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The Pentagon has finally decided to supply Ukraine with the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile, renowned for its ability to destroy aircraft of Soviet origin. This acquisition could change the balance of power in the air with Russia.
A strategic acquisition
The Pentagon’s recent decision to supply Ukraine with the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) puts an end to much speculation. This missile, designed by the American defense company Raytheon Technologies, is particularly renowned for its air-to-air destructive capabilities, targeting in particular Soviet-origin aircraft still in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS).
a. Features of the AIM-120
The AMRAAM is distinguished by its medium range and its ability to operate in all weathers, day and night. Its active radar-guidance technology gives it formidable precision, positioning it as a serious threat to enemy air assets.
b. Contract and delivery
Raytheon Missiles and Defense, based in Tucson, Arizona, has received a $192 million contract for the purchase of these missiles. Delivery is scheduled for November 29, 2024.
a. Strengthening the Ukrainian army
This acquisition comes shortly after several NATO countries announced the transfer of 60 F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Although Ukraine mainly uses fighter aircraft of Soviet origin, the addition of the F-16 and the AIM-120 could redress the balance against the VKS.
b. The threat from the Russian Aerospace Forces
The Ukrainian air force has often suffered losses at the hands of Russian aircraft, which launch long-range attacks from their airspace. Faced with the technological and numerical superiority of the VKS, Ukraine has an imperative need to modernize its air capabilities.
The AIM-120: the nightmare of Soviet jets
a. Combat history
The AIM-120 has already proved its effectiveness against aircraft of Soviet origin. It has at least 16 kills to its credit, the majority of which were Soviet aircraft used by the VKS.
b. Notable engagements
The missile was used to great effect during the NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo in 1999, when six Serbian MiG-29s were shot down. These MiG-29s are still in service in Russia and Ukraine, indicating a possible future confrontation with AIM-120-equipped F-16s.
Missile potential and versatility
a. A threat to a variety of targets
In addition to aircraft, the AMRAAM has demonstrated its potential against drones and cruise missiles. The Saudi Air Force has frequently used it against drones and targets similar to cruise missiles.
b. Technological superiority
Raytheon claims that the AMRAAM is unrivalled in its air-to-air role thanks to its advanced guidance technology. Its sophisticated design enables it to detect targets in the most difficult combat conditions.
Ukraine’s acquisition of the AIM-120 is a decisive step towards strengthening its air capabilities. Faced with the constant threat from the Russian Aerospace Forces, these missiles could be the leverage Ukraine needs to balance the balance of power. Only time will tell whether this acquisition will make a difference on the ground, but one thing is certain: Ukraine is now better armed to defend its airspace.
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