European nations scramble to provide air defense to Ukraine

David Monniaux / Wikimedia Commons

Several European nations have recently delivered or promised air defense systems to Ukraine, while Russia continues to bombard critical infrastructure with missiles and drones.  

On October 12, 2022, French President Emmanual Macron announced a new batch of military aid to be sent to Ukraine.  

“We have delivered a lot of missiles and those so-called Caesar cannons since the start of the war, and we will continue,” Macron said in an interview with the public TV channel France 2. “We are also going to deliver radars and missiles to protect [the Ukrainians] from these attacks.” 

The nature of the missile systems to be provided was not specified. France only operates two systems: the middle-range SAMP/T MAMBA system and the short-range Crotale NG system.  

Developed as part of a collaboration between France and Italy, the MAMBA system can track 100 trajectories and engage 10 of them simultaneously. The Aster 30 missile it employs, developed by MBDA, can hit aircraft up to 120 kilometers away, and ballistic missiles at 30 kilometers. However, the French Air Force only has eight systems, one of which is currently deployed in Romania to defend the 500 soldiers of the Aigle [Eagle] mission. More should be ordered by the end of 2022. 

Older and more modest, the Crotale NG can simultaneously track up to 12 targets at a distance of 18 kilometers and engage them within 11 kilometers with one of its eight VT1 missiles. As of 2022, the French Air Force reported an inventory of 12 Crotale systems. 

France is not the only European nation to assist in reinforcing the air defense of Ukraine.  

In June 2022, the German government promised to send the modern IRIS-T SL air defense system. This modern platform can target and shoot down small air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, such as the Russian 3M-54 Kalibr, with an operational range of 40 kilometers. Germany did deliver the first out of the four systems promised on October 12, 2022. 

On October 7, 2022, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Roble visited Zaragoza Air Base in northern Spain, where 19 Ukrainian soldiers are being trained to operate the Spada Aspide air defense system. The system can take down low-altitude targets at a range of up to 20 kilometers. 

Roble confirmed that an unspecified number of platforms would be delivered to Ukraine. The formation of the Ukrainian servants should end on October 14, 2022, with more servicemembers to undergo training from November 1, 2022. 

Countering Russia’s terror-bombing 

The effort to provide Ukraine with sufficient means to defend its airspace accelerated after October 10, 2022, when Russia launched its largest strike on Ukrainian cities in recent months, targeting civilian infrastructure. 75 cruise missiles, mostly Kalibr missiles, were launched by the Russian military on the first day, in addition to Iranian-made Shahed-136 suicide drones. 

Following the attacks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on his allies to provide more anti-air systems. 

“When Ukraine receives a sufficient number of modern and effective air defense systems, the key element of Russian terror – missile strikes – will cease to function,” Zelenskyy said. 


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