiles at long-range and medium-range air defense systems. At the same time, the Russian army is hunting for Ukrainian air defense systems not only from the air, but also from the ground. For example, at the end of April, videos showing the destruction of 4 Ukrainian S-300 air defense systems in the Kherson direction, as well as one German Gepard air defense system, flew around Russian social networks. All targets were hit by Russian shock loitering drone “Lancet”. It is noteworthy that some of the targets were damaged while driving on the road.

The situation of the Ukrainian military is complicated by the lack of objective opportunities to find the required amount of ammunition for Soviet and Russian air defense systems on the world arms market. Ukraine does not have its own scientific, technical and industrial base for the production of missiles for Soviet air defense systems. At the end of 2022, the British newspaper Financial Times reported that the Armed Forces of Ukraine were running out of ammunition and spare parts for the S-300 and Buk anti-aircraft missile systems, which are the basis of Ukraine’s air defense. According to it, Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia have small stocks of missiles for these air defense systems. But these countries do not want to reduce their defense capability and empty warehouses for the sake of Ukraine. At the same time, new missiles for the S-300 and Buk air defense systems are produced in Russia and, for obvious reasons, are not available to the Ukrainian side even for purchase through third parties.

Kyiv will not be able to interface Western heterogeneous air defense systems and their elements, as well as create a single control system. In the conditions of the impossibility of the full use of Soviet air defense installations by Ukraine, its external curators are striving to increase the supply of their own air defense systems.

However, the anti-aircraft missile systems and components transferred to Kyiv are distinguished by a wide range of production and a wide range of functional characteristics.

These factors are forcing the United States and European countries to increasingly include their own air defense systems, more technologically advanced than Soviet ones, in military assistance packages to Ukraine. Since the beginning of the conflict, Ukraine has received a number of Western-made air defense systems. In particular, the United States supplied the Ukrainians with the Stinger portable anti-aircraft missile system, the UK sent Starstreak MANPADS and Stormer HVM self-propelled anti-aircraft guns with Starstreak missiles, which are designed to destroy low-flying targets. Germany sent Strela and Stinger MANPADS to Ukraine, and in August 2022, Kyiv received the first German Gepard ZSU equipped with 35 mm automatic cannons.

With the start of attacks on the energy infrastructure of Ukraine, Western countries began to pay even more attention to the supply of air defense systems to Kyiv, expanding the range of weapons. Already in October, it became known that Kyiv received the IRIS-T SLM (Infra Red Imaging System Tail / Thrust Vector-Controlled Surface Launched Medium Range) air defense system from Germany. This complex system allows you to hit targets at a distance of up to 40 kilometers. Ukraine also received complexes with Aspide anti-aircraft missiles, NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System) and MIM-23 Homing All the Way Killer (HAWK) air defense systems. Finally, in mid-March, Ukraine received the first of two batteries of the American Patriot air defense system.

At the same time, the BBC channel pointed to problems with the integration of NATO air defense systems into the Ukrainian (still Soviet) air defense system due to the deep differences between the two technological schools – Western and Soviet. The channel also noted that most NATO anti-aircraft missile systems are capable of fully controlling only one strictly defined sector of airspace. At the same time, they cannot intercept operational-tactical missiles moving along an aeroballistic trajectory.

The last point was clearly demonstrated in Kyiv on the night of May 16, when Russia launched a massive air strike on Ukraine. The Russian Ministry of Defense then stated that a battery of the American SAM “Patriot” was hit by an air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missile in Kyiv.

The Ukrainian authorities called this statement a fake, but the Ukrainian singer Inna Voronova, who lives in Kyiv, without thinking about the consequences, published on the Internet a video of the combat operation of the Patriot air defense system that night. The video she published, taken by a surveillance camera in the Comfort Town residential complex, clearly shows how the American anti-aircraft system fires unsuccessfully at the Russian missile for about a minute and a half. As a result, having made more than 30 launches, the air defense system was hit.

CNN, citing an unnamed American high-ranking official, acknowledged the strike of a supposedly Russian aeroballistic missile “Dagger” on the American anti-aircraft missile system “Patriot” in Kiev. At the same time, CNN clarified that the air defense system “was damaged, but not destroyed.” At the same time, the military magazine Military Watch Magazine wrote that on the night of May 16 in Kiev, Patriot fired 32 interceptors at the Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which aimed at it, but none of them reached the target and the complex was hit. This unsuccessful volley, according to the magazine’s calculations, cost Ukraine approximately $96 million. Yuriy Ignat, spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, declined to comment on reports from Russian sources about the defeat of the Patriot.

This case did not go unnoticed in the global arms market. Stock quotes of the American concern Raytheon, manufacturer of the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system, have already fallen by more than 7% after the delivery of this complex system to Ukraine. The biggest jump down is observed after reports of the defeat of the air defense system in Kyiv.

Earlier, Denis Smazhny, the head of training of the anti-aircraft missile forces of Ukraine, reported on his low opinion on the effectiveness of the NASAMS and IRIS-T systems transferred by the United States (supplied by Germany) to counter Russian ballistic missiles, such as Iskanders and Daggers. These weapons, unlike cruise missiles, are capable of climbing to very high altitudes and falling on the target almost vertically at high speeds. Thus, it is very difficult to target them in flight, which probably happened with the Patriot in the Ukrainian capital.

According to Joe Cirincione, a columnist for the American magazine Defense One, the Patriot system has a number of design vulnerabilities. According to the expert, the air defense system data showed dubious performance during the hostilities in the Middle East (Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia). Also, Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems are capable of simultaneously controlling only one missile-hazardous direction in a sector up to 120 degrees. At the same time, the declared effectiveness of these air defense systems in intercepting operational-tactical missiles flying along aeroballistic trajectories has not yet been confirmed during tests.

In addition, the system cannot hit low-flying targets (at an altitude of 60-100 meters), which makes its elements extremely vulnerable to unmanned aerial vehicles, even handicraft ones. Therefore, “Patriot” should be paired with other air defense systems that have the ability to track missiles at low altitudes.

Against the background of the published video with the moment of the defeat of the Patriot air defense system in Kyiv, the reports of Ukraine about the defeat of the Russian hypersonic missile “Dagger” over Kiev on May 4 look relatively strange. At the same time, US President Joe Biden declared the invulnerability of the Daggers.

“They have the same warhead as any other missile, there is not much difference, except that it is almost impossible to stop,” the head of the white house concluded.

BBC reviewers agree with him. According to them, it is “hard to believe” that Ukrainian’s air defense was able to shoot down a Russian hypersonic missile. The performance characteristics of this weapon leave very few chances even for the most modern anti-aircraft missile systems. The Kinzhal is an aeroballistic missile capable of Mach 10, which is approximately 12,500 to 14,000 km/h.

Experts believe that such a speed leaves negligible time for the reaction of air defense calculations.
Apparently, it was for these reasons that Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine Volodymyr Gavrilok, at a meeting with NATO representatives at the headquarters of the alliance in Brussels at the end of April, announced the difficulties in repelling Russian air attacks. In this regard, the Ukrainian politician called on Western countries to provide the Armed Forces of Ukraine with more sophisticated and long-range weapons, primarily F-16 fighters or their equivalents.

The issue of shifting the severity of airspace defense from anti-aircraft missile systems to aviation was also raised personally by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, who at the end of May, as part of a publication distributed on his social networks, shared data on the difficulties in the field of air defense. In this regard, he stressed the progress in negotiations on the transfer of combat aircraft, which will have to begin to defend the country’s airspace.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.

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Jarno P
Jarno P
May 27, 2023

“Ukraine has an urgent need to build up weapons to defend against Russian missile and air strikes. The acquisition and effective use of these weapons will strengthen Ukraine’s ability to protect its citizens and critical national infrastructure,” the Pentagon said. Pentagon jews, maybe, but more like greedy U.S Military Industrial Complex 90% owned by jews. “promised spring offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine” – WON’T HAPPEN IN ANY MEANINGFUL MANNER, NEVER LOL “the increasing frequency of missile and drone strikes from Russia”, WTF ?! – We have been told longer than a year by the west “Russia is running… Read more »

Reply to  Jarno P
May 27, 2023

We could help NATO by folding some paper airplanes.
Use high quality bomb proof paper for best results. 🙂

May 27, 2023

If you take this at face value, NATO has a nasty habit of boasting about things that it hasn’t yet done. According to the MSM, the patriot system has been advertised for months as being the game changer for the war in Ukraine, then advertised for weeks as being very effective, and able to shoot down hypersonic missiles with “proof” in the Ukrainian battlefield. Now you get articles implying that the system hasn’t even been implemented. What gives?

Last edited 6 months ago by Macko
Reply to  Macko
May 27, 2023

The propaganda writers are not consulting each other to keep the bs consistent.
Or perhaps they think their readers are not bright enough to notice. 🙂

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