What the US military is learning from the war in Ukraine – AMAC
AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis
During Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian missile attacks have proved a constant terror for Ukraine’s military and civilian population. In its efforts to help the Ukrainians repel Russian aggression, the United States and its allies are learning how absolutely critical it is to maintain a technological edge in both offensive and defensive missile capabilities.
As part of the latest aid package, Ukraine receive four new advanced missile systems from the United States capable of striking deeper behind Russia’s front lines – a much-needed offensive weapon as the Russian military ramps up its own missile attacks. Months earlier, Ukrainians had relied on 40-year-old combat equipment such as Stingers and S-300 anti-missile systems. As a result, Russian missile attacks have taken their toll on the Ukrainian resistance. According to government estimates, more than 500 Ukrainians are killed or wounded by Russian rocket fire every day.
These missile attacks pose a serious threat to military bases equipped with hardened protection and are absolutely devastating to skyscrapers, multi-story apartment buildings and shopping malls in modern cities and towns. According to Ukrainian officials, the Russian military is now stepping up attacks on cities and residential areas far from military installations. As of last month, 30 percent of Russian missile attacks were aimed at civilian structures.
The city of Vinnytsia was the target of one such attack last month that left dozens dead and more than 100 injured – most of them civilians and non-combatants. The city, which is hundreds of kilometers from the front lines, traces its history back to the 14th century and is home to around 370,000 inhabitants, but has no military infrastructure to speak of.
The Russian military has claimed it has targeted Ukrainian air force officials who have met with arms suppliers. However, Ukrainian officials have denied that such a meeting took place. Only hours later Russian missiles landed at two major universities in the southern city of Mykolayiv, continuing this pattern of Russian attacks on civilians.
After the Vinnytsia attack, NATO provided Ukraine with a crucial new missile defense tool – the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System, or NASAMS, to shield its capital, Kyiv.
Although NASAMS was first envisioned nearly 20 years ago, it is now deployed in 12 different countries, including the United States, to protect the Washington, DC area from cruise missile threats. The system, developed as part of a joint venture between Raytheon and Norway’s Kongsberg, is a massive upgrade over the Soviet-era S-300 systems that the Ukrainians had previously used.
The main advantages of the NASAMS system over other systems are its ability to successfully intercept and shoot down everything from drones to cruise missiles and to adapt to almost any combat environment. Its software system has also enabled numerous upgrades since its inception, allowing the US to equip the units sent to Ukraine with the latest American radar technology.
Ukraine received two batteries of the system with each battery existnine to twelve truck-mounted launchers, each armed with six AIM-120 missiles. The launchers are in turn supported by six to eight radar vehicles and support vehicles from the command and fire control center. Over the course of its decades of operation, NASAMS has shot down dozens of enemy warplanes and even successfully eliminated a dummy cruise missile that flew just 100 feet above the ground in a simulated attack.
US officials should watch carefully how Ukraine fares against Russian missile strikes as these new defense systems become operational in the conflict. While the prospect of Russian missiles flying over the US mainland is highly unlikely, even in a hot war with Russia, the United States protects many of its overseas assets with the same systems – including the Indo-Pacific region, where the prospect of a The Chinese strike is not that far-fetched.
The effectiveness of current US missile defense systems in the South Pacific – many of which predate the latest NASAMS technology – should be a major concern for American military leaders. After all, the Ukrainian armed forces managed to sink the Russian warship using old weapons Moscow in the first months of the war – and showed a glaring weakness of what was seen as advanced Russian missile defense technology. With potential future hostilities involving China, Russia, or a Sino-Russian alliance, the ability of US military outposts to defend against and respond to missile threats could prove to be the determining factor in the outcome of the conflict.
In the 21st century, ensuring US national security at home and abroad means always having a defensive shield against missile attack. The Ukrainians learned this lesson the hard way in their war with Russia. As the United States and the West continue to advance Ukraine’s defenses, they should look to future conflicts and learn from that experience how to deter aggression from adversaries like Russia and China, and be prepared when it does.
Ben Solis is the pseudonym of a journalist, historian and international affairs researcher.
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