The Hawk surface-to-air missile system, manufactured in the United States, is over 60 years old. However, if reports are accurate, it will soon become Ukraine’s primary SAM. The central component of the nation’s air defense network
It’s not a disastrous outcome for Kiev. The Raytheon MIM-23 Homing All-Way Killer, which dates back to the 1960s, is simple, dependable, highly mobile, and straightforward to upgrade. It is also effective against slower drones, cruise missiles, and manned aircraft.
The U.S.-Norwegian National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), a more recent SAM system that Ukraine uses, might also be compatible with the HAWK.
The news broke on Friday that U.S. officials were in negotiations with their Taiwanese counterparts to purchase back from Taipei the dozen or so HAWK batteries containing approximately one hundred launchers that Taiwanese forces began decommissioning in 2015 and replacing with locally designed SAMs.
Reportedly, the United States intends to donate to Ukraine approximately one hundred HAWK launchers, missiles, and associated apparatus, including radars. The ex-Taiwanese launchers would supplement the single sizable HAWK battery, consisting of six or more launchers and a radar, that the United States and Spain have already committed to the Ukrainian war effort.
A large shipment of HAWKs would assist Kiev in averting a looming crisis: the imminent depletion of its S-300 and Buk SAM missile inventories. On February 24, 2022, when Russia widened its war against Ukraine, approximately 50 batteries of S-300s and Buks, totaling several hundred launchers, constituted the primary Ukrainian air defenses.
The Ukrainians have lost approximately sixty S-300 launchers and fifteen or so Buk launchers to Russian missiles and artillery over the course of seventeen months of intense combat. However, launcher attrition is not the most significant hazard to the Ukrainian air defense system. The true crisis is the Ukrainian air force’s daily use of dozens of missiles to repel Russian warplanes, drones, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles.
The Ukrainian economy does not produce missiles for the S-300 or Buk batteries. And these missiles are scarce in the inventories of Ukraine’s foreign allies. For this reason, NATO countries have pledged to provide Ukraine with nearly 20 batteries of SAM systems, including IRIS-Ts, Crotales, NASAMS, Patriots, and others.
In addition to being more dependable, accurate, and resistant to interference than comparable Soviet systems, these Western air defenses are also sustainable. Ukraine has access to a constant supply of replacement missiles from the factories and stockpiles of allied nations.
Prior SAM commitments have displaced approximately 20 of Ukraine’s fifty pre-war Soviet-era batteries. Ukraine now faces the challenge of replacing the remaining 30. A donation of a dozen or more ex-Taiwanese Hawk batteries facilitated by the United States would go a long way toward resolving this issue.
The Hawk is a SAM with a medium range. Each missile launched from a launcher with three projectiles has a range of approximately 30 miles. The missile is guided by energy reflected from an airborne target by a radar located on the ground. The dozen or so nations that continue to employ the Hawk value its simplicity, compactness (a single heavylift helicopter can transport a launcher), and upgradability.
Indeed, the Norwegian company Kongsberg, the manufacturer of the NASAMS, has devised a new digital command post for HAWK batteries that utilizes NASAMS components. This raises the possibility that, with some effort, the Ukrainian air force could combine its NASAMS and HAWK batteries into a single force utilizing the same radars and command posts.