Two Canadian ground-based air defense systems NASAMS are missing

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In January 2023, a commitment was made by Ottawa to supply Kyiv with two NASAMS medium-range anti-aircraft ground-based systems. A payment was forwarded to Washington in March 2023, earmarked for Ukraine. However, a year on, both systems remain undelivered to Ukraine. 

Photo credit: Twitter

The cost of this “Canadian donation” to Ukraine totaled US$406 million, funded by Canadian taxpayers. Yet, according to insiders from Canada, no manufacturing contract for these specific NASAMS systems, intended for Ukraine, is in place with one of the producing companies. 

The timing for the delivery of the systems to Ukraine remains uncertain. Ottawa admits to being in continuous dialogue with its Washington counterparts. As revealed by Radio Canada, the ongoing discussion is primarily focused on pinning down a schedule for both the production and delivery of the systems. 

Photo credit: Kongsberg

Lastly, Ukraine has expressed a significant need for the NASAMS systems. These advanced systems hold the capability to intercept not merely cruise missiles, but also increasingly prevalent kamikaze drones. The latter have proven to be an effective tool and have been adopted into the weaponry of the Russian Army. Meanwhile, Washington counters that they have an established contract with Raytheon for the production of the NASAMS systems.

Zelensky – Trudeau

Recent exchanges on X [formerly known as Twitter] reveal a communication thread between Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, and the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Zelensky expressed appreciation towards Trudeau for his help in securing the NASAMS anti-aircraft systems for Ukraine. 

Video screenshot

Matching his steadfast resolve, Trudeau reassured Zelensky of Canada’s unwavering support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. However, the specifics of their conversation remain unlucid. Irrespective of whether they were discussing a potential new consignment of NASAMS for Ukraine or the two obscure and interrupted deliveries of NASAMS was their chatting topic, remains a mystery.

Who says what?

A collaborative production between Raytheon, an American firm, and Kongsberg, a Norwegian company, this system’s destiny regarding the Canadian donation remains unclear. According to a representative from Kongsberg, Ivar Siemensen, the company does not currently have a contract with the United States concerning this. In an email exchange last week, Siemensen stated that the procurement authority continues to process the donation from Canada. However, he did not specify the timeline for resolution of these matters. 

Photo credit: Australian DoD

As of November 2022, the US Department of Defense has engaged in a noteworthy $1.2 billion partnership with Raytheon. This contract pertains to the production of NASAMS systems designed for Ukraine. According to public information, this project should reach completion by November 2025. 

Interestingly, when probed about whether this system from the contract is destined for Canada or about its delivery timeline, a Pentagon representative opted out of a direct response. Instead, the person recommended reaching out to Canadian officials for accurate answers. 

Moreover, an air of mystery surrounds Defense Canada’s plans for the system’s delivery. No details are available or have been disclosed by the agency. Similarly, attempts to gather information from Raytheon were fruitless, as the company has not provided a response to inquiries. 

Photo credit: YouTube

The plot thickens with the approval of an estimated $285 million sale of foreign military equipment to the Ukrainian government by the US State Department. This action, which took place in late May, was acknowledged by Congress.

The award process

The procedure for awarding foreign military sales can often be a lengthy endeavor, spanning months or even years, due to scrutinizing by the US Congress. Throughout this assessment period, any of the legislative body’s committees hold the power to halt the sale. 

Photo credit: Kongsberg

Interestingly, despite having the legislative authority to obstruct firearm sales, Congress has yet to exercise this right successfully. This was observed by the Congressional Research Service, highlighting how this power dynamics can occasionally alter the timeline and structure of certain sales, and even dissuade the President from proposing others officially. 

The administration of President Joe Biden possesses the capacity to altogether sidestep Congress, employing emergency arms sales. This maneuver has already occurred twice in the past two months to facilitate the sale of weapons and ammunition, worth several million dollars, to Israel. 

In a comparable circumstance, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken instated an emergency protocol to provide ammunition to Ukraine in April 2022 but has refrained from repeating this action to date.

About NASAMS

NASAMS, an acronym for Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System, is a distributed and networked medium to long-range air-defense system. Developed by Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace and Raytheon, it’s used by several countries worldwide, including the United States.

The system is highly adaptable, designed to function in all weather conditions, and can be deployed to identify, engage, and destroy any aerial threats, enhancing the defense capabilities of any country. It uses the AIM-120 AMRAAM [Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile] as its primary weapon.

NASAMS is characterized by its high firepower, precision, and operational flexibility. It’s equipped with advanced radar systems and fire control systems, which can be integrated with other sensors and networks for enhanced situational awareness and defense.

The operational range of NASAMS is impressive. The AIM-120 AMRAAM missile it uses can engage targets at a range of up to 180 kilometers and at altitudes up to 50,000 feet. This makes it a potent defense against a wide range of aerial threats.

Regarding its armament, the NASAMS primarily uses the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile, but it’s also capable of firing other types of missiles. This includes the AIM-9X Sidewinder, ESSM [Evolved Seasparrow Missile], and others. The system’s launcher can hold up to six missile canisters, allowing for a high rate of fire.

Moreover, NASAMS’ command and control unit is highly mobile and can be set up in a variety of locations. This allows for rapid deployment and re-deployment, making it a highly flexible and responsive system in the face of changing threat scenarios.

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