MOSCOW, October 27. /TASS/. The US-made NASAMS anti-aircraft missile systems supplied to Ukraine as military aid, designed to protect military facilities from attack drones (UAVs) may waste quite a few sets of expensive missiles on low-cost kamikaze drones, thus diminishing the Ukrainian army’s ability to defend itself from more high-value means of attack, such as, helicopters and planes, polled military experts told TASS.
On October 26, The CEO of Raytheon Technologies (NASAMS manufacturer) announced the delivery of the first two systems to Kiev. Both are being deployed in Ukraine. As John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator at the White House’s National Security Council, said, the US authorities intend to supply a total of eight such systems to Ukraine.
UAVs to bait the hook
Two NASAMS systems are not enough to allow Ukraine to protect the entire front line. They will be able to control only a segment of the air space or a small number of military facilities, the head of the Bureau of Military-Political Analysis, Alexander Mikhailov, believes. "Or to protect several Ukrainian cities, where defense industry enterprises or military facilities are located."
TASS military analyst Viktor Litovkin believes that the NASAMS provided so far will not be able to protect even a section of the frontline. "It’s a drop in the ocean. Two launchers can defend one HIMARS battery at the most," he said.
"I think that their main task is to cover some vital facilities that may be attacked by Geran-2 drones," said Alexey Leonkov, the editor of Arsenal Otechestva (Arsenal of the Fatherland) magazine.
The main task of NASAMS systems is to protect military facilities from kamikaze drones, which Russian forces have been using on an ever-wider scale, Mikhailov believes.
He pointed out that very expensive advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM) may be used in the complexes delivered to Ukraine, which makes its use against drones impractical.
"It should be remembered that such missiles are quite expensive. One classical AMRAAM costs more than $1 million. Using them will make sense only if the targets to be hit are of proportionate value," Mikhailov said. "We are now using offensive tactics involving massive UAV raids before hitting the designated facilities with missiles. A significant number of anti-aircraft missiles will have to be wasted before it might be possible to hit more expensive air weapons such as helicopters, aircraft, attack UAVs, and so on," he explained.
Leonkov is certain that Russia’s attack UAVs provide vast opportunities for eliminating the NASAMS. Russia's Armed Forces are now demonstrating new approaches to eliminating the enemy’s air defenses with drones.
"Under this tactic the drones in fact bait the hook. The moment an air defense system reacts and opens fire, it becomes visible to our radars. Then a means of counterstrike is to be selected for destroying the enemy system," Leonkov explained.
Mikhailov pointed to another weakness of the US system, namely, the time needed to set it back to transport position after firing.
"The NASAMS system requires at least 16 minutes to deploy. Once the launchers have fired the anti-aircraft missiles, it takes at least the same amount of time, about 15 minutes, to fold the system," explains Mikhailov. "This gives the counter-battery and anti-radar systems on our side a chance. While the launcher is being put into transport position, there is enough time to hit the launchers, or carry out an artillery strike at its deployment site."
In general, the delivery of NASAMS to Ukraine can be regarded as an attempt by the United States to test these systems in real combat conditions, Leonkov believes. "The Americans are in the process of deciding what systems will be included in their future air defense and anti-missile defense. Ukraine is an ideal testing ground for this," he concluded, adding this was the reason why so few air defense systems had been provided so far.