TechUkraine's air defense dwindles against Russian missile onslaught

Ukraine's air defense dwindles against Russian missile onslaught

Iskander system, illustrative photo
Iskander system, illustrative photo
Images source: ©

9:23 PM EDT, May 13, 2024

According to the "New York Times," in May 2023, the Ukrainian air defense intercepted 80 percent of Russian missiles. Due to a shortage of ammunition, it can shoot down only half as many. The most challenging missiles to contend with are the Iskander-M ballistic and Kh-22 missiles. But what exactly are these weapons?

The Iskander is a short-range ballistic missile system. Its launchers are mounted on mobile truck platforms. Russia produces three variations of this system—the Iskander-M, Iskander-K, and Iskander-E (the export model), employing the Iskander-M in Ukraine. The Iskander-M ballistic missiles weigh approximately 1,100 pounds. When launched, they can reach an altitude of up to 31 miles and have a range of nearly 310 miles.

The Kh-22 missiles are deployed by Russian long-range aviation and are known for their exceptional speed. During flight, they travel at about Mach 3 (roughly 2,236 mph), and during the so-called diving phase (when approaching the target), they can reach speeds of up to Mach 4 (about 3,045 mph).

The use of Iskander-M ballistic missiles and Kh-22 missiles in attacks on Ukrainian positions has been a strategy for Russians for some time. However, the issue has been exacerbated by the growing shortage of ammunition within Ukrainian units, leading to an increase in successful attacks by these Russian weapons.

Analysis by the "New York Times" of reports from the Ukrainian armed forces on Russian missile attacks and the interception rates indicates a significant decline in Ukrainian air defence capabilities. Increasingly, Russian assaults on civilian infrastructure, weapons factories, supply routes, and frontline units are proving difficult to stop.

Ukraine appeals to allies

Kyiv's calls for help have grown increasingly urgent as it asks Western allies for more air defense systems and ammunition. Complicating the situation, the Russians have shifted their tactics, launching more extensive barrages with ballistic, maneuvering, and hypersonic missiles. The newspaper details how they initiate drone strikes, followed by missile attacks from various directions, to confuse Ukraine's air defenses.

For Ukrainians, Western air defense systems, particularly the Patriot and Iris-T, and their corresponding ammunition, are critical.

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