The Air Force could sell Crotale NG air defense systems to Ukraine

As Russian forces step up attacks against Ukrainian critical infrastructure, members of the Contact Group for Ukraine are [créé à l’initiative des États-Unis] as well as NATO’s, on October 13th, considered that it was now urgent to provide Kiev with the necessary funds to strengthen its air defenses.

“When Ukraine receives a sufficient number of modern and effective air defense systems, the key element of Russian terror – missile attacks – will cease to function”, argued Volodymyr Zelenski, the Ukrainian president.

Currently, Ukrainian air defense relies mostly on Russian-designed S-300 systems, several of which have certainly been destroyed since the start of the war. But the problem is the supply of interceptor missiles… which can only be sold by Russia.

But the US promised the Ukrainian army to provide eight NASAMS air defense batteries [Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System]. “We believe we are on track to deliver the first two systems to Ukraine soon,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, said on October 12.

It should be noted that on the same day the United Kingdom announced the donation to Kyiv of AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, used by NASAMS.

“We will do everything we can, and do it as quickly as possible, to help Ukrainian forces get the capabilities they need to protect their people. It is very, very important to us,” Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said. Only, and for the moment, Washington has not yet made a decision on the possible delivery of Patriot systems to the Ukrainian forces… Systems that they claim anyway.

No doubt it will come later… Because on his part, the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, mentioned the establishment of an “integrated air and anti-missile defense system” for Ukraine. This cannot be done immediately… However, to deal with the most urgent, he suggested supplying the Ukrainian forces with MIM-23 Hawk systems, the design of which dates back to the 1960s.

Regardless, Germany kept its promise to hand over an IRIS-TSLM medium-range air defense system to Ukraine, a first battery [sur les quatre promises, ndlr] was delivered to Kiev on October 12. As a reminder, developed by Diehl Defense on the basis of the IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile, within the framework of the cooperation with Airbus, Hensoldt and Rohde & Schwarz, this system is capable of shooting down aircraft and missiles cruising in 20 km altitude, 40 km away. And it has not yet been used by the Bundeswehr. When will the copy be operational, knowing that it requires twelve weeks of training to be implemented?

Moreover, already appointed for the weakness [relative] of its aid to Ukraine by those who confuse “promises” with actual deliveries [« Ce que nous promettons à l’Ukraine, nous le donnons vraiment », fait d’ailleurs valoir le ministre des Armées, Sébastien Lecornu]it is difficult for France to stand aside… while its air defense resources are limited.

The fact is that on October 12, on the air of France2, President Macron announced new military aid to Ukraine, a week after the French ambassador to Russia was summoned by Russian diplomacy to protest against the French arms deliveries to Kiev.

“We have supplied famous Caesar cannons since the beginning of the war, and the Ukrainians have thanked us. We will continue” and “we are working on the delivery of six additional CAESAr weapons” [prélevés sur une commande passée par le Danemark, ndlr] and “we will also provide radars and missiles for protection [les Ukrainiens] of these attacks,” Macron said without giving further details.

Since Air & Space Force [AAE] has only eight examples, Ground-Air Medium Range / Terrestrial system [SAMP/T] “Mamba” is probably not affected by Mr. Macron’s announcement. Indeed, this equipment is essential to ensure the protection of nuclear bases and the protection of major events. [coupe du monde de Rugby, Jeux Olympiques, etc]. In addition, a battery was deployed in Romania for the needs of the “Aigle” mission, carried out within the framework of NATO.

On the other hand, the systems promised by the tenant of Élysée could therefore be Crotale NG, of which AAE only has twelve copies. Each equipped with a Mirador IV Doppler radar that allows simultaneous tracking of 12 targets moving at a distance of 18 km, is equipped with eight VT1 missiles with a practical range of over 11,000 m. Until now, there have been no plans to replace them in the short term. At least this subject does not appear in the Military Programming Act [LPM] On it.

“The Crotale NG short-range surface-to-air defense systems are used to combat aircraft operating at low and very low altitudes. They are equipped with detection, identification and sector surveillance radars and have a capacity of eight missiles in position”, recalled AAE on the occasion of a recent firing campaign carried out at Biscarrosse by the squadron’s surface-to-air defence. [EDSA] 02,950 “Sancerre” and 05,950 “Barrois”.

This has also “made it possible to validate the new visible ways [TV] and infrared (IR) cameras, installed on Crotale NGs for detection and tracking,” she said.

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