US seeks to accelerate delivery of key air defense systems to Ukraine after Russia’s Iran-delivered drone strikes


The US Department of Defense is trying to accelerate delivery of two advanced surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine as Russia has increasingly used Iran-supplied drones that explode on impact to pound Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.

The Pentagon’s efforts are just the latest evidence of another urgent effort by the US and its allies to help Ukraine build a comprehensive air and missile defense system to protect itself from these drones, which killed four in an attack on Monday. on Kyiv.

The drones have become an increasingly pressing issue for Ukraine and one that has been condemned by the US. The State Department said on Monday that the drones violated a UN Security Council resolution restricting certain arms transfers to or from Iran.

With its reserves of precision munitions believed to be running low, Moscow has turned to these loitering drones to maintain its ability to hit high-value targets — and terrorize Ukrainian cities — from afar, Western analysts say. In recent days, they have been used to attack energy infrastructure.

Unlike more traditional, larger and faster military drones that return to base after dropping missiles, the Iran-supplied drones are designed to crash on a target and explode, detonating their warhead and the drones in the process. will be destroyed. They are smaller and easier to control than cruise missiles.

The US doesn’t know exactly how many drones Iran has supplied to Russia, but military analysts say the number is clearly significant. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, Russia fired 43 on Monday alone, and 37 were shot down by air defense systems. A US defense official estimated the total number at hundreds.

“The big effect is definitely economic depletion, an attack on electricity availability in Ukraine that goes into winter and also keeps the war going across the country,” said Michael Kofman, the director of the Russia studies program at the Center for Naval Analyzes. “They’re essentially using these drones as some kind of poor man’s precision-guided weapon against Ukraine’s infrastructure.”

A US defense official told CNN Monday that the Pentagon is now trying to accelerate delivery of two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS systems owned by 12 countries and already being used to protect Washington, DC.

According to Pentagon officials, the US has already assigned eight NASAMS to Ukraine, including the two being accelerated.

The US first announced it would send two NASAMs to Ukraine on July 1 as part of a Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative package of military assistance and announced it would send six more on August 24.

According to the Pentagon, the systems are currently manufactured by Raytheon in collaboration with Norway’s Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace. The US now hopes to complete production of two of the systems by late October or early November — perhaps a full month ahead of schedule.

When the systems are ready, they still have to be shipped to Ukraine. The NASAMS will be flown to a nearby country and then shipped overland to Ukraine.

While they remain deeply concerned about the success Russia has had with Iran’s drones, sources familiar with intelligence and Western military analysts say their heavy use reflects a weakness in Russia’s arsenal.

Western officials believe Russia is running out of precision-guided munitions and, according to a source familiar with Western intelligence, is likely about to dive into its strategic reserves to continue the war.

Russia still has much older, less accurate Soviet weapons, the source said — although it’s not clear how much of the old Soviet stocks Moscow managed to bring into battle, as the West doesn’t know how many were sold or stripped for post-Cold parts. War.

Nevertheless, Ukraine remains highly vulnerable to aerial attacks.

At a meeting of Allied defense chiefs last week focused on Ukrainian aid, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said the US and its allies should contribute air defense systems they have and then help Ukraine merge the systems. to create a comprehensive defense.

“Many countries have other systems, there is a whole range of Israeli systems that are very capable. The Germans have systems like we said, so a lot of the countries that were here today have a wide variety of systems,” said Milley.

Milley suggested that if multiple countries send the air defense systems they have, Ukrainians could “link” them together with a command and control and communications systems.

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