On July 1, the US announced $820 million in additional military aid for Ukraine, including advanced air-defense systems.
The this the fourteenth drawdown of equipment from the US Department of Defense (DoD) inventories for Ukraine that the Biden Administration has authorized since August 2021. The US has now sent $7.6 billion in assistance to Ukraine, including nearly $7 billion since the start of the Russian special military operation in the country on February 24.
In a statement, the DoD said that the new military aid package will include:
- Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
- Two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS);
- Up to 150,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery ammunition;
- Four additional counter-artillery radars.
The most important element of the new package is the NASAMS short- to medium-range air-defense systems, which the US hope will help Kiev forces defend against Russian missiles and warplanes.
The NASAMS was developed by the Norwegian company Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace in cooperation with Raytheon in the US. The DoD thanked Norway for facilitating the transfer of the system to Ukraine.
“The US continues to work with its Allies and partners to provide Ukraine with capabilities to meet its evolving battlefield requirements. In particular, DoD recognizes Norway’s cooperation to enable the historic provision by the United States of modern air defense systems that will help Ukraine defend against Russia’s brutal air attacks,” the DoD said in its statement.
The NASAMS, which was fielded by Norway in the late 1990s, was designed to defend against drones, helicopters, cruise missiles and warplanes.
The first and second generation of the air-defense system are armed with the AIM-120 AMRAAM, which is designed for air-to-air engagement.
Although the air-to-air range for AMRAAM is estimated to be 75 km for AIM-120B and over 160 km for the latest AIM-120D, these ranges are estimated for head-on encounters by fast moving aircraft at an altitude. The range is reduced to just 30 kilometers when the AMRAAM is launched from the ground.
The third generation of the NASAMS is armed with a variant of the AMRAAM that was especially developed for ground launch, the AMRAAM ER. This version has a range of more than 40 kilometers.
The NASAMS system is built around the AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel X-band, pulse-Doppler radar, which has a maximum range of 40 to 120 kilometers depending on the version. Other radars can be integrated into the system.
The air-defense system will likely be effective against cruise missiles because the AMRAAM and the AMRAAM ER are both equipped with active radar seekers, a feature that gives an advantage when dealing with small aerial targets.
Ukraine will likely use the NASAMS systems to defend the capital Kiev against Russian missile attacks as they will not likely be that effective on the frontline where Russian warplanes are flying on low altitudes and striking from a stand-off distance.
The systems effectiveness against more advanced Russian cruise missiles like the stealth Kh-101, which is usually used in strikes on Kiev, remains in question. It is also unclear for how long these systems will be able to survive the Russian Aerospace Forces’ routine SEAD [Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses] operations.