Ukraine Situation Report: U.S. Confirms NASAMS Air Defense System Transfer

Ukraine is getting a modern medium-range SAM system, while overnight strikes on Odesa apparently saw Russian Tu-22M3 bombers back in action.

byThomas NewdickJul 1, 2022 4:07 PM
Ukraine Situation Report: U.S. Confirms NASAMS Air Defense System Transfer
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The latest round of U.S. military aid for Ukraine, valued at $820 million, was announced today and includes confirmation, for the first time, that the country will receive the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS. The Kyiv will be given two examples of the ground-based air defense system, which it has been campaigning for now for several months, as it seeks to bolster its ability to counter Russian air operations and cruise missile strikes.

NASAMS, as you can all about in our recent piece here, should provide a significant advance over the man-portable weapons that have constituted the bulk of the ground-based air defense systems provided to Kyiv since the war began. It’s also far more modern than Ukraine's Soviet-era short and medium-range air defense systems. With just two systems being provided, initially at least, it's likely at least one of them will be used for the local defense of Kyiv.

Video showing a test of the surface-launched AMRAAM-ER missile that is used in the latest NASAMS 3:

Interestingly, the statement from the Pentagon says, In particular, that the DoD “recognizes Norway’s cooperation to enable the historic provision by the United States of modern air defense systems that will help Ukraine defend against Russia’s brutal air attacks.” While NASAMS was developed in conjunction with Norway, this strongly suggests that the systems in question might be from Norwegian stocks. They could comprise first-generation NASAMS, now retired from service, or the more modern NASAMS 2 or 3, both of which are in use.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded on Twitter with the following statement: “I commend US historic decision to provide UA with new security assistance package, including modern air defense systems. Thank you @POTUS for your continued leadership and support of UA in its fight against the aggressor. Together towards the victory!”

The assistance package unveiled this afternoon by the U.S. Department of Defense also provides additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and up to 150,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition, plus four additional counter-artillery radars. The provision of HIMARS to Ukraine has been a significant development, the importance of which we have discussed in the past.

Including the latest arms package, the United States has now committed around $7.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including approximately $6.9 billion since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on February 24.

WARNING: Some of the updates below contain graphic material.

Before getting into the rest of the latest news below, The War Zone readers can first get themselves up to speed on the existing state of the conflict in Ukraine through our preceding rolling coverage here.

POSTED: 3:45 PM EST—

Russia has continued its cruise missile onslaught against Ukraine, with the port of Odesa, on the Black Sea, being the latest city to be struck. Ukrainian officials attributed the raid to Russian strategic bombers, further reinforcing the fact that these are now being employed in a wider campaign targeting Ukrainian cities in different parts of the country. Earlier this week, cruise missiles launched from a Russian Tu-22M3 Backfire bomber hit a crowded shopping center in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk.

The latest raid on Odesa came only hours after the final Russian troops vacated the highly strategic outpost of Snake Island, in the northwestern reach of the Black Sea, after having come under sustained Ukrainian bombardment. The missiles hit an apartment building in Odesa, as well as a nearby resort, killing at least 19 people, according to Ukrainian officials.

Rescuers sift through the ruins of a building, with the location given as the Belgorod-Dniester region, near Odesa. SES
Official imagery from the State Emergency Service of Ukraine shows the aftermath of the Russian cruise missile strikes in and around the port city of Odesa, early this morning. SES

Odesa’s military spokesperson, Sergei Bratchuk, took to his official Telegram channel to report that an “enemy missile” had struck Odesa in the early hours of this morning.

At least one nine-story apartment block was completely destroyed by a missile that reportedly hit it at around 1:00 AM this morning. The blast from that same explosion also caused damage to an adjacent 14-story apartment building.

Another missile came down in a recreation center in the Belgorod-Dniester region, south of the city. This attack left three people dead, including a child, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

According to Bratchuk, the bomber, or bombers, responsible approached their targets from over the Black Sea, before launching a total of three missiles.

It seems there may well have been missile attacks elsewhere in Ukraine overnight, too, with the Ukrainian Armed Forces issuing an alert for the Kharkiv area, calling upon residents there to seek shelter after “several powerful explosions.”

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Kh-22 or Kh-32 cruise missiles, weapons that can only be launched from Tu-22M3 bombers, were used in the raids. A weapon of this type was also used in the attack on Kremenchuk last Monday, killing at least 18 people and injuring many more.

The use of these missiles, known by the Western codename AS-4 Kitchen, is puzzling. A video that was taken from a Tu-22M3 cockpit earlier in the campaign, as well as reported wreckage on the ground, also indicated their use, and the Ukraine conflict marks the first time they have been confirmed as having been employed in combat.

In mid-April, it was widely reported that Tu-22M3s had been used to strike the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol, although it’s unclear if these raids actually involved the same kinds of cruise missiles or free-fall ‘dumb’ bombs. Subsequently, six Tu-22M3s reportedly launched no fewer than 12 Kh-22s from Belarusian airspace at ground targets in Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy Oblasts, on June 25. The Ukrainian government claimed this was the first time Russian aircraft had launched airstrikes on Ukrainian territory from Belarusian airspace. 

The original Kh-22 design dates back to the late 1950s and, by modern standards, it’s an extremely antiquated weapon. During the Cold War, it was fielded in several different versions, the most important being the Kh-22MA/NA for land attack, or the Kh-22M/N for anti-ship missions.

A Tu-22M3 with a Kh-22 supersonic cruise missile under the port wing. Dmitriy Pichugin

It’s unclear if the missiles used to attack land targets in Ukraine are adapted Kh-22MA/NA missiles with their original nuclear warheads replaced with high explosive, or Kh-22M/N anti-ship missiles repurposed to attack targets on land.

Another possibility is that these missiles are examples of the modernized and much more recent Kh-32, which has a conventional warhead and a new control system and flight profile but retains the same physical characteristics as the Kh-22. The Kh-32 also reportedly has its range extended to over 550 miles, compared to the previous 300 miles-plus.

Bearing in mind the limited accuracy (and nuclear warheads) of the original land-attack Kh-22MA/NA, an anti-shipping Kh-22M/N or Kh-32 would seem more likely candidates for the Odesa raid. The Kh-32, at least, should offer more accuracy, raising the question of whether these missiles still missed their intended targets or if they were actually intended to hit civilian buildings all along.

While both the Kh-22 and Kh-32 employ primitive liquid-fuel rocket propulsion, involving a hazardous fueling process for groundcrews, the advantage they share is their high cruising altitude and their speed, the delta-wing missiles diving on the target at more than Mach 4. This makes interception very challenging.

There have also been persistent reports that Russia has been running low on stocks of more advanced precision-guided weapons, forcing it to employ older weapons like the Kh-22 and freefall ordnance. It’s also likely that the tough sanctions placed on Russia are making it difficult to procure certain high-technology components required for the production of these and similar weapons. That, however, wouldn’t fully explain the recent use of the very modern Kh-32, which apparently only entered production in around 2005.

Regardless, it seems that Russia is continuing the current high tempo of missile strikes on Ukraine. What is more, it seems clear the Russian military is far from averse to using weapons with limited accuracy and targeting infrastructure in civilian areas, with a predictable loss of life as a result.

According to a report from CNN, the Pentagon is considering 1,300 proposals from 800 companies for the production of innovative new types of weapons, including arms destined for Ukraine. An unnamed U.S. defense official confirmed to the news channel that the Defense Department is currently reviewing the proposals, with plans to make decisions on which it wants to pursue in the coming weeks. The weapons proposals are understood to cover certain key areas, with particular relevance to the war in Ukraine, including air defense, anti-armor, anti-personnel, coastal defense, anti-tank, unmanned aerial systems, counter-battery, and secure communications.

“The goal is to get ideas and information in hand to speed up production and build more capacity across the industrial base since it's now widely viewed that the US and its allies are likely to be supporting Ukraine long after their own existing weapons stockpiles run out,” the report states.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the Russian offensive centered upon the east of the country is still very much underway, with reports of an ongoing attack on the Lysychansk Oil Refinery,  in the Sievierodonetsk region of the Luhansk Oblast.

According to the head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, Sergei Haidai, as of today, Russian forces already control part of the refinery and are meanwhile conducting house-to-house fighting elsewhere in the city of Lysychansk.

“The enemy is trying in vain to encircle the Ukrainian army advancing on Lysychansk from the south and west,” Haidai said. “The Russians also cannot capture the road that provides a connection to Bakhmut. Residents of Lysychansk are almost around the clock in basements and houses. The shelling of the city is very dense.”

After the fall of the city of Sievierodonetsk last week, the neighboring city of Lysychansk was expected to be the next focus of the Russian offensive. The capture of both Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk would put almost all of the Luhansk Oblast in Russian hands, with around half of the wider Donbas region still under Ukrainian control.

Officials in Kyiv have noted that Ukrainian artillery, in particular, has been involved in efforts to repulse the Russian offensive in the east. Reports indicate that artillery hit a staging/repair point for Russian forces in the east, in the process destroying “several vehicles” including a T-72B series tank.

Another notable Russian armor loss concerns what may well be the first confirmed loss of a T-62M tank in the current conflict. We have already reported on the implications of introducing these Cold-War era tanks to the battlefield, where their presence has raised questions about Russia’s depleting armor reserves after months of significant losses

There have also been more official announcements about the role played by the Ukrainian Air Force in the recent fighting at Snake Island, which ended with a Russian withdrawal. Official accounts from the Ukrainian side note that the Ukrainian Air Force “repeatedly carried out powerful airstrikes on enemy positions,” with bombers (presumably Su-24M Fencer strike jets), attack aircraft, and fighters, all involved. These took part in a coordinated campaign alongside artillery units, army, and unmanned aircraft as well as units from the Special Operations Forces.

The same account provided a list of Russian equipment that was destroyed in the long-running effort to liberate Snake Island, comprising anti-aircraft missile systems, radar stations, combat positions, a rocket salvo system, equipment, and personnel.

Elsewhere, the Ukrainian Air Force has been pressing home further attacks on Russian forces, including around Luhansk. Yesterday, Su-25 attack aircraft and Su-24Ms carried out “up to 10 airstrikes in the Luhansk direction, supporting the combat operations of the defenders of Lysychansk.” Ukrainian officials claim that those strikes succeeded in preventing the Russian advance “in several important directions,” in the process hitting enemy logistics centers, fuel supply points, armored combat vehicles, and manpower.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has published a video of its Krasukha-4 mobile electronic warfare system, purportedly taking part in the war in Ukraine. This rarely seen system is primarily designed to detect and jam large radars, such as those on airborne early warning and control aircraft, and spy satellites. Earlier in the campaign, part of one such system — apparently the containerized command post — was captured by Ukrainian troops in what we described at the time as a significant Russian loss and a potential intelligence windfall.

We will continue to update this post with new information until we state otherwise.

Contact the author: thomas@thewarzone.com

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