In a recent Whitehouse press release, it has been announced that various Soviet-era anti-aircraft defense systems acquired by the United States over the years are to be gifted to Ukrainian military forces to aid in their fight to defend their country. First reported by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), these systems were initially captured by the United States through a variety of means for intelligence analysis and training purposes.
Technically termed "foreign materiel exploitation", or FME for short, the business of military forces acquiring examples of other nations' military tech for the study is a
It is not entirely clear which U.S. entities are facilitating the exchange of Soviet FME, but it is probably one arm of the U.S. military. The Pentagon, for its part, has declined to comment one way or the other.
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Also according to the WSJ report, some pieces have already been shipped to Ukraine from the U.S. Army storage facility at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. Delivery was achieved using a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane that reportedly picked them up at an unspecified airfield in the Huntsville area.
This facility, as it happens, is also home to the Army's Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM), but it also happens to host the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) Missile and Space Intelligence Center (MSIC), which has an FME role.
DIA serves as the focal point for the Department of Defense's entire FME enterprise, as well.
This isn't the only support that the U.S. has provided to Ukraine now or in the past. For several years now, Ukraine has been in receipt of various military hardware from the States including shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, known as man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS).
There has also been a strong emphasis on sending Ukraine weapons systems that they are most likely to be familiar with. This makes sense, as it will dramatically reduce the time needed to train Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers to use the weapons. This is where Soviet-era anti-air defense systems will likely prove invaluable to the Ukrainians.
The Soviet-era anti-air defense systems to come in handy
In the absence of air cover from NATO forces (something that could escalate the war into a more global affair), anti-air defense systems like these will help deny Russian forces from gaining total aerial superiority. This is a vital component for fighting and winning any combat action in most theatres of the world.
At present, it is also not entirely clear what systems are being sent to Ukraine beyond the SA-8 "Gecko". Also known by the Russian nomenclature 9K33 Osa, this is a wheeled short-range surface-to-air missile system. DIA's MSIC is known to have at least one example of this system in its inventory.
Other more modern systems, like the Russian S-300 (which was acquired from Belarus in the 1990s), is also in U.S. hands but won't be sent to Ukraine according to an unarmed source in the WSJ article.
Other than that, information on what other Russian or Soviet-era systems are currently in U.S. possession that could be offered to Ukrainian forces is pretty thin on the ground. Especially those that Ukrainian forces may have some previous experience with using.
Since America's FME program is, by virtue, a top-secret and highly clandestine activity, this shouldn't really come as much of a surprise.
That being said, it is quite likely that the U.S. will release and supply more of its FME stocks to help Ukraine from other branches and departments beyond the DIA or U.S. Army. The U.S. Air Force, for example, is known to have its own examples of SA-8s in its stockpile as well as other types that Ukrainian forces should be more than familiar with.
The SA-13, and SA-15 "Gauntlet" systems, also known by the Russian nomenclature 9K35 Strela-10 and 9K332 Tor-M2E, are both tracked short-range air defense systems that would prove to be very handy in Ukraine.
That is, so long as the systems can be supplied with appropriate rockets too. However, Ukrainian forces should have some stocks of them in any case.
Whatever the case, Ukrainian forces are very much in an "all hands on deck" stance and so are not really in a position to be picky about what outside hardware they receive. Some, if not many, of the systems, be supplied also happened to have originated from Ukraine in the first place and were transferred to the U.S. by the Ukrainian Government.
Other NATO nations are also being pressurized to send any stockpiles of FME they may also possess, but many are wary to do so due to the potential political fallout. Especially given their geographical proximity to current hostilities.
From the U.S.'s point of view, the offer may not be entirely altruistic. Helping Ukraine defend itself, and potentially defeat Russian forces on their lands offers the U.S, a potential pipeline for more modern Russian military hardware.
Whatever the case, this news will be gladly received by besieged Ukrainian forces. They really do need all the help they can get right now.