In just two days this week, Russian forces fired more than 100 cruise missiles and dozens of exploding drones at cities across Ukraine, far more than the nation’s aging air defenses were ever expected to encounter. And yet fewer than half made it to their targets, Ukrainian officials say.
Ukraine’s success in knocking down those projectiles, and the death and destruction caused wherever missiles slipped through, has reinvigorated calls by officials in Kyiv for Western countries to provide more sophisticated defensive weapons systems. At a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, the United States and other allies readily agreed, pledging to rapidly provide the weaponry.
Germany began delivery of four units of a missile defense system so advanced even its own forces have yet to use it. The Netherlands promised millions of dollars in air-defense missiles, and President Emmanuel Macron of France said his country would send “radars, systems and anti-air missiles.”
And a day after the Biden administration said it was working to speed up delivery of two advanced missile systems, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said, “The systems will be provided as fast as we can physically get them there.”
But for all the gaps made clear by the bombardment, which killed at least 19 people and scarred some two dozen Ukrainian cities, Ukrainian patchwork air defenses have proved to be one of the great successes of the war, and among the most unexpected. And Ukraine’s response to the attacks underscored how far the air defense units have come since President Vladimir V. Putin ordered his forces to invade on Feb. 24. [Continue reading…]