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US quietly gave Ukraine radar-hunting missiles that could really be a problem for Russia

U.S. Marines load an AGM-88 high-velocity anti-radiation missile onto an F/A-18C at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on August 13, 2021.US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Tyler Harmon

  • A senior defense official said this month that the United States sent anti-radiation missiles to Ukraine.

  • The official did not specify which missile it was, but there are reports of AGM-88 missiles being used in Ukraine.

  • AGM-88 may have limited overall impact, but it gives Russian troops another reason to worry.

It’s open season on Russian radar stations as Ukraine deploys US-made anti-radiation missiles designed to homing in on radar beams.

Ukraine’s advantage will likely be temporary as the Russian military adjusts, but for now the presence of AGM-88 HARMs, or high-velocity anti-radiation missiles, will force Russian troops to think twice before turning on their radars.

The presence of AGM-88 poses a problem for Russian air defense radars needed to defend against Ukrainian helicopters and jets and for counter-battery radars used to locate Ukrainian artillery, including multiple rocket launchers made in the USA.

Reports of anti-radar missiles in Ukraine surfaced in early August, after Russian bloggers reported finding fragments of a HARM that reportedly hit a Russian anti-aircraft missile site in Ukraine. The Pentagon quickly confirmed that HARMs had been supplied to Ukraine.

“We’ve included a number of anti-radiation missiles that can be fired from Ukrainian aircraft that can affect Russian radars,” Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters on Monday. August 8, although he did not. identify the missiles or provide other details.

A radar hunter

Navy A-7E Corsair AIM-9 Sidewinder AGM-88 HARM

US Navy A-7E Corsairs during Operation Desert Storm in February 1991. The jet in the foreground is carrying an AGM-88.CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

HARM is a powerful weapon, but not new. It was first deployed in 1983, and the 14-foot, 800-pound missile has a range of 30 miles and a top speed of Mach 2.

American aircraft performing suppression of enemy air defense missions used the AGM-88 in several operations, including in Libya, Iraq, and Yugoslavia. The missile is now used by a total of 15 countries.

The AGM-88 is a descendant of the AGM-45 Shrike, which saw service in the Vietnam War with mixed success.

The Shrike – based on the struggling AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile – had a short range and could only homing on a limited number of radar frequencies. North Vietnamese radar operators learned to confuse the missile’s radar seeker by turning their transmitters on and off.

Marines remove AGM-88 high-velocity anti-radiation missile from F/A-18C

US Marines undergo AGM-88 training on an F/A-18C aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, January 12, 2015.United States Navy/MCS Sailor Anthony N. Hilkowski

HARM corrected these shortcomings. Its radar seeker covers a wide frequency range and retains the location of the radar transmitter even if the radar is turned off. Its 30 mile range means it can be launched beyond the range of many anti-aircraft weapons.

The US Navy will deploy the AGM-88G Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Extended Range (AARGM-ER) in 2023, and the Stand-In Attack Weapon (SiAW), which is designed to attack a wider set of targets in an enemy air-defense system, is being developed for the F-35.

For its part, Russia has the Kh-31P anti-radiation missile – based on the Kh-31 supersonic anti-ship missile – which was sold to China as the YJ-91.

The limits of air power

Russia Su-34 wreckage in Chernihiv Ukraine

A Russian Su-34 shot down by Ukrainian forces in Chernihiv, April 22, 2022.Nicola Marfisi/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Anti-radiation missiles are not miracle weapons, but they can be very useful. When launched before an airstrike, they can suppress air defenses and clear a safe path for friendly aircraft.

They can also be tricked by tricks such as decoy radar transmitters. For example, the American TLQ-32 decoy system places fake transmitters away from the real radar. (The point of impact of the decoy is called the “ARM pit”.)

Rather, anti-radar missiles are just one of many tools – such as jamming and decoys – in the ever-evolving cat-and-mouse game of electronic warfare.

In many ways, anti-radiation missiles are a psychological weapon. HARM won’t completely shut down Russian radars, but it will make their operators more careful and selective when it comes to transmissions.

Air Force F-16C with AIM-120 AIM-9 AGM-88 missiles

A US Air Force F-16C armed with an AGM-88 and other missiles at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey on May 20, 2002.U.S. Air Force/Tech Sgt. Kevin Gruenwald

In Ukraine, anti-radiation missiles are likely to have limited impact.

Air power has so far not been a decisive factor in the conflict: Ukraine does not have enough modern aircraft and Russian pilots have been surprisingly cautious and inefficient. Shutting down Russian air defense radars will not necessarily translate into more success for Ukrainian aircraft.

For now, the deadliest weapon in the war in Ukraine is artillery, and HARMs will help Ukrainian forces hit Russian counter-battery radars that track shells and rockets in flight, calculate their trajectories and identify the howitzers and rocket launchers that fired them.

Removing Russian counter-battery systems will help protect Ukraine’s vastly outnumbered artillery – especially the US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers that carried out devastating strikes on munitions dumps and outposts. Russian command.

Michael Peck is a defense writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy Magazine and other publications. He holds a master’s degree in political science. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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