Ukraine has received its first Nasams air defence systems from the US and Aspide units from Spain, as Russia continues its missile and drone strikes on electricity infrastructure that have triggered blackouts nationwide.
“Nasams and Aspide air defence systems arrived in Ukraine!” Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, said in a tweet on Monday. “These weapons will significantly strengthen Ukraine’s army and will make our skies safer.”
He added: “We will continue to shoot down the enemy targets attacking us. Thank you to our partners: Norway, Spain and the US.”
Nasams are a short- to medium-range surface-to-air missile defence system developed jointly by Kongsberg of Norway and Raytheon of the US.
The Aspide system made by Italy was provided to Kyiv by Spain.
The systems’ arrival comes weeks after Ukraine received Iris-T air defence missile systems from Germany, the first such sophisticated kit provided to Kyiv since Russia’s full-scale invasion more than eight months ago.
Ukraine has long called for modern Nato standard air defence systems to protect its civilian infrastructure, as its troops push back against Russian forces occupying more than 15 per cent of its territory in its eastern and southern coastal regions.
The US is working with its allies to locate as many systems and as much ammunition as possible.
“There’s work ongoing to figure out how much can be produced and how fast, not just for US systems, but for other systems as well,” said a US defence official.
Kyiv’s need for more and better air defence systems comes as Russia has stepped up its aerial bombardment of critical Ukrainian infrastructure to make up for its stalled ground campaign.
Moscow is using precision-guided missiles and swarms of Iran-supplied Shahed 136 kamikaze drones that can carry a warhead of up to 40kg. Although Ukraine has destroyed the majority of the incoming drones and missiles, enough have made it through to take out more than a third of Ukraine’s electricity-generating capacity over the past month.
About 4.5mn Ukrainians are without power, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address on Sunday.
Analysts cautioned that without better air defence, thousands of Ukrainians could freeze this winter.
“With rolling blackouts already affecting much of the country and the weather already getting cold, the urgency of these requirements is hard to overstate,” military experts Justin Bronk, Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds argued in a report published on Monday by the Royal United Services Institute.
They said the west needed to supply Kyiv with more shoulder-launched Manpad surface-to-air missiles and radar-guided anti-aircraft guns such as Germany’s Gepard to shoot down the Iranian drones. Ukraine also needs western fighter jets such as Swedish Saab Gripens to consolidate its territorial gains, the report added.