Germany has delivered a third IRIS-T SLM air defense system to Ukraine, its Defense Ministry announced in the country’s Parliament on October 26. The arms donations include thousands of artillery rounds, armored personnel carriers (APC), reconnaissance drones, radars, maritime drones, and tactical vehicles.
Previously, Germany transferred two IRIS-T SLS systems to Ukraine in August, in addition to two SLM versions delivered in April this year and in October 2022 — the latter meant initially for Egypt. Cairo had purchased a mix of short, long, and medium-range IRIS-T systems as a part of a layered air defense for its military.
The latest arms transfer comes as Ukraine braces for a winter offensive by Russia while also guarding the electricity generation infrastructure in its cities against Moscow’s long-range standoff cruise missile strikes.
Late last year, Russia destroyed a lot of the power generation infrastructure. Ukraine and the West believe Russia might repeat the tactic this year, too.
‘Ukraine Needs Air Defense Systems’
Earlier, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the preparation of a winter military aid package for Ukraine, the key element of which will be air defense equipment.
At the last Ramstein-format meeting, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had mentioned Germany as among the largest donors to Ukraine – taking into account the size of the economy, its contribution is more significant than that of the US.
Ukraine has been reported to need air defense systems after Russia managed to exhaust its stocks of Patriot, NASAMS, and Soviet-era Buk and S-300 by firing periodic volleys of Iskander ballistic, Kalibr ship-launched cruise missile, air-launched Kh-101 and Geran-2 kamikaze drones.
These salvos are fired in coordination to bait Ukraine’s surface-to-air missiles (SAM) to fire and expend themselves.
EurAsian Times touched upon this tactic in a previous analysis. That the last few arms packages for Ukraine from the US had AIM, Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), proved Kyiv was indeed depleting its stock of missiles.
The German package, according to information posted on its government website, also has ammunition for MARS II multiple-launch rocket systems, four tractors with semi-trailers, and 10,000 safety glasses.
Other armaments include 5,000 155-mm artillery shells, four armored personnel carriers, eight VECTOR reconnaissance drones, a TRML-4D aerial radar, four ground radars, five unmanned surface ships, and six border guard vehicles.
The First IRIS-T Was Meant For Egypt
As for the latest transfer of the IRIS-T, it has not been specified whether this comes from the Bundeswehr’s stock or the systems meant for Egypt. According to the German federal government’s website, the transfers include one IRIS-T SLM and missiles for the IRIS-T SLS.
IRIS-T SLM is the medium-range version, IRIS-T SLS is the short-range platform, while the IRIS-T SLX is the long-range variant, part of the IRIS-T family.
As per Military Africa, the Egyptian IRIS-T SL GBAD contract includes 10 IRIS-T SLX Long-range GBAD systems, 7 IRIS-T SLM medium-range GBAD systems, and 6 IRIS-T SLS short-range GBAD systems.
The medium-range air defense system would have significantly boosted the Egyptian Air Defense Forces by having a layered and integrated air defense network coverage against aerial threats within different ranges/altitudes.
But Russia’s missile strikes on Ukrainian power generation infrastructure and civilian-military targets in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities promoted this capability to be passed on to Ukraine in October 2022.
Given the current tense situation in the Middle East and the general lack of confidence among the West’s Arab allies over their reliability, it is unlikely that the new transfers would also come from the stocks meant for Egypt.
Cairo does not face grave security threats but has complicated relations with Turkey over maritime disputes in the eastern Mediterranean. But it would surely raise the issue diplomatically, likely hurting Germany’s commercial credibility.
Egypt’s original contract of the larger IRIS-T SL Ground-Based Air Defense (GBAD) with Germany included 10 IRIS-T SLX Long-range GBAD systems, 7 IRIS-T SLM medium-range GBAD systems, and 6 IRIS-T SLS short-range GBAD systems.