Germany doubles down on support for Ukraine – promised IRIS-T supply

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In a significant move, Germany has heightened its military aid to Ukraine, notably in the realm of air defense. Early promises to dispatch the Patriot anti-aircraft system for “immediate” utilization have now been supplemented by a commitment to provide the indigenous IRIS-T system in the upcoming weeks. 

Photo credit: Twitter

This advancement was announced by Germany’s Deputy Chancellor, Robert Habeck. He revealed that three IRIS-T systems are currently functional in Ukraine, with the guarantee of “more to be delivered this year. The next one is coming in just a few weeks.” It’s significant to mention that on April 13, the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, conveyed during an evening video address that negotiations with Germany regarding a fresh batch of IRIS-T were in progress. 

Zelensky praised Germany’s initiative, expressing, “Germany’s leadership is conspicuous and because of this determination, we will be able to protect thousands of lives and furnish Ukraine with enhanced security against Russian aggression.”

The USA is first, Germany is second

In step with the intensifying Russian assaults on Ukraine this spring, a significant lack of air defense systems in both city and rural environments throughout Ukraine has come into focus. Russian offensives, disproportionately aimed at Ukraine’s energy infrastructures, have resulted in the destruction of several thermal power plants across the country. This includes the Trypilska power plant, a vital electricity source for the regions of Kyiv, Zhytomyr, and Cherkasy.  

Against this backdrop, Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, urgently solicits additional air defense support from its allies. On April 6th, President Zelensky underlined that to effectively counter Russian sky-bound aggressions, Ukraine needs 25 Patriot air defense systems on an urgent basis. Earlier, Germany had generously donated IRIS-T air defense installations to Ukraine, which included three IRIS-T SLM systems, with a range of up to 40 kilometers, and one IRIS-T SLS system with a 12-kilometer reach.  

Photo credit: Twitter

A brief summary of the contributions by Germany indicates that it has also sent two Patriot systems and 52 Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery units to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense. According to a Reuters report, Germany, earlier criticized for lagging in providing military aid to Ukraine following the commencement of the extensive invasion, has now risen to become the second-largest donor of military equipment, right behind the United States.

Taurus is still taboo

However, the anticipated arrival of the Patriot and IRIS-T missiles, a process often likened to “threading a needle,” leaves the issue of the Taurus cruise missiles unresolved and open for debate. In response to requests from Kyiv, Scholz has been firm in his refusal to send these weapons. Furthermore, the German parliament has rejected the Ukrainian requests twice, turning them down outright. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Scholz was also prompt in assuring the public that he would not facilitate the sale of Taurus missiles to a third party, such as the UK, for subsequent transfer to Ukraine. This position provides a glimmer of hope for Ukraine’s military, which declared at the start of the year: “We will acquire the Taurus, even if Berlin disagrees.” 

In the meantime, Berlin has officially ceased the production of Taurus cruise missiles. The reason behind this decision came from the manufacturers themselves, who stated that there are no more government orders to continue production. German sources reveal that approximately 600 of these precision weapons are in storage, although not all are in operational condition. Recent news indicates that even though production may have stopped, Berlin remains committed to upgrading the functioning Taurus missiles in the Bundeswehr’s arsenal.

IRIS-T short-range

The IRIS-T [Infra Red Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled] is a program spearheaded by Germany to develop a short-range air-to-air missile. It’s the product of a multinational consortium involving Germany, Greece, Italy, Canada, Norway, and Sweden. The missile is intended to replace the AIM-9 Sidewinder currently used by NATO countries. 

The design of the IRIS-T integrates advanced features including thrust vectoring, imaging infrared homing [also known as ‘heat-seeking’], and a high explosive fragmentation warhead. The body of the missile is comprised of four sections: the guidance section, the warhead section, the motor section, and the control section. Each of these plays an indispensable role in the missile’s operation. 

The guidance section houses the imaging infrared seeker and the missile’s electronic brain. This processor interprets data from the seeker and sends commands to the control section. Contained within the warhead section is a blast-fragmentation warhead, triggered by a proximity fuse. The motor section propels the missile towards its target, whilst the control section directs the missile using thrust vectoring.

Targets beyond visual range

Photo credit: Sundries

The IRIS-T has an operational range of approximately 25 kilometers, allowing it to engage targets beyond visual range. This range is thanks to its solid-fuel rocket motor, which offers a high thrust-to-weight ratio, letting the missile reach speeds of up to Mach 3. 

The missile used by the IRIS-T is the AIM-120 AMRAAM, a medium-range, air-to-air missile with active radar homing. This missile is capable of all-weather, day-and-night operations, with a reach of up to 180 kilometers. 

Lastly, the IRIS-T’s warhead is of the blast-fragmentation type, designed to destroy enemy aircraft with a lethal cloud of fragments. This warhead is triggered by a proximity fuse, which detonates the warhead when it senses the missile’s proximity to the target.


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