Russia: NASAMS using AWACS will be a problem for Russian aircraft

MOSCOW, RUSSIA — One of the notable anti-aircraft missile systems that Ukraine received in the past year was the American-Norwegian NASAMS. Ukraine expects a total of eight promised NASAMS from the US and its allies. Currently, two have already been delivered. There is data on at least one operationally ready.

Norway installs a digital electro-optical sensor system at NASAMS
Photo credit: Kongsberg

According to the Russian expert Mr. Alexey Shcherbakov, who is the deputy editor-in-chief of Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie [Independent Military Review], NASAMS has a perspective on the Ukrainian War.

One of the disadvantages of NASAMS is the scope of the system. According to several experts, the range and height of hitting enemy aircraft are not a disadvantage. As another problem that can be solved in the future, however, Mr. Shcherbakov describes the limited mobility of the ground version. The use of a towed trailer is not practical in a combat environment where the system is not expected to be deployed in a single location.


However, Mr. Shcherbakov sees a threat to Russian aviation if Ukrainian forces take advantage of the additional assistance provided by the United States and its allies. As is clear, reconnaissance planes and drones in the West provide the Ukrainian armed forces with vital information about the movement of Russian units. Including Russian planes, drones, and bombers.

US allowed Kuwait to acquire NASAMS in a multi-billion dollar deal
Photo credit:

“The combat work of these air defense systems can be even more effective when using external sources of targeting, such as an airborne early warning and control [AWACS] aircraft, etc.,” says Mr. Shterbakov. The use of AWACS will increase the range of NASAMS’s MPQ-64F1 radar system. This radar currently has a range of 120 km. The good news for Ukraine is that increasing the range of the radar will not require the delivery of a more powerful radar to a battlefield location, but can rely on AWACS to guide the missile to its final target, which may be already at a distance of 150-180 km.

Ukraine will need a more advanced missile for this whole proposal to be effective. Currently, Kyiv operates the ground version of the AIM-120, namely NASAMS 2. To increase the range, the US and its allies will have to provide the same version, but a modification NASAMS-ER. Thus, the operational combat range of the Ukrainian NASAMS air defense system will increase from 30 to 50 km.

91% success rate

According to Kongsberg, a total of 228 missile launches were carried out in the course of training-combat shootings at various types of targets, of which more than 91% were recognized as successful. The total time of continuous operation of individual complexes of this family during combat duty or during various exercises exceeded the milestone of 140 thousand hours.

The NASAMS complex proved to be a successful replacement for the outdated Advanced Hawk air defense system. An important achievement was the introduction of the principle of modularity, the open architecture of the “electronic panel” of the complex, and the possibility of an operational interface of the latter with various types of systems and means.

Norway installs a digital electro-optical sensor system at NASAMS
Photo credit: Rheinmatall

According to the developer, NASAMS systems of various modifications have been successfully tested for effectiveness in joint operations with other, more distant air and missile defense systems, such as the Patriot family of air defense systems.

Mr. Shcherbakov says that 2023 will be a key year for NASAMS in Ukraine. The remaining air defense systems to be received by Kyiv may be from the latest development version, which began last year and takes into account the results of the war so far in Ukraine. It is quite possible that in the future Kyiv will acquire NASAMS, which will much more seriously threaten the Russian air fleet.


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