Ukraine’s air-defense systems were revealed to be vulnerable in Pentagon papers leaked in April, but the introduction this week of Israel’s early warning system for missiles may be a short-term solution to saving Kyiv’s strained air defense.
For over a year, Russia has been bombarding Ukrainian cities and military positions with barrages of missiles, drones and artillery shells.
Ukrainian defenders shoot down many of these attacks, but these are Pyrrhic victories.
While Russia has at times sought to destroy Ukrainian infrastructure, Western intelligence agencies have also assessed that the Kremlin has sought to overload the Ukrainian air defenses.
If Ukrainian air defenses were to be removed from the military equation, Russia would be more likely to achieve the air superiority it has long been denied over Ukrainian airspace. Russian aircraft would be able to launch sorties deep within Ukrainian territory. With decreased fear of interception, airstrikes would be of improved accuracy, quantity and duration.
This would put every facet of Ukrainian military structure under greater danger. Russian aircraft would more freely provide air support for ground forces against Ukrainian troops, threatening the rumored impending counteroffensive. Ammunition stockpiles and vehicle depots would be vulnerable, including the Western tanks Ukraine has slowly been gathering. Faltering Russian logistics would be bolstered, as airdrops could be more freely used.
US intelligence leaks provided a snapshot of the conditions in Ukraine in March, indicating that Kyiv’s defenses were indeed vulnerable. The exact conditions may have changed as allies have attempted to solve the problem, but the broad issue likely remains.
Ukraine is running out of its Russian air-defense weaponry and doesn’t have enough NATO munitions or platforms to replace them.
Ukraine’s stockpile of missiles for Soviet-made BUK and S-300 surface-to-air missile platforms were set to be depleted by March 31 and May 2, respectively. These systems reportedly comprise 89% of Ukraine’s medium- and long-range missile defenses. Medium-range air defenses were estimated to be inert by May 23.
The depletion of longer-range munitions puts an overreliance on lower-layer air systems, such as shorter-range shoulder-launched weapons, threatening their overuse as well.
The Pentagon offered many short-term solutions in these documents, including to deliver more Russian-made munitions, offensive action against Kremlin drones and missiles, and target locks on aircraft to simulate being armed. But the main idea was to extend the service of existing platforms and missiles until there were enough Western-made arms in Ukraine to replace them.
Israel missile warning system may help Ukraine save valuable ammunition
Israel's missile warning system may provide a low cost and efficient short term solution to avoid the depletion of munitions until this resupply can be made.
As Ukraine faces regular strikes against its cities, it is forced to shoot down Russian drones and missiles.
Israel’s early warning system, which The Jerusalem Post reported began being used in Kyiv this week, can identify incoming projectiles, calculate where they will strike and how much time civilians have to seek shelter.
This system will save Ukrainian lives by warning them against attacks and allowing them to protect themselves.
The system will also inform the Ukrainian military if a missile or drone needs to be intercepted, thereby saving valuable munitions.
Israel’s Iron Dome is used in such a fashion. The expensive Tamir interceptors are not fired if Gazan rockets are predicted to fall into open areas. If the Ukrainian military knows Russian missiles won’t hit their target, they can save their ammunition.
In a more extreme scenario, Ukrainian defenders can reserve their ammunition if they believe that civilians have enough time and warning to reach shelters before the projectiles strike.
Ukraine is desperately trying to lobby for Western aircraft and NATO air-defense systems as they attempt to patch up the holes in their air net. Israeli nonlethal aid of an early warning system may be a vital contribution in the war effort.