Many people are surprised by the fact that the Armed Forces of Ukraine have not yet received air defense from NATO to protect Ukrainian cities, airfields, and infrastructure from the constant strikes of enemy guided missiles. Of course, it is easiest, as always, to blame the Western partners. But everything is “a little” more complicated.
It so happened that by the middle of World War II, the US Air Force had a huge advantage over opponents. After the war, the temporary ally, who should have been grateful to the Americans for saving them from complete and imminent destruction in the absence of a lease, became the main enemy. But the military superiority in the air did not go away, and the gap between NATO and the USSR only widened every year. Of course, the Communists puffed their cheeks and said that their aircraft had no analogues, but any conflict between the US air force and the Soviet Union proved that roughly speaking, one to ten is the maximum that the evil empire can hope for in ideal conditions.
Given this many times proved fact, the Americans did not pay much attention to multi-level air defense, which would cover various air groups, facilities, and areas from the air with guided missiles of various ranges. The USSR was well aware of its helplessness in the sky, and therefore many different anti-aircraft systems were created.
The Russian military and space forces, of course, make NATO pilots laugh, but for a while, the “we” were proud of being out of the treaty, and therefore did not move towards joining it, and then received political obstacles. As a result, at the beginning of the war, we had the Air Force, which was much inferior to the enemy, both in quantity and quality. But thanks to the stupidity and inconsistency of Russian aviation, and heroic (I do not like the word, but it is most appropriate here, although not in the sense in which the typical “soviets” used it – to die for “Father Tsar” – and in in the sense of highly intelligent use of limited resources in very difficult conditions) actions of air defense and air forces – the enemy did not get a full and lasting advantage in the air, which, in my personal opinion, was the main reason for blitzkrieg failure, and not the logistics problems which led to consequences much later.
But the article is not about that, but about why we still don’t have NATO medium-range and long-range air defense systems, and we don’t even know what the plans are. First, it is necessary to mention the existing S-300 and Buk complexes in the Armed Forces, which are currently covering the air. The first is a typical “no analogues” propaganda facility, which was actually designed to prevent high-altitude bombers and AWACS from entering the area, and is limited in effectiveness against unguided cruise and ballistic missiles.
Buk missile system is a real workhorse, capable of effectively shooting down both highly maneuverable targets (aircraft) and unmanned aircraft, but with a much smaller range (so they need a much larger number). What is happening now with air defense can be guessed from the news about enemy missile strikes. Why this is happening is probably not the time to say so. Of course, the supply of existing types of air defense from the Allies in the Armed Forces is in any case necessary assistance, but not in quantitative terms (even all Allied air defense systems will not be enough), nor in quality (the problem of low efficiency and unknown technical condition). This will not solve the problem of enemy missile strikes, only reduce the consequences.
So, let’s return to the is
sue of American air defense systems, which developed in a situation of significant superiority of the US Air Force. And first of all, it is necessary to narrow the range of the considered types of air defense systems by distance, so that the article had a chance to end. It will be considered long-range air defense (although it would be more correct to say medium-range) to replace/add to the S-300. Of course, NATO also has Buk missile system analogues (this is an old but reliable MIM-23 HAWK, and new systems based on air-to-air missiles NASAMS ), but due to their smaller range, they will need many times more, well, we will assume that we still have effective Buks.
In any conflict, the US Armed Forces will build tactics given the undeniable superiority in the air, but there are also the Navy, which is not always only airborne groups, and air defense must be provided. And given that the loss of a ship is always a huge blow to any government, the Americans were simply forced to create an effective naval air defense and they created the best in the world.
RIM-66 missiles have proven to be very effective against any target and have become the basis of the SM and AEGIS missile defense family. Further development led to the creation of SM-2, SM-3, and SM-6, which together became the dome of American missile defense, which almost turned the Russian nuclear baton into a pile of scrap metal. AEGIS ceased to be just a toy for the Navy and gradually began to “relocate” to shore. Poland and Romania have already received their AEGIS, which is why Poles talk to Russians this way.
But this anti-missile system (in fact it provides missile defense, but the best and against guided missiles) has only one drawback – it is not mobile, and in the current realities, this makes it almost unrealistic to obtain for the Armed Forces. Although this does not prevent its technical application of it from the territory of the Allies, taking into account the range. Similarly, a pair of American AEGIS ships can land all Russian air forces in Crimea and over southern Ukraine, but NATO has decided not to intervene in confrontation, and there is nothing you can do about it.
Of NATO’s medium/long-range mobile air defense systems only MIM-104 Patriot, which is inferior to AEGIS in many respects, but significantly outperforms not only all the systems of the Armed Forces but also the enemy’s. Modern radar with a phased array antenna provides tracking of more than a hundred targets and aims at 6 for a simultaneous attack. The Patriot consists of several missiles with different “specializations” – against ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and high-maneuverability targets, including homing warheads (GOS) with interference guidance and active GOS. That is, the Patriot will be able not only to shoot down enemy missiles launched at Ukrainian cities but also to defend itself. Target guidance was also implemented with the help of AWACS and the EW function. Of course, the complex is constantly evolving, and therefore we can expect its long-term relevance.
Disadvantages include the stationarity of the non-rotating radar, and taking into account the azimuth of 90 degrees and the peculiarities of aiming for ballistic purposes, it is desirable to have two radars per calculation. Patriot is much inferior to Buk in terms of mobility.
We don’t have a Patriot yet, and we don’t know when we will, but it’s good that we already have Stinger and Starstreak MANPADS (which aren’t very portable at all, but rather anti-aircraft ATGMs), which, together with old military air defense systems of the Soviet time literally land Russian “aces”.