The remains of an IRIS-T SLM missile have been photographed, apparently found in a wooded area in or near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. This provides the first visual evidence that the first IRIS-T SLM surface-to-air missile systems Ukraine's armed forces recently received from Germany are already seeing active use since arriving in the country last week.
Pictures of the rear section of the IRIS-T missile lying on the ground first began to emerge on social media earlier today. Kyiv and other areas of Ukraine have been under steady bombardment from Russian missiles, as well as Iranian-supplied drones, all week.
At the time of writing, German officials say that have so far delivered one complete IRIS-T SLM system, along with an unspecified number of IRIS-T missiles, and that they will ultimately send three more. The exact configuration of that system is not entirely clear. The system's manufacturer, Diehl Defense, says a typical single IRIS-T SLM system consists of three mobile launchers, a truck-mounted multi-function radar, and another truck fitted out as a command post vehicle. However, the system can be configured to customer requirements and the company offers various different launch vehicle and radar options. You can read more about IRIS-T SLM and its capabilities in detail here.
Ukraine's Ministry of Defense has also said that IRIS-T has been deployed somewhere in southern Ukraine, possibly around Odesa. From there, the system could intercept Russian missiles launched from ships and submarines in the Black Sea heading toward targets in that strategic port city, and potentially other locations depending on the routes they follow.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had said yesterday that IRIS-T SLM "has shown itself very well" and "is a really effective system," in a routine video address posted on social media. Ukraine's Minister of Defense, Oleksii Reznikov, had also Tweeted out his thanks to his German counterpart, Christine Lambrecht, for getting the deal done.
The German government, which has been roundly criticized inside the country and out for appearing to slow-roll the transfer of more advanced weaponry to Ukraine, announced last week that it was rushing to deliver the first IRIS-T SLM system in the wake of a huge Russian missile and drone barrage on civilian areas on October 10. Those strikes were in retaliation for an attack that significantly damaged the highly strategic Kerch Bridge, which links the occupied Crimean Peninsula to Russia proper.
This recent surge in Russian missile and drone strikes on targets in Ukraine, together with Iranian officials reportedly telling Reuters their country plans to sell Russia short-range ballistic missiles, only underscores Ukraine's need for more air and missile defenses. Earlier this week, U.S. military officials announced that the American-led multi-national Ukraine Defense Contact Group was pursuing new efforts to help the country establish a more robust and modern multi-layered integrated air and missile defense network.
U.S. Chief of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley pointedly left open the possibility of transferring or selling Patriot long-range surface-to-air missile systems to the Ukrainian armed forces in the future. Patriot, which has been on Kyiv's wishlist since before Russia's all-out invasion of the country in February, is the only air defense system known to be under discussion for Ukraine that has any kind of ability to knock down ballistic missiles, and its capabilities in this regard are limited.
The U.S. government also said last week that it is hoping to deliver the first two National Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) to Ukraine very soon. American authorities have pledged to send a total of eight NASAMS to the Ukrainian armed forces. Though NASAMS can fire various types of missiles, the primary interceptor for the system is the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM). These missiles, of which there are comparatively deep stockpiles, may well be the most significant part of the overall package, as The War Zone has explored in detail.
Other countries are already planning on sending older Western air defense systems to Ukraine, including Spain's planned transfer of U.S.-produced HAWK and Italian-made Aspide systems from its stocks, as you can read more about here. The U.S. government and its allies and partners have also worked to deliver Soviet-designed air and missile defense systems to Ukraine since the conflict began.
Ukraine's active employment of the first IRIS-T system certainly shows the country is wasting no time putting the new air and missile defense assets it is receiving into action.
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