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Ukraine may face shortage of missiles for air defense systems - ISW

Ukraine may face shortage of missiles for air defense systems - ISW Photo: stockpiles of missiles for Western air defense systems may run out as early as March (Getty Images)

Disruptions in defensive aid from Western countries could lead to a shortage of ammunition for air defense systems in Ukraine as early as March. Recently, Russia has intensified air attacks to deplete Ukrainian air defense systems. In the event of a missile shortage, the aggressor is prepared to heavily rely on aviation support for offensive operations along the front line, according to a report from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The document specifies that delays in funding and arms deliveries from Western countries could lead to a significant shortage of Ukrainian anti-aircraft missiles. This, in turn, would allow Russian forces to bomb Ukrainian troops more aggressively or even target frontline cities.

The New York Times reported on February 9 that, according to U.S. officials' estimates, without replenishment from Western aid, Ukrainian stocks of anti-aircraft missiles would run out by March 2024.

Ukrainian officials have recently warned that Ukraine is facing a "critical shortage" of anti-aircraft missiles as delays in Western aid continue to force Ukraine to deplete its stockpiles.

"Russian forces have routinely pressured Ukraine’s limited air defense umbrella through missile and drone strikes integrating Iranian and North Korean weapons with Russian systems against rear Ukrainian areas in an effort to force Ukrainian forces to expend air defense missiles and to draw and fix Ukrainian air defense systems away from the frontline," the report states.

ISW experts note that Russia has somewhat reduced aviation support for ground operations across the entire theater of operations due to two events - the downing of Russian fighters in the Kherson region in December 2023 and the destruction of a long-range radar detection aircraft A-50 on January 14.

However, the report states that the intensification of the Russian offensive campaign in recent weeks likely increased the pressure on the Ukrainian air defense system, forcing Ukraine to relocate air defense assets that were previously capable of restraining Russian tactical aviation operating along the front and in the Russian rear.

It is also noted that in January 2024, Russian aviation intensified operations to support Russian offensive operations in eastern Ukraine, especially near Avdiivka. This suggests that "limited Ukrainian air defense missile stocks may be giving Russian aviation more opportunities to attack."

ISW experts suggest that the critical shortage of Ukrainian anti-aircraft missiles could allow Russian forces to use aircraft, especially manned ones that typically carry heavier payloads, on a larger scale, closer to the current conflict line in Ukraine and beyond its borders.

"The Russian military has yet to conduct consistent large-scale aviation operations supporting Russian ground offensives in Ukraine, and the intensification of Russian aviation operations at scale would represent a significant threat to Ukraine," the ISW report states.

Air attacks by Russia against Ukraine

Recently, Russian military has been launching air attacks almost every night on Ukrainian territory using Shahed kamikaze drones, actively depleting the supplies of anti-aircraft missile systems.

Starting from the evening of Saturday, February 10, and throughout the night into Sunday, February 11, Russian aggressors deployed groups of Shahed kamikaze drones over Ukraine. Air alarms were declared in several regions.

Dnipro came under attack, and a fire broke out in Mykolaiv.

Closer to 3 AM on February 11, Russian drones targeted the Kyiv region. Air defense systems were operational on the outskirts of the capital.

According to the head of the Servant of the People faction in the Ukrainian parliament, David Arakhamia, Ukraine has enough military resources for another two months without new assistance from the United States.