Ukraine Situation Report: U.S. To Rush Delivery Of NASAMS Air Defense Systems

A day after a massive Russian missile and drone attack on Ukraine that left at least 20 dead and its energy infrastructure damaged, Ukraine received some good news about badly needed weaponry. The White House promised to speed up delivery of two of eight promised National Advanced Surface to Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS. In addition, Ukraine has received the first of four promised IRIS-T SLM surface-to-air missile systems from Germany, as well as four more M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) systems from the U.S.

“We think that we’re on track to get those first two [NASAMS] over there in the very near future,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday. “We are certainly interested in expediting the delivery of NASAMS to Ukraine as soon as we can.”

It remains unclear how the NASAMS heading to Ukraine will be configured. A number of different versions of the system exist, made up of different combinations of launchers, radars and other sensors, and command and control nodes. Some NASAMS variants can incorporate missile launchers mounted on Humvees or other light vehicles. Tests have also been conducted of the HIMARS vehicle, which Ukraine has now received at least 16 of, as a launch platform for the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), which could be utilized with NASAMS.

Also unclear are the “munitions” the U.S. has said it will send along with these systems. NASAMS can fire versions of the radar-guided AMRAAM, including a new extended range derivative optimized for use in the ground-launched roles, as well as the AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missile, and more.

A diagram showing the components of a typical Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) NASAMS 2 system, as an example of one possible configuration of a complete system. Royal Norwegian Air Force

The system is most likely to be an earlier variant that will be especially useful for providing area air defense around key locales with batteries spread out to cover a relatively large area, such as a city or town.

You can read much more about the NASAMS in our coverage here.

Just a day after German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said in a statement that the first IRIS-T SLM system would arrive in Ukraine in the “next few days,” it was handed over near the Polish-Ukrainian border, Der Spiegel reported.

Manufacturer Diehl Defence says the ground-launched IRIS-T SLM guided missile at the heart of the system can hit targets up to about 25 miles away at altitudes of up to more than about 12 miles. This can provide short-to-medium area air defense around critical locations like major population centers. It is especially effective at swatting down cruise missiles. That would add much-needed capabilities to an aging Soviet-era air defense arsenal Ukraine has already used to great effect to prevent Russia from achieving air superiority. You can read much more about these systems in our initial report that Germany was considering sending examples to Ukraine.

Ukraine also received four more HIMARS from the U.S., Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleskii Reznikov announced Tuesday. That makes a total of 20 provided by the U.S.

During a meeting with G7 world leaders in Germany on Tuesday he attended virtually, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky repeated his call for advanced air defense systems and an “air shield” around Ukraine. As another 30 Russian missiles pummeled Ukraine on Tuesday, Zelensky said that “when Ukraine receives a sufficient number of modern and effective air defense systems, the key element of Russian terror – missile strikes – will cease to work,” according to CNN. Sadly, it is that simple, but there is no doubt that modern air defense systems would make a big impact on the success of Russia’s standoff missile strikes.

Zelensky said that his urgency stems in part from what he said was Russia ordering the delivery of another 2,400 Iranian drones. As we recently explored in detail, Iran could also replenish Russia’s ballistic and cruise missile stocks.

The G7 leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, condemned the recent Russian attacks and reassured Zelensky that they remain committed to Ukraine for the long haul.

“We reassured President Zelensky that we are undeterred and steadfast in our commitment to providing the support Ukraine needs to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement from the G7 read. “We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military, diplomatic and legal support and will stand firmly with Ukraine for as long as it takes. We are committed to supporting Ukraine in meeting its winter preparedness needs.” 

Biden, talking directly to Zelensky yesterday, did mention supplying “advanced air defense systems,” but we do not know what exactly he was referring to, which could have been the existing NASAMS order.

A White House statement regarding the call said, Biden “expressed his condemnation of Russia’s missile strikes across Ukraine, including in Kyiv, and conveyed his condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured in these senseless attacks. President Biden pledged to continue providing Ukraine with the support needed to defend itself, including advanced air defense systems.”

Despite an ongoing need for air defenses, Ukraine’s existing batteries have managed to provide some level of protection, as the Russians continued their missile and drone barrages Tuesday.

The death toll from Monday’s attack, meanwhile, continues to rise.

Before we head into more of the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

In addition to asking for more air defenses, Zelensky also suggested to the G7 leaders a plan to have international observers stationed at Ukraine’s border with its northern neighbor Belarus, a client state of Russia.

Earlier this week, Belarus announced its troops would be deployed with Russian forces near Ukraine, signaling a potential further escalation of the war, according to Reuters. Belarus has been a staging post for Russia since the start of its full-on invasion and it continues to be a launching point for Russian weapons.

That includes amassing Iranian Shahed-136 ‘kamikaze drones, with 31 already there and another eight on the way, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

Adding to concerns about Belarus, rail shipments of T-72A tanks, Ural trucks, Tor-M2 air defense systems and other vehicles were spotted heading from Minsk to Borizov, according to the WhereIsRussiaToday OSINT group.

Zelensky’s peace-keeping plan would be very hard to realize on many levels, one of which would be overcoming participating peacekeeping nations’ fears of growing the conflict and even getting into a shooting war with Russia itself.

Meanwhile, the fighting rages on.

The Institute for the Study of War reports that “multiple Russian and Ukrainian sources reported” that Ukrainian forces captured about 18 villages in the south in its Kherson Oblast counteroffensive. In the east, however, the Russian Ministry of Defense and other Russian sources claimed its forces took control of about a half-dozen villages in the Kharkiv Oblast.

A British-supplied Mobile Artillery Monitoring Battlefield Asset (MAMBA) radar system was spotted in service with the Ukrainian 15th Separate Brigade of Artillery Reconnaissance. The system “protects forces and civilians by providing warning of incoming fire and is also used for tasks including counterbattery missions and fire control,” according to SAAB, which makes the system.

And a new Ukrainian-made counter-drone device has appeared on the scene as well. The “Fowler” weighs a little more than three pounds, and is about 1.7 feet long with a wingspan of about 1.4 feet. According to the designers, it is made to work in tandem with a UAV detection system and can destroy targets with either an inflatable mesh net – allowing the device to be recovered fully intact – or with a direct hit. It is unclear if the system has been used in combat.

With Ukrainian forces besieged by Russian artillery and drones, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) have worked with industry partners to help Ukraine protect its military assets, the head of U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) said Tuesday morning.

“One of the critical pieces is preventing the adversary from them being able to see your positions,” Army Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga told a group of reporters, including from The War Zone, at the AUSA Conference in Washington D.C. “What’s key is the different forms of artillery out there. I would say we’ve played a supporting role in working with some industry partners to provide” warnings “to protect key assets of the Ukrainian military.”

US SOF has “contributed partly into providing” some of the warnings “for some of the forces on the ground and teaching our Ukrainian counterparts with some old systems that have been fielded,” said Braga. He declined to provide any additional details about which industry partners or the types of systems have been used or developed. But he did say he was “proud” to be part of an effort that moved so quickly.

Russian drones – be it their own or those imported from Iran – have also presented a challenge to Ukrainian forces.

“The evolution of the UAS and counter-UAS fight – the offensive and defense – is a continually rapidly changing effort on both sides,” said Braga. 

Ukraine is the latest example of the effectiveness of drone warfare that has had success in the Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in Iraq and Syria as well, said Braga. “Counter UAS is a never-ending battle right now that we’re trying to contribute towards both left-of-launch and after launch.”

While the U.S. helps Ukraine in its counter-artillery and counter-drone efforts, it is also learning from its experiences as well. Army Gen Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and Director of the National Security Agency, told the Council on Foreign Relations that the U.S. has “learned a tremendous amount” from Ukraine, which hardened its networks and has been a step ahead of the Russians in cyberspace.

Britain’s spy chief said that Russia is getting “desperate” as the war drags on.

“We can see that desperation at many levels inside Russian society and inside the Russian military machine,” Jeremy Fleming, the director of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), told BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday, according to The Hill.

Asked if the GCHQ believes that Russia is running short on munitions and, as evidenced by its partial military call-up, troops, Fleming said “I think the answer to that is pretty clear. Russia and Russia’s commanders are worried about the state of their military machine.”

We have a new clear view of the Antonivskyi Road Bridge in Kherson that has been constantly under HIMARS attack so that Russia can’t use it as a critical logistics artery. No vehicle will be crossing it anytime soon based on this new image.

The railway track on the Kerch Bridge, meanwhile, continues to look, well, unwell.

We will continue to update this story until we state otherwise. 

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.