View from Washington: Ukraine has no more Air defenses

11:56 12.04.2024 •

By their own admission, Ukraine desperately needs air defenses. Russia dominates Ukraine's airspace, stresses Stephen Bryen, a former US Deputy Under Secretary of Defense.

Most of the high end systems previously delivered from the US and Europe have either been destroyed or run out of interceptor missiles.  NATO is searching for replacement missiles and parts for the Patriot air defense system.  Germany, along with others in Europe, say there are no available interceptor missiles for the Patriot systems in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Norway has promised more NASAMS, but they need to be built.  Europe has handed over its stock of IRIS-T missiles and new ones won't be available at least until 2025.  Now the US has announced it will provide $138 million in an emergency sale to maintain and repair HAWK air defense systems previously delivered to Ukraine.

An emergency sale will probably be on credit loan with little chance Ukraine will ever pay for the transaction. It is likely to eventually be paid for by the gargantuan $60 billion Ukraine aid program awaiting approval by the House of Representatives.

Ukraine has the Improved HAWK Phase III. The US approached Taiwan and Israel for IHAWK. Taiwan decided to scrap its HAWKS. Israel said its HAWKS were in very bad repair and not operational. Spain first provided its HAWK Phase III system to Ukraine and later agreed to provide six more systems.

Reading between the lines, either the Spanish-origin HAWKS sent to Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed, or most of them are no longer operational. Otherwise the State Department would not be urging an "emergency" sale of repairs, components and missiles to Ukraine. (Keep in mind that “used” parts will be billed at bargain basement prices.)

The State Department says that the HAWK systems in Ukraine need repairs and refurbishment. The Department also says that parts and replacement missiles either will come from old stocks in the US and abroad, or new parts will need to be manufactured.

Many of the semiconductor components in HAWK date back to the 1980s, meaning that most of the parts are medium-scale integrated circuits that are mostly out of production.

Exactly how good HAWK is against modern threats isn't clear.

Kiev used Patriots in their counter-offensive last summer, but according to reports at least one, if not two, of the Patriots was destroyed. More recently, at least one Patriot system was knocked out around Kyiv.

Air defenses are needed to protect critical infrastructure and on the battlefield to stop air attacks. Even if the HAWK system in Ukraine is refurbished in the coming months, it is not enough to secure vital installations and battlefield fortifications.

The bottom line is that Ukraine no longer has effective air defenses that can protect critical infrastructure or stop Russian aircraft on or near the battlefield. Without effective air defenses, Russia dominates Ukraine’s airspace.


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