The Pentagon, on November 30, announced that the US Army had granted Raytheon Missiles and Defense [RTX] a $1.2 billion contract to supply six National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) batteries to Ukraine.
The US Army said that these six NASAMS systems were included in the fifth Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) package, worth $2.98 billion, announced on August 24.
Washington has authorized eight NASAMS to assist Ukraine in thwarting Russian missile and drone assaults. The first two NASAMS air defense systems, a part of the third USAI package announced in July, were shipped to Ukraine and put into service there in November.
Bill LaPlante, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, said that NASAMS is just the recent addition to the vast arsenal of air-defense capabilities that the US is providing to Ukraine.
The latest contract includes the NASAMS batteries, training, and logistical support for Ukraine’s military and security personnel. The USAI funding enabled the Biden administration to get weapons from industry rather than from existing US military supplies.
The US Army is speeding up its weapons procurement process to get through a backlog of contracts required to restore US weapons supplies depleted by arms exports to Ukraine, said Doug Bush, the Army’s chief weapons buyer.
The Army said it would strive to reduce the 24-month lead time for the production and delivery of NASAMS in collaboration with industry partners.
The statement said that this initiative serves as yet another example of the urgency with which the US government is addressing the acquisition of air-defense systems for its allies and replenishing their own munitions stockpiles.
NASAMS, or National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, is jointly developed by the United States and Norway. It has radar, sensors, launchers carrying six missiles each, and a mobile command center where soldiers can detect aerial threats.
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin informed reporters that the initial NASAMS in Ukraine had a 100% success rate in neutralizing Russian missiles.
Why Is NASAMS Important For Ukraine?
NASAMS are ground-based air defense systems capable of defending against drones, helicopters, cruise missiles, and aircraft.
NASAMS was first deployed by Norway’s armed forces in 1998, according to the Norwegian defense company Kongsberg, which builds the weapons system with the American defense company Raytheon Technologies. Later, in 2005, the Pentagon acquired it to defend the Washington, DC, area.
The US officials determined that it would be extremely valuable for Ukraine, considering that the ground-based launcher can launch reasonably priced missiles designed for fighter jets in aerial warfare. Kyiv’s allies have such missiles in considerable numbers.
This weapon is typically categorized as a medium-range air defense system by militaries. It can strike targets farther away than weapons like the shoulder-fired Stinger missile the Pentagon has given Ukraine.
The AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles are used by NASAMS and have been modified for ground launch. The AMRAAM possesses a lot of energy when it is launched from a warplane but relatively little power when it is launched from the ground.
It has to ascend and speed up using its rocket motor fuel. The system’s range is thus restricted to about 30 kilometers. NASAMS is a point-defense system designed to protect high-value targets. It is stationed throughout Washington.
While NASAMS can shoot down drones, helicopters, aircraft, and cruise missiles, it is not deemed effective against ballistic missiles. Furthermore, the significance of NASAMS extends beyond its capacity to shoot down Russian jets and drones by providing Ukrainian civilians with a sense of protection and security.
Ian Williams, deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington, earlier said that the system would enable Kyiv to protect crucial areas, such as strategically critical infrastructure, and that the launchers’ batteries could be dispersed over a vast region.
He continued that a single battery can’t defend everywhere, but it will enable Ukraine to strengthen defenses at specific crucial places, including around electrical infrastructure, requiring protection.
Vijainder K Thakur, a military analyst, in his article for the EurAsian Times, said that the sale of NASAMS resembles a US “honey trap” in some aspects; although expensive, the system is really attractive. Once Kyiv invests in the system, it will have to keep increasing its investment to secure more assets.
“Once Ukraine invests in the system, it will have to keep augmenting its investment to secure more assets,” he added. The system will undoubtedly boost Kyiv’s defensive capabilities against Russian missile and drone attacks.