Ukraine Situation Report: Kyiv Lauds Arrival Of NASAMS, Aspide Air Defense Systems
The new air defense systems arrive as Ukrainian authorities are trying to cope with massive Russian attacks on their electrical power systems.
The first tranche of National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles Systems, or NASAMS, as well as Aspide air defense systems, are confirmed to have arrived in Ukrainian hands, its Defense Minister announced Monday.
“Look who’s here!” Oleksii Reznikov said in a Tweet Monday.
“NASAMS and Aspide air defense systems arrived in Ukraine! These weapons will significantly strengthen #UAarmy and will make our skies safer. We will continue to shoot down the enemy targets attacking us. Thank you to our partners: Norway, Spain and the US.”
Reznikov’s announcement comes after months of speculation about when the U.S-supplied NASAMS would arrive or even if they already had.
Greg Hayes, chief executive of NASAMS manufacturer Raytheon, announced during an Oct. 25 appearance on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street that the NASAMS batteries were handed over to the U.S. government weeks prior and at the time were in Ukraine.
“We did just deliver two NASAMS systems,” Hayes said. “We delivered two of them to the government a couple of weeks ago. They’re being installed in Ukraine today.”
But a day later, Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told The War Zone that Ukrainian troops were still training on the air-defense systems and the NASAMS would transfer to their custody once the training is complete.
"As soon as the training program has been completed, which we anticipate will be soon, the two initial NASAMS that are ready for delivery will be passed to the government of Ukraine," Ryder said, deferring specifics of when to the Ukrainians.
The Pentagon has promised Kyiv eight NASAMS systems and an unspecified amount of ammunition.
Its primary armament is the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-To-Air Missile (AMRAAM), the same munition used by U.S. and allied NATO fighter aircraft. That means there is a potential steady supply of rounds for Ukraine’s NASAMS systems to fire. That is a critical advantage, especially with Ukraine facing concerns about shortages of other air defense munitions to try and fend off waves of missile and drone strikes, not to mention keeping Russia’s piloted fixed and rotary wing aviation assets at bay. You can read our full report on how the AIM-120-NASAMS pairing is a boon to Ukraine here.
The AMRAAM is the most proven beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile on Earth and the most developmentally evolved — nearly 5,000 have been tested in live-fire trials and drills. When used in the ground-launched NASAMS application, it is capable of engaging targets from relatively close ranges to up to roughly 20 miles away and from around 1,000 feet to 50,000 feet. These targets include everything from cruise missiles — which it is very good at engaging — to manned aircraft, and yes, drones.
The War Zone delved into the potential advantages NASAMS could provide Ukraine in this piece.
Spain, which promised Ukraine four Aspide systems, has been training 19 Ukrainian troops on them since early October. Aspide is an Italian surface-to-air missile system first produced in the 1970s by what was then known as Alenia Aeronautica and is now Selenia, which is a part of Leonardo under the MBDA European missile consortium.
Reminiscent of the U.S.-made AIM-7 Sparrow, the Aspide missile comes in four different variants, Mk.1, Mk.2, 2000, and Citedef. While it is unclear which model will be sent to Ukraine, Spain in the past has purchased the Aspide 2000 variant that can be launched from the export versions of the Skyguard air-defense system designed by Oerlikon Contraves now known as Rheinmetall Air Defense and the Spada 2000 air defense system built by Selenia. The Aspide 2000 missile system features a semi-active radar-homing seeker and can effectively engage targets at a range of up to 15 miles (25 km) while flying at speeds of Mach 4. It’s equipped with a 77-pound (35-kg) high-lethality fragmentation warhead and a high-thrust single-stage rocket motor.
You can read more about that here.
Ukrainian officials have been long been seeking more air-defense systems, especially since Russia launched a wave of missile and drone strikes targeting cities and power generation facilities in early October. Those concerns have only grown in recent days as officials in Kyiv are considering the possibility of evacuating its population of three million should continued Russian strikes against that city’s power grid cause a catastrophic failure.
“We understand that if Russia continues such attacks, we may lose our entire electricity system,” Roman Tkachuk, the director of security for the Kyiv municipal government, told The New York Times.
Officials in the capital have been told that they would be likely to have at least 12 hours’ notice that the grid was on the verge of failure. If it reaches that point, Mr. Tkachuk said, “we will start informing people and requesting them to leave.”
On Monday, the rolling blackouts in Kyiv called to conserve energy in the wake of these attacks continued.
Ukrainian officials have been touting the ability of its air defense systems while at the same time expressing concern about the ongoing Russian strikes. In an Oct. 30 interview with The War Zone, the head of Ukraine's Defense Intelligence directorate (GUR) claimed that Ukrainian air defense had managed to down about 70% of some 300 Iranian Shahed-136 drones launched by Russia using "all available air defense systems that we have currently and also by electronic warfare."
But despite those successes, Budanov said Ukraine needs more such systems and the munitions that go with them "because the systems that we have, taken together with the systems that are incoming, are still not enough to counter the numbers of air targets that we have to count."
On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed concerns about being able to defend against Russian plans to continue attacking the power grid with Iranian drones, and, very likely soon, Iranian short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM).
“The occupiers used Iranian attack drones again,” Zelensky said Sunday on his Telegram channel. “There are downed ones. But, unfortunately, there are also hits. We also understand that the terrorist state is concentrating forces and means for a possible repetition of mass attacks on our infrastructure. First of all, energy. In particular, for this, Russia needs Iranian missiles. We are preparing to respond.”
In its latest report, issued Monday, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank concurred that Ukraine is in desperate need of additional air defense systems and munitions to protect its power supply infrastructure.
"Ukraine urgently requires deliveries of large numbers of additional [man-portable air defense systems] MANPADS for mobile and static air defense teams, and many modern [self-propelled anti-aircraft guns or SPAAGs] such as the Gepard, LvKv 90 or Skyranger as possible. It also requires additional supplies of night-vision goggles to enable MANPADS teams to operate effectively at night."
"Additional ammunition and more launchers for the highly effective IRIS-T SLM and NASAMS systems are also critical to enable the Ukrainian Air Force to defend remaining electricity infrastructure and protect repair work from higher-end cruise missile attacks," the report stated. "With rolling blackouts already affecting much of the country and the weather already getting cold, the urgency of these requirements is hard to overstate. Neither MANPADS or SPAAGs should be considered politically sensitive as they are fundamentally defensive weapons needed to protect civilian infrastructure."
But new air defense systems weren't the only foreign-donated weapons Ukrainian officials announced receiving Monday. They acknowledged receiving six Panzerhaubitze 2000 155 mm self-propelled howitzers and two M270 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) from Italy, with more on the way.
Before we head into more of the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up with our previous rolling coverage of the war here.
On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces are continuing their push toward Kherson City, where the intentions of Russian defenders are unclear at the moment. Ukraine continues to believe Russia is digging in for a long fight, but there are also indications that Russia is working toward at least a partial withdrawal and build-up of defenses on the West Bank of the Dnipro River.
Here are some key takeaways from the latest assessment by the Institute for the Study of War.
- Russian forces continued establishing defensive positions on the west (right) bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast. Ukrainian forces continued their interdiction campaign against Russian logistics in Kherson Oblast.
- Russian milbloggers amplified reports that the Russian 155th Naval Infantry Brigade sustained severe losses during the recent offensive push towards Pavlivka, Donetsk Oblast.
- Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the direction of Svatove and Kreminna.
- Russian opposition sources reported that Ukrainian shelling near Makiivka, Luhansk Oblast may have killed up to 500 Russian mobilized personnel in one day.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks near Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Vuhledar. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces broke through Ukrainian defenses near Bakhmut, made marginal gains south of Avdiivka, and remained impaled near Pavliivka in western Donetsk Oblast.
- Ukrainian personnel repaired two external power lines to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) on November 5, resuming the supply of electricity to the ZNPP after shelling de-energized the facility on Nov. 3.
- Russian occupation officials continued to cite the threat of a Ukrainian strike on the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station to justify the continued forced relocation of civilians in Kherson Oblast.
- Russian occupation officials continued to forcibly transfer Ukrainian children from occupied Ukraine to Russia under the guise of “vacation” schemes.
- Russian forces continued to struggle with domestic resistance to and poor provisioning of ongoing mobilization efforts.
There are clearly some mixed messages coming from the Russians in Kherson.
Russian-installed Kherson official Kirill Stremousov said Monday on his Telegram channel that "today is the last day of organized evacuation from the right-bank part of the Kherson region. Most of the residents who did not leave Kherson, only now began to realize the seriousness of the situation and my warnings."
One Russian talked with relatives about the possibility of retreating from Kherson to Crimea, according to an call the GUR claims it recently intercepted.
In another intercepted call, a pro-Russian separatist fighter wondered why the Russians are blowing up ammunition if they plan on recapturing Kherson.
In other cases, like those of radio and television broadcasts, the messages weren't mixed, they were non-existent. A spokesman from the Ukrainian Operational Command South on Monday said that Russian TV channels have disappeared in Kherson while Ukrainian radio stations have returned.
The fighting in Luhansk is also fierce, with Ukrainian officials saying Russians and their allies like the Akhmat battalion of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov are taking a beating.
Russia's newly mobilized troops are also being hit hard, and, like these soldiers in the Luhansk city of Svatove, reportedly surrendered.
There have even been reports that their commander abandoned them.
Luhansk is littered with the remains of Russian armor and other vehicles obliterated by Ukrainian forces.
And in Donetsk, the Russian 155th Marine Brigade of the Russian Pacific Fleet was apparently not too pleased about being decimated as it tried to attack Ukrainian forces through Pavlivka. So much so that one of its members wrote a scathing letter to the governor of Primorsky Krai complaining that the brigade lost 300 troops and half its vehicles in just four days.
The Russian Defense Ministry, however, pushed back on that Monday, saying the losses expressed were "greatly exaggerated."
Regardless, the Russian offensive around Pavlivka may have been heavier than previously thought.
Elsewhere in Donetsk, the regional railway administration building was apparently attacked by Ukrainian forces.
Ukraine's railroad officials, meanwhile, are considering alternatives to electric and even Diesel engines, out of concerns about Ukraine's energy situation.
In Mykolaiv Oblast, Ukrainians have set up special crews to hunt and shoot down drones.
Many of the drones Ukraine has to contend with come from Iran. More information is emerging about how they get from there to Russia. While we previously reported that Iran would fly the weapons from Iran to Russia as well as ship them across the Caspian Sea, a new report by the Ukrainian government offers more details about the Iranian airlines flying the weapons as well as the shipping companies involved.
Though Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets and power infrastructure continue, it is running low on precision-guided munitions like the Iskander-M SRBM. Vadym Skibitskyi, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry (MOD) official, told The Economist that Russia has only 120 Iskanders left.
Skibitkyi's figures follow those cited by Budanov last month in an interview with Ukrainian Pravda.
“About 13 percent remains for Iskanders, about 43 percent for Kalibr-PL, Kalibr-NK missiles, and about 45 percent for Kh-101 and Kh-555 missiles,” Budanov told the Ukrainian newspaper. “It is generally very dangerous to fall below 30 percent because it already goes [in]to 'NZ' [reserve stocks].
Despite repeated Russian claims to the contrary, Ukraine on the other hand has lost none of the 20 M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS provided by the U.S., the Ukrainian MOD says.
Reports are emerging about efforts by the Antonov company to build a new version of the world's largest cargo jet, the An-225 known as Mriya, which was destroyed in the opening days of the war. The new plane will contain both new parts and parts salvaged from the original aircraft the German news outlet Bild reported Monday.
"The plane is already 30% done, with the total cost estimated at around $500 million," Bild reported. "Leipzig/Halle Airport, where Antonov's aircraft are temporarily based, will help raise funds for the project."
Antonov plans to "sell merchandise at Leipzig/Halle Airport, such as models of the AN-225 and pictures, in order to bring in additional money and win sponsors," says Antonov General Director Eugene Gavrylov.
“The work on the machine is going on in a secret place," Gavrylov told Bild. "Parts of the bombed machine and new parts will be added to the never-completed second AN-225."
Whether the company can actually raise the funds remains to be seen. Past estimates to build a new AN-225 were much higher and even at $500M, that's a tremendous amount of money. There is the remaining unused fuselage that could be leveraged, but even then, all the systems would have to be updated. You can read our interview with Miya's first pilot here.
Antonov later issued a correction on Gavrylov's statement about the status of construction.
"Currently, construction work in this direction has begun. According to the available expert estimate...about 30 percent of the components ...can be used for the second model aircraft. The cost of building the plane is estimated at least [$500 million]. However, it's early to talk about a certain amount. More detailed information will be shared after Ukraine's victory in the war."
Former senior advisor to the Georgian National Security Council, Girogi Revishvili, shared a video apparently showing an RM-70 Vampire MLRS being used by Ukrainian forces.
Russia won't be able to count on reinforcements to its Black Sea fleet to come through the Bosphorus Strait. Turkey has denied Russia permission to enter the Black Sea from that narrow waterway connecting the Black and Mediterranean seas. So the ships are reportedly returning to their home ports in Vladivostok.
But Russia says it plans to restore the Kerch Bridge, severely damaged in an attack last month, in December.
Ukrainian Pravda reported that on Dec. 5, traffic is expected to resume on one of the lanes of the right side of the bridge while the second lane will open Dec. 20. Previous media reports said that the bridge would be repaired by July 1, 2023 at the latest. We will have to wait and see if these reports prove accurate and it still isn't clear when rail traffic will resume.
Elsewhere in Crimea, it appears the Russians have learned some lessons from the attack on the August attack on the Saki Air Base. Brady Africk, who does media relations for the American Enterprise Institute, said research of satellite imagery apparently shows the Russians have moved ammunition storage away from the aircraft there.
Russian tanks operating in the open continue to be targets.
But Russia continues to cause extensive damage with its Lancet drones.
The mobilization of Russian reservists continues to be a bizarre operation.
Moscow Orthodox priest Mikhail Vasiliev, who was known for blessing Russian strategic nuclear forces, was killed on the front in Ukraine, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Ukraine has mobile DNA labs taking samples from residents in an ongoing search for more evidence of Russian atrocities.
Tomorrow is Election Day in the U.S., with control of the Senate and House of Representatives at stake. That fact is apparently not lost on Yevgeny Prigozhin, Putin's billionaire ally and founder of the Wagner Group mercenary organization, whose fighters are taking part in some of the fiercest battles in Ukraine.
It appears Prigozhin is up to his old tricks again.
Prigozhin was placed under sanction by the U.S. Treasury Department for his role in meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, using a company he owned, then called the Internet Research Agency, to spread misinformation and sow discord, especially on social media platforms.
Asked by Russian media about new interference in the midterm elections, Prigozhin replied: “Gentlemen, we interfered. We are interfering and we will interfere. Carefully, precisely, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do.”
During a press briefing Monday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. was aware of Wagner's interference efforts.
We will update this story until we state otherwise.
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