US to deliver anti-drone and air defense weaponry to Ukraine

Soldatnytt / Wikimedia Commons

The US Department of Defense will supply Ukraine with additional missiles for NASAMS air defense systems and guns with thermal sights to counter drones. 

On November 23, 2022, the Pentagon released the description of a new $400 million assistance package to be delivered to Ukraine. 

The equipment provided is meant to reinforce Ukraine’s air defense capabilities. It will include 150 heavy machine guns fitted with thermal imagery sights. These weapons are specifically meant to target Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).  

Additional AIM-120 missiles for Norwegian (or National) Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) will also be provided. This ground-based air defense system was developed by Norway’s military manufacturer Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace, and US-based aerospace and defense conglomerate Raytheon. A first shipment of two NASAMS was delivered by the United States to Ukraine on November 7, 2022.  

“With Russia’s unrelenting and brutal missile and UAS attacks on Ukrainian critical energy infrastructure, additional air defense capabilities remain an urgent priority,” the Pentagon explained. “The additional munitions for NASAMS and heavy machine guns will help Ukraine counter these urgent threats.” 

Images of fragments of an AIM-120 missile were shared on social media on November 23, 2022, hinting that NASAMS were deployed to protect Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv. 

Russia’s hybrid bombing 

In early July 2022, US intelligence reported that Russia was procuring loitering munition from Iran to reduce its consumption of high-precision weapons in the invasion of Ukraine.  

The first use of an Iranian-made Shahed-136 “kamikaze drone” was visually confirmed on September 13, 2022, as Russian forces were retreating from the city of Kupyansk in northeastern Ukraine. 

They have since been regularly used alongside cruise missiles as part of Russia’s bombing of Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure, which intensified on October 10, 2022.  

More than 400 Iran-made military drones have been used by Russia against Ukraine, intelligence sources told The Washington Post. Tehran and Moscow are reportedly in discussions to start the production of these kamikaze drones on Russian territory to keep up with the demand. 

Western reaction 

These bombings have also mobilized the western allies of Ukraine, who have accelerated their deliveries of anti-aircraft defense systems. 

In June 2022, the German government promised to send the 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. 

In October 2022, Reuters cited two US officials as saying that the Biden administration could take some mothballed HAWK air defense equipment out of storage and send it to Ukraine. Raytheon’s HAWK system is a medium-range surface-to-air missile and initially entered service with the US army in 1959. It has since been superseded by the Patriot missile defense system.   

In November 2022, France delivered two batteries of Crotale mobile air defense systems, which were promised by French President Emmanual Macron. 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.  

The United Kingdom, Sweden, and Spain have either already provided or pledged to supply platforms to reinforce Ukraine’s air defense.  


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