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On the afternoon of November 15, Russia launched its largest missile strike against Ukraine since the beginning of the war, firing around 70 X-101/Kh-555 cruise missiles, 20 anti-ship Kalibrs, and 10 kamikaze drones. As in the case of previous strikes, many of the missiles hit residential buildings. Russian missile stocks are gradually running out, but in the coming months, amid a succession of military defeats, it is missile strikes that will become the Kremlin's main weapon. And although the effectiveness of air defense is already quite high (during the last shelling Ukraine was able to shoot down 73 of 90 missiles), the Kremlin is still serious about achieving its goal - depriving the country of electricity and bringing it to a humanitarian disaster. Ukraine's situation could become much more difficult if Russia is able to get its hands on Iranian ballistic missiles. Western countries are providing Kyiv with as much assistance as they can, but a realistic way to close the sky over Ukraine is to ensure direct involvement of NATO in the conflict.

The article’s main illustration created with Midjourney

ALL CARDS
  • What kind of missiles are being fired at Ukraine

  • How well the Ukrainian air defense system has performed

  • Allies help Ukraine, but it's not enough

  • What else can be done to protect the sky

  • “Ukraine can only be fully protected via a no-fly zone protocol”

  • “Ukraine has about 30% of what it needs”

  • “Full-fledged missile defense is only possible if NATO systems are deployed in Ukraine”

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What kind of missiles are being fired at Ukraine

The attack on Ukraine on the night of February 24, 2022 began with a massive strike by short-range cruise and ballistic missiles. Over 160 missiles struck predominantly military targets. In the process, 137 civilians were killed and 316 were wounded. The Russian command hoped to use a wall of fire during the first days of the campaign to stun the enemy's political leadership, disrupt troop control and ultimately deprive the disorganized AFU units of the will to resist as part of the “storm and onslaught” strategy – a lightning-fast military special operation (“Kyiv in three days”). But the blitzkrieg failed and with it the intensity of the use of long-range weapons decreased.

While Russian forces fired about 600 rockets (55 per day) during the first 11 days of fighting, and more than 1,100 (42 per day) during the first 26 days (by March 21), by the 40th day (April 4), U.S. estimates put the total number of rockets fired at more than 1,400, which means the average number dropped to 35 per day. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke of 2,154 Russian missiles (28 per day) on May 10 (76th day of war) and 2,709 missiles (23 per day) on June 23 (120th day of war). By midsummer (July 21), according to Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, Russia had used 3,650 missiles, including 1,486 cruise missiles and 1,403 air-to-surface missiles. To date, the average number of missiles fired has dropped to 20 per day and continues to decline.

In spring, reports started surfacing about rapid depletion of the number of missiles (up to half of the prewar stocks) and their low efficiency (failures at the level of 20% to 60% of the total number of launches). At the same time, launches became sporadic with considerable interruptions. The shortage of long-range weapons was also evidenced by the change in the range of missiles used: while at the beginning of the campaign, predominantly Kalibrs and Iskanders were used, the Russian forces gradually switched to strikes against ground targets using expensive Onyx and X-22 anti-ship missiles, and even anti-aircraft guided missiles for the S-300 system.

Russian forces managed to resume missile launches comparable in numbers to the spring ones only in October and November. On October 10, Ukraine was attacked by 84 cruise missiles and 24 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The very next day, the number of missiles dropped to 28 and UAVs to 15. On October 31, Russia fired 55 X-101 cruise missiles, one X-59 guided air missile, 22 S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, four UAVs of the Shahed-136 (aka Geran-2 - probably a localized version or a disguised remake of the loitering munitions purchased from Iran) and Lancet-3 types. And on November 15, more than 90 missiles were fired at Ukraine: around 70 X-101/Kh-555 cruise missiles, 20 naval Kalibrs and 10 Shahed-136/131 kamikaze drones (the latter is known in Russian sources as Geran-1).

The latest available data indicate that as of 24 October, Russia had used 4,500 missiles against Ukraine (taking into account the more recent launches, the total number is probably closer to 5,000) and thus had almost exhausted its resources of land-based guided long-range weapons. According to the estimates of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, today Russia possesses only 13% of the pre-war stocks of Iskander missiles, although it still has about 43% of sea-launched Kalibr missiles and 45% of Kh-101 and Kh-555 aircraft missiles.

Types of missiles Russia still has   Ministry of Defense of Ukraine
Types of missiles Russia still has Ministry of Defense of Ukraine

In their latest wave of attacks Russian forces used almost exclusively air-launched missiles (Kh-59, Kh-22 and Kh-101) and kamikaze drones such as the Geran-2, which made a lot of noise (including, literally, because of the loud engine operation). In total, the Russian side has used more than 400 Gerans. In fact, they are not even kamikaze drones but “projectile airplanes”, substitutes for the scarce cruise missiles, and they are much cheaper (the estimated cost is no more than $20,000-30,000 apiece) than the missiles themselves (those cost millions of dollars apiece).

Although Gerans look more like German VW missiles from the 1940s (yes, the wunderwaffe Hitler hoped for) than modern loitering munitions, they can penetrate deep into the rear thanks to their technically primitive design and coordinate targeting, often avoiding timely detection by air defenses. Iranian Geran designers had designed them for asymmetric wars waged, for example, against Yemeni or Palestinian rebels and not for large-scale conventional clashes of two regular armies, that's why the effectiveness of the “projectile planes” remains questionable: they are used against stationary targets and rather distract air defense than cause serious damage because of a modestly sized warhead (50 kg).

In addition to reducing the intensity and changing the types of firepower, Russian commanders during the fall campaign shifted the focus of their long-range strikes to Ukraine’s energy infrastructure

According to calculations made by the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine (as of October 24), Russia carried out 85 strikes on energy facilities throughout the war, 51 of which occurred in October. The Energy Ministry counted 300 strikes (missiles, UAVs and artillery) on the energy system between October 10 and 20. As a result of the October 31 raid, missiles and drones hit 18 facilities in 10 regions of Ukraine, most of them belonging to the energy sector. On November 15, “incoming projectiles” struck 15 energy facilities, causing emergency power outages in major Ukrainian cities and even abroad (in Moldova).

Russian commanders shifted the focus of their long-range strikes to Ukraine’s energy infrastructure during the fall campaign

Ukrainian officials call such attacks nothing short of “energy genocide.” President Zelenskyy says that about 40 percent of Ukraine's energy infrastructure was damaged by early November. Power outages have affected 4.5 million people. The Russian authorities do not hide the fact that the purpose of the strikes is to leave Ukraine without electricity and thus organize a humanitarian catastrophe in the country.

It seems that on the eve of winter, strikes against critical infrastructure, not only energy sector but also utility systems and waterworks, are becoming the Kremlin's main military tool. After all, despite partial mobilization, Russian troops continue to retreat on the front line.

How well the Ukrainian air defense system has performed

Before the war, Ukrainian air defense had only Soviet medium range S-300 systems (several hundred launchers of early modifications), self-propelled Buk-M1s (about 70 units) and an unknown (but definitely small) number of combat-ready Tor-M1, Kub, Osa, Strela-10, S-125 and (presumably) S-200 systems. The morally and physically obsolete Soviet-made air defense assets were nevertheless included in the echeloned circuit, i.e. operated as a single system with radars and command posts.

The air defense performance has been extremely (and unexpectedly) successful. Except for the first months of the war, the Russian Air and Space Forces have been hardly used in defense due to high losses (primarily due to the substantial quantity of man-portable air defense systems the Ukrainian army has).

A total of 63 combat aircraft and 57 helicopters are known to have been lost by the Russian Air Force, so attack (Su-25 aircraft) and army (Ka-52 helicopters) aviation is only occasionally present at the line of engagement. The Su-24M and Su-34 bombers also avoid entering the air defense strike zone.

According to General Sergei Surovikin, the commander of the so-called Special Military Operation (SVO) and the Air Force, during the eight months of the war the Russian manned aviation (operational-tactical, army and long-range) flew more than 34,000 sorties, and unmanned aviation more than 8,000 sorties. The total number of sorties per day is about 30 for unmanned and 140 for manned aircraft. That’s too few. By way of comparison, in Operation Desert Storm 30 years ago, the international coalition flew 110,000 sorties, about half of which were combat ones, in a total of 42 days, more than 1,300 sorties per day.

Thus, the Ukrainian air defense system as a whole has coped with the task of preventing enemy aircraft from gaining air supremacy. Missile defense is, however, a completely different matter. During the October 10 raid, Ukrainians managed to shoot down 56 air targets (43 cruise missiles and 13 UAVs) out of 108 (84 cruise missiles and 24 UAVs) - just over 50%. The AFU General Staff in mid-October estimated the effectiveness of missile defense at 64% (81 destroyed missiles out of 126 used during the week). Of the 55 missiles fired by the Russian Armed Forces on October 31, 44 - 80% was shot down.

Ukrainian air defense has successfully prevented enemy aircraft from gaining air supremacy

The effectiveness of Ukraine's missile defense depends on two variables: 1) the number of simultaneous launches and their distribution by carrier type (sea, air and land systems) and geography (Russia, Belarus, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea); and 2) the type of weapons used.

The first variable is more or less clear: the more missiles launched from different directions, the harder it is to intercept them. The second variable is directly related to the technical capabilities of the available air defense assets. According to Yuriy Ignat, an official representative of the AFU’s Air Force command, Ukrainians can generally cope with Kalibr cruise missiles, Kh-101, X-555 and X-59 guided air-launched missiles. Kh-22, Kh-31 air-launched missiles, Onyx anti-ship missiles and missiles for the Iskander operational-tactical complexes are very difficult to resist, not to mention the hypersonic Kinzhals. In general, missiles that fly at a speed of over 3,000 km/h pose an almost insurmountable problem for the Ukrainian air defense system.

Ukrainians lack any means to counter supersonic and ballistic missiles

Vadym Skibitskiy, a representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, told The Economist that only three of the 25 Iskander ballistic missiles fired in October were intercepted.

Russian missiles used against Ukraine  Vladimir Datsenko / Forbes.ua
Russian missiles used against Ukraine Vladimir Datsenko / Forbes.ua

Finally, loitering munitions, aka Geran-2 projectiles, are a wholly different matter. Despite the impressive footage of Gerans hitting various targets in Ukrainian cities, their effectiveness, as mentioned above, is at the very least, doubtful. Loitering munitions of this class have practically no effect on the course of combat operations, as they are used against stationary targets deep behind the lines. So far, they take advantage of their numbers to exploit the vulnerabilities of tactical and target-based air defense systems that are not designed to combat small- and medium-sized drones.

But even now Ukrainians shoot down 75% of Gerans (300 out of more than 400 launched). The challenges associated with them relate rather to the additional burden of having to expend valuable anti-aircraft missiles. Between September 13 and October 17, Russia used 208 Gerans at the total cost of $12 million to $18 million, and Ukraine spent $28 million to shoot down 80% of them.

Allies help Ukraine, but it's not enough

According to calculations based on visually confirmed open sources, during the war the AFU lost over 60 air defense units, including three dozen S-300 launchers, and over 30 radar stations and radars. The real losses are likely to be much greater and may reach 30-40% of the pre-war volume of forces and equipment. At the same time, one can hardly consider Vladimir Zelenskiy's assessment that the Ukrainian air defense system has only 10% of what it needs to be adequate.

In any case, air defense systems occupy a modest place in the total volume of Western military aid deliveries. Initially, the allies focused on portable short-range air defense systems and tried to negotiate the transfer of Soviet-era air defense systems operated by NATO member states Slovakia, Bulgaria and Greece to Kyiv.

Air defense systems occupy a modest place in the total volume of Western military aid to Ukraine

Up until the Russian fall strikes using missiles and loitering munitions, Ukraine had been receiving very little: a S-300PMU division complete with 40 missiles from Slovakia, several dozen Gepard and Stormer self-propelled air defense systems from Germany and Great Britain, and obsolete Soviet systems like the Strela-10 or Osa from the Czech Republic and the United States. However, right after the October 10 raid, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley promised to help Ukraine rebuild and establish a more effective air defense system.

In October, Ukraine received the first of the four promised newest German IRIS-T SLM medium-range air defense systems (capable of engaging targets at altitudes up to 20 km and distances up to 40 km). The system was handed over together with an advanced mobile multifunctional TRML-4D radar capable of automatically tracking up to 1,500 targets at distances of up to 250 km.

German IRIS-T SLM air defense systems transferred to Ukraine  Diehl Defence
German IRIS-T SLM air defense systems transferred to Ukraine Diehl Defence

The IRIS-T was deployed near Kyiv (judging by the fragments of the missile's upper stage found in one of Kyiv's courtyards). According to the Ukrainian authorities, the ADMS was able to disarm 9 missiles out of 10 in combat conditions.

At the beginning of November, two out of the eight promised batteries of the modern medium-range surface-to-air missile system produced by the US-Norwegian company NASAMS (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) arrived in the country. Importantly, the standard NASAMS AIM-120 AMRAAM missile is the most common antiaircraft missile in NATO (more than 16,000 of such missiles of various modifications have been produced). In all, the ADMS is capable of firing four different types of missiles.

The Western allies have undertaken to supply several more types of air defense systems (Hawk, Crotale and Avenger). At the same time, Ukraine has not received some of the systems that Kyiv requested, and it’s unlikely it will ever receive them.

Ukraine has not received some of the systems that Kyiv requested, and it’s unlikely it will ever receive them

At the beginning of the war there was a lot of talk about the need for the Israeli Iron Dome to be handed over to Ukraine. President Zelensky personally asked Israeli parliamentarians for means of protection against Russian rocket attacks. However, deliveries of any Israeli weapons are difficult because of political constraints and still impossible due to “operational reasons”. In addition, the Iron Dome cannot resist ballistic and supersonic missiles, which are in the Russian arsenal, and the system itself was designed for a much smaller country than Ukraine and for a completely different configuration and density of radar coverage.

Another type of air defense, which Ukrainian officials and foreign experts constantly talk about, is the American Patriot systems, capable of destroying aerodynamic and ballistic targets at a distance of 160 km and 50 km, respectively. The problem is that the Patriots are an expensive, technologically sophisticated and quirky system to operate and maintain. One Patriot battery costs about $1 billion and requires 70 skilled personnel.

Instead of the US Patriots, Ukraine intends to receive their European counterpart - the medium-range SAMP-T ADMS. Italy has announced its readiness to transfer them as part of a new military aid package, but there has been no information on the number of systems or the delivery timeframe yet.

What else can be done to protect the sky

At each stage of the war, Ukraine's Western allies found relatively quick and effective solutions to counter Russian forces. In the early months it was portable missile systems against tanks and low-altitude aircraft. In the summer, when the AFU needed an answer to the super-concentrated artillery tactics, they were supplied with a variety of long-range artillery systems that negated Russia's advantage with high-precision strikes against ammunition depots and command and control centers. Now the main focus of the campaign, with a winter operational pause approaching, is the battle for the protection of the Ukrainian skies. So far, Ukraine's air defense has been relatively successful against Russian aircraft and loitering munitions, but it is unable to withstand massive missile launches and ballistic and supersonic missiles. Deliveries of modern Western systems are unlikely to change this situation.

The main focus of the campaign, with a winter operational pause approaching, is the battle for the protection of the Ukrainian skies

First, it’s medium-range systems that are being transferred, one at a time, since an air defense system, as a rule, cannot be removed from existing air defense sectors (which will increase their vulnerability). They have to be ordered, produced, delivered, and deployed, all in a combat environment. Second, the allies will have to ensure the integration of air defense systems that are completely different in technical, tactical, and operational characteristics into a single system, all “on top” of the echeloned Soviet-era circuit.

There are no other options to help Ukraine: the imposition of a no-fly zone by NATO forces is impossible because of the risks of escalation and internationalization of the conflict, and it is impossible to shoot down Russian missiles in the Ukrainian sky using air defense assets deployed in the allied countries for technical reasons.

On the other hand, throughout the entire duration of the military campaign, the Russian side has failed to maintain the intensity of the strikes for at least several weeks, let alone months. Stockpiles of missiles are probably running out. Obviously, there are some political constraints as well.

Consequences of a Russian strike on Kyiv on October 10, 2022  Reuters
Consequences of a Russian strike on Kyiv on October 10, 2022 Reuters

It is unlikely that the use of Iran's Geran-2 projectile aircraft will change the balance. History shows that terrorist attempts to shift the costs of war onto civilians do not pay actual military dividends. But Iranian Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar ballistic missiles and, which Moscow is allegedly preparing to buy, can seriously complicate the situation in Ukraine. There is no effective defense against them.

In any case, the Kremlin will for a long time remain capable of periodically launching massive attacks using 50 to 100 long-range missiles of various types and “projectile aircraft” after weeks and months of relative calm needed to stockpile its means of destruction.

“Ukraine can only be fully protected via a no-fly zone protocol”

Igor Pavlenko, former AFU Air Force officer

Practice shows that the Ukrainian air defense system is quite effective in shooting down missiles that enter the target area of both ground and airborne segments of its air defense system. In the missile/drone “Zerg rush” mode, the effectiveness of a system overwhelmed with targets certainly drops. Also, in the current reality, Ukraine is forced to spend expensive missiles on drones. And this is a problem of both economic and logistical character.

It is more efficient and cost-effective to destroy drones with anti-aircraft artillery. For this purpose, it is simply necessary to increase the concentration of defense weapons – Gepard-type systems, or to upgrade Shilka-type systems accordingly. Electronic warfare systems, which have been quite successful in landing Russian-made UAVs, also deserve special attention.

The volume of Gepard, Stormer, IRIS-T and NASAMS air defense systems deliveries agreed upon and implemented by Western allies is not sufficient to address the challenges Ukraine faces. IRIS-T SLMs have a range of 40 km. A battery control station can be located up to 20 km from the launchers. The high-sensitivity radar is designed to detect low-flying cruise missiles such as the Kalibr. The IRIS-T SLM is capable of targeting all missiles simultaneously, which distinguishes it from Soviet-made systems such as the Buk and S-300.

Depending on the type of munitions, the NASAMS system is capable of engaging air targets at ranges of 20 to 180 km. The British Stormer has a combat range of 3-8 km, although the Starstreak missile itself is quite fast, capable of accelerating up to 7 Mach, and has proven to be an excellent weapon against fighter jets and cruise missiles.

The deliveries of the aforementioned modern air defense systems are sufficient to build an echeloned air defense barrier along a fairly short segment of the front line (about 100-120 km), with the actual line of engagement being approximately 1500 km long. Thus, we end up with nearly 10% of the required volume.

Western deliveries of anti-aircraft systems are not sufficient to address the challenges Ukraine faces

Soviet and post-Soviet-made complexes such as the S-300PMU handed over by Slovakia will enable Ukraine to quickly close some gaps in its air defense system in terms of countering both ballistic missiles and enemy aviation, albeit for a short time, as Ukraine has a significant number of specialists who can operate these types of weapons “off the bat”. The most recent S-300PMU system was produced in 1994, and the manufacturer declared a 25-year warranty period. But as a “firefighting” tool, the S-300 can be quite useful “here and now”.

NATO is definitely unable to protect Ukraine from Russian missiles on its own. Unless there is a no-fly zone protocol and Ukrainian airspace is patrolled by NATO aircraft. Strategic missile defenses can theoretically hit targets over Ukraine, but this is not a solution to counter Kalibrs and Russian frontline aviation.

“Ukraine has about 30% of what it needs”

Leonid Dmitriev, Ukrainian military expert

If we compare the pre-war and the current state of Ukraine’s air/missile defense system, it could have been called degraded and focal before February 24. Now this system is built like an echeloned one, although if we consider the actual air defense needs, Ukraine appears to have been provided with 30% of what’s needed. The air/missile defense system is not just defense weaponry lined up in several short, medium and long-range echelons. Before February 24 it consisted of several divisions of S-300s and Buk-like systems, as well as systems like the Shilka and Osa; now the range of weaponry is fairly wide, both in terms of manufacturers and munition specs.

The weapons that Ukraine currently has, not to mention the IRIS-T and NASAMS systems, are mostly short- and medium-range systems that rely on electronic reconnaissance, direction finding and radiolocation assets.

As regards individual targets or attacks with 10 to 15 missiles, the repulsion rate of such attacks is about 80-90%. Overall, defeating even 50% of airborne targets, whether singular or massive, is a decent result by any standard.

Ukraine has about 30% of what it needs to reliably protect its borders

Ukraine has approximately 30 percent of what it needs to reliably protect its borders and not just hit 70-80 percent of air targets but to safely defend itself against such attacks as the October 10 attack, as well as to protect its critical facilities. This includes not only air defense, but also means of electronic warfare, jammers and radars. Also important is the supply of HARM missiles, which are capable of perfectly defeating radio-electronic emitters and depriving S-300 systems of the ability to aim their missiles.

In terms of logistics, administration and application, it would be easier to use a single unified complex or a network of complexes of different ranges for building echeloned defense. It would simplify logistical tasks in terms of both ammunition storage and delivery and personnel training. But right now, Ukraine is fighting a war for survival, so the matter is irrelevant.

As for the integration of delivered (and promised) Western-made air defense assets with the already existing Soviet air/missile defense infrastructure in Ukraine, it is not only about integration in terms of munitions, which solves economic and logistical tasks, but also about integration of target identification, targeting setting and target designation, as well as about radiolocation. This is quite possible, and in the short term. The practice of the war in Ukraine has shown that battle control systems can be integrated even in the old Grads and D-30 howitzers. If the proper software is installed, everything works extremely well and looks literally like a computer game.

There are currently no ideal scenarios for building missile (or UAV) defense for Ukrainian cities in the shortest possible time. A no-fly zone at the beginning of the war would have solved a lot of defense issues and saved tens of thousands of civilian lives, but now we need to think about creating something like Israel's Iron Dome, that is, an echeloned and integrated missile defense system.

It might be worth thinking about laser technology, because systems like Patriot or Iron Dome shoot down rockets using multiple launch rocket systems and even shells fired from barrel artillery, but, economically, it's like heating an oven with hundred dollar bills, because rockets are expensive.

Israel itself already possesses combat laser technologies that can destroy barrel artillery shells on the fly without the need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per shot, requiring dozens of kilowatts of electricity instead, which Ukraine can easily provide. Therefore, it is a question of creating a tight ring of air defense assets.

“Full-fledged missile defense is only possible if NATO systems are deployed in Ukraine”

Ivan Karpov, independent military expert

Before the war, Ukraine had an air defense system, quite obsolete but fairly echeloned, built according to Soviet plans. The key problem was military hardware. Now this problem has worsened because the obsolescence of equipment and armaments has deepened with losses. It is already very difficult to describe the air defense system as an echeloned one; there is the front line, there are individual facilities, but in general missiles and drones attack a variety of facilities inside cities.

Good reconnaissance partly compensates for the lack of echeloned defense. But if there are no air defense assets in a particular area, then even knowing that a projectile is incoming, nothing can be done. Intelligence, not being a panacea, is of course the key advantage and the main type of Western aid to Ukraine. First of all, technical intelligence, because agent-based intelligence will not help in this case. The ability to combine radars and airwaves produces an advantage in terms of information, which increases efficiency and can partially close the air defense gap.

Intelligence is the key advantage and the main type of Western aid to Ukraine

Air defense is more effective when it covers a target it’s supposed to protect. If the target is a factory, the goal is for it to continue to function and operate. Say, 20 enemy missiles were fired at it, 18 of them were shot down, and two of them hit the mark, one the control center and the other the generator. And that's it, two of the most important facilities have been destroyed, the factory can't be managed anymore, and has no power supply. Did the air defense work well? On the one hand, a lot of missiles were shot down, but on the other hand, important targets were hit, and the factory is down. You can't gauge the effectiveness of an air defense system by the number of intercepted missiles.

The Ukrainian air defense has a largely Soviet-era range of military hardware. In fact, portable anti-aircraft missile systems, i.e. Stinger and Polish Peruns, account for the largest number of items supplied by the West. So far, NATO's assistance is not enough. It is necessary to separate frontline air defense from the country’s air defense. As regards the one used by the troops, it is quite good, for example there are Stingers that prevent Russian military aircraft from flying. Sometimes they do venture inside the zones covered by air defense, but this is a risk that few people want to take.

As for the country's air defense, so far Western aid can be assessed as close to zero. The most effective part of it is the transfer of some Soviet-made systems, for example, when Slovakia handed over the S-300. The S-300 system is a powerful weapon, on which antiaircraft defense is based; its presence forces warplanes to fly low. The Buk is similar, it operates at medium ranges, ensuring a denser defense. In addition, the Buk is more mobile than the S-300. In part, Buks can replace Western supplies, but only in part. This is exactly the kind of mobile and self-sufficient system, which combines a self-propelled launcher and a radar in the same body, while allowing for an external radar, that the West lacks.

The NASAMS is a distributed system, where the radar and the launcher are separate, and it has less mobility and needs more time to deploy, which is critical when the enemy also uses electronic reconnaissance against you. A direct replacement for the S-300 is the U.S. Patriot, but so far there is no talk of handing them over.

In order to ensure antiaircraft defense of Ukrainian cities as soon as possible, Western air defense units with equipment should enter the country, i.e. a direct participation of NATO air defense systems in the conflict is required.

The same applies to missile defense. NATO's Aegis-type land-based missile defense systems would help Ukraine, but only if deployed within the country - simply because of the geography (altitude variations) and characteristics of the targets. Given the detection capabilities and Ukraine’s geography, the Aegis units deployed near Ukraine would be limited to the western slopes of the Carpathians.

Article co-written with Sofia Presnyakova

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