On Wednesday, the US President announced additional assistance for the Ukrainian military worth $800 million “to help them defend their country against Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion”.
According to the White House, the package includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 2,000 Javelins, 1,000 light anti-armor weapons, and 6,000 AT-4 anti-armor systems, 100 grenade launchers, 5,000 rifles, 1,000 pistols, 400 machine guns, and 400 shotguns, along with associated ammunition. The assistance is seen as a major boost to the Ukrainian Army in its fight against the Russian forces.
The list is exhaustive. Over 600 more Stingers, 2600 Javelins, five Mi-17 helicopters, patrol boats, field radars, ammunition, Humvees, and electronic warfare systems have also been mentioned.
“In addition to the U.S.-produced short-range air defense systems the Ukrainians have been using to great effect, the United States has also identified and is helping the Ukrainians acquire additional, longer-range systems on which Ukraine’s forces are already trained, as well as additional munitions for those systems,” the White House said.
Switchblade Kamikaze Drones
Interestingly, the list also included 100 ‘Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems’ with no specific mention about the type and model of the drone. According to new reports, these drones are confirmed to be Switchblade loitering munitions that would enable the Ukrainian military to deliver high-tech aerial lethality against Russian equipment.
The revelation was made by Texan representative Michael McCaul during an interview with Politico. The Switchblade is a single-man portable loitering munition that can be used to effectively and accurately engage targets by crashing into them directly. Unlike most other weapons, the Switchblade can wave off or abort a mission if the situation changes after launch, allowing it to engage a secondary target or destroy itself without inflicting casualties or property damage.
The drone has been extensively used in Afghanistan and is a combat-tested platform that is a lot cheaper, handier, and quickly deployable alternative to close air support and missiles like FGM-148 Javelins. The Switchblade combines recon ability of small UAVs with an explosive warhead to quickly locate and destroy enemy fighters, especially in dug-in positions like rooftops or ridgelines.
STARStreak air defense system
On the same day, the UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace told BBC that they were sending STARStreak Man-Portable Air Defence System (MANPADS) to Ukraine, during the NATO Defence Ministers meeting at Brussels. The UK has been one of the prime suppliers of military equipment to Ukrainian military.
The STARStreak is a unique high-velocity short-range surface-to-air missile system that uses three dart submunitions with delayed fuse to increase hit probability and maximum damage. The system can neither be jammed by infrared or radar/radio countermeasures, nor be intercepted with radar-homing missiles. This capability offers it a distinct advantage over its contemporary systems like Blowpipe, Javelin (British MANPADS), or Stingers.
The darts do not home in on laser energy reflected from the target but instead the aiming unit projects two laser beams which paint a two dimensional matrix upon the target, and are thus immune to conventional jamming methods.
“In response to Ukrainian requests, the government has taken the decision to explore the donation of STARStreak high-velocity man-portable anti-air missiles. We believe that this system will remain within the definition of defensive weapons, but will allow the Ukrainian force to better defend their skies,” Wallace said.
NATO is also reportedly sending Soviet-era air defence systems to Ukraine that include SA-8 ‘Gecko’, SA-10 ‘Grumble’, SA-12 ‘Gladiator’, and SA-14 ‘Strela’ MANPADS.