To bolster Ukraine’s counteroffensive, the United States is calling back its Hawk surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems previously sold to Taiwan to protect itself from China.
The US is repurchasing the Phase III MIM-23 Hawk missiles, according to a report that originally surfaced in a local media outlet called The China Times, based on information obtained by an informed unnamed source. They said these missiles would be delivered to Ukraine as part of the US’ next military package.
The two countries reached an agreement last year after discussions with “high-level” national security officials. It was determined that the missiles would be given to the Ukrainian forces after being purchased by the United States so they could take on Russian drones and low-flying aircraft.
The development is significant because although Taiwan stated that it would provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine, there has been no announcement of providing military assistance.
By selling the missiles to the US, the military aid would occur through a third party, not making Taiwan a direct stakeholder.
Previous reports indicated that with an ever-rising demand for arms in Ukraine, the US has been engaged in talks with countries unwilling to send equipment directly to Kyiv.
For instance, there were speculations that the US was in talks to buy 155mm artillery shells from South Korea, but the latter agreed to “lend” them to the US.
Hawk missiles, for one, are believed to be included in the most recent round of US military assistance to Ukraine. A report from January claimed the Biden administration requested that Israel supply Hawk missiles that it had kept in storage to Ukraine. It was an exclusive scoop news report and could not be independently verified by EurAsian Times.
Although Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) refused Taiwan News’ request for a comment on the report, it did note that military rules are followed when disposing of weapons. And regulations state that surplus military goods cannot be sold unless there are unique circumstances in which the ministry authorizes the purchase.
⚡️Axios: US asks Israel to deliver Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, Israel refuses.
U.S. reportedly asked the Israeli government to transfer its old Hawk anti-aircraft missiles in storage to Ukraine, but Israel refused, three Israeli and U.S. officials told Axios.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) January 25, 2023
Hawk SAMs were reportedly employed in 41 combat drills between 1965 and 2017 and were successful in striking their targets just over 90% of the time, according to Taiwan’s air force. These US-made SAMs served as the mainstay of its air defense force for several decades, protecting against an omnipresent threat from China.
However, the Taiwanese military is replacing these decommissioned systems with the indigenously developed Sky Bow III (TK-3). The last of the Hawk SAMs was retired late last month as Taiwan goes on a military modernization spree to prepare for a future potential Chinese invasion.
Hawk SAMs In Ukraine
In October last year, the US started considering supplying the Hawk interceptor missiles, which experts believed would be an upgrade to the Stinger missile systems, a smaller, shorter-range air defense system that the United States has already sent to Ukraine in abundance.
So, from protecting a US partner from China to protecting a US partner from Russia, the surface-to-air missile system has come a long way. In October last year, Spain pledged to arm Ukraine with Hawk SAMs, and deliveries were made later that same year.
Even on its part, the US military announced in February that it will spend the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) money to buy two “HAWK air defense firing units.” The Marine Corps was the final branch of the American military to employ Hawk, and it retired the last of its systems in the early 2000s.
So, this is not the first time Ukraine is getting Hawk missiles to deploy against Russia. However, the catch is that the US is willing to buy back these archaic systems from countries that have already put them in storage so they could be sent to Ukraine.
This is especially significant because Ukraine has been armed with advanced air and missile defense systems like the Patriot, which made history as it took down the Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile. Ukraine also has the NASAMS and the IRIS-T, which are extensively deployed to shoot down hostile aerial targets with ease.
For instance, earlier, Tom Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said, “The real takeaway is it shows that the United States is scrounging whatever capability we can prudently provide (to Ukraine). Hawk systems are essentially museum pieces. Even if it’s older and limited, it can have a deterrent effect for Russian aircraft, if nothing else.”
However, there is a good reason why the US is attaching importance to the Hawk SAMs for Ukraine. As previously noted by EurAsian Times, the Raytheon MIM-23 HAWK is considered the precursor to the Patriot missile defense system.
While the missile has a range of 45 kilometers, the radar can track targets at 100 kilometers. It can fly at Mach 2.4 and reach a maximum altitude of 20 kilometers. Although they may not be considered game-changers, they would add to the already existing capability.
With Russia’s Shahed kamikaze drone onslaught refusing to end, some military watchers believe that Hawk SAMs are a significant value addition.
For instance, a military expert told EurAsian Times on the condition of anonymity: “The US is aware that Ukraine has superior systems in place and that the Hawks are outdated, but it also understands that Ukraine currently needs all the assistance it can get to protect itself against Russian attacks as the Ukrainians attempt to retake territory.
“The counteroffensive has been sluggish, and the Russians have been belligerent and unforgiving with their missile and drone attacks. The US will transfer as much as it can because deactivated systems are simpler to obtain and reroute than those used by some nations and would jeopardize their security interests. It is quite doubtful that nations that largely rely on the US for their weaponry purchases, like Taiwan, would say no.”
Any defunct Taiwanese Hawk systems might also receive additional upgrades before being delivered to Ukraine. Several nations who kept using the system after it was deactivated in the US obtained a more advanced model named Hawk XXI or Hawk 21.
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