WASHINGTON (Agencies): The United States has supplied Ukraine with a lot of its older and unused military equipment but some of these weapons systems have proven to be very effective on the modern battlefield, including the MIM-23 Hawk air defense system.

The MIM-23 Hawk first entered into service in the United States back in the 1970s but it’s proven to be a game-changing weapon that is extremely good at shooting down Russian drones according to a report from the Ukrainian Air Force.

“Oleksandr is a HAWK air defense system operator. He has two dozen Shahed drones and four missiles to his credit,” the Ukrainian Air Force reported on its Facebook page according to a translation from the Ukrainian military news website Militaryni.

“While studying abroad, we worked on simulators, and the instructors explained that due to certain technical features, the system is not really designed for drones,” Oleksnadr was quoted as saying. But that has stopped his crew from shooting down a lot of drones.

Oleksandr and his MIM-23 Hawk crew shot down six Shahed drones in their first engagement, which the soldier said was the most annoying of the targets that he and his team currently face on the battlefield.

“It was a little uncomfortable when three Kh-59 missiles, constantly changing altitude, flew directly at us. However, we managed to capture all the targets and shot them down individually,” Oleksnadr said of one engagement.

“The main secret is not even in the weapons we use but in the synchronized and well-coordinated work of the unit,” the soldier added. Spain and the United States have both provided MIM-23 Hawk systems to Ukraine, though it was unknown if they would be an effective weapon.

The MIM-23 Hawk has been labeled a Cold War relic by Vikram Mittal of Forbes but this journalist also explained in a June 2023 article that the air defense system was a big asset for a country that has been trying to control its air space.

When the United States added the MIM-23 to a $400 million dollar aid package in November 2022 it seemed like a strange choice. Mostly because the air defense system could have been considered outdated by three decades at that time.

The MIM-23 Hawk was first developed during the Cold War in 1959 and served in the American military apparatus until it was phased out of all services in the 1990s. It was developed with one purpose: medium-range defense.

Designed to engage multiple targets at once, the Hawk system was a medium-range air defense system that was built to be mobile. It has the ability to engage targets upwards of roughly 25 miles away. But that’s not why the system was thought to be an important addition to Ukraine.

Ukraine has a critical flaw in its air defense. The country has been in desperate need of medium-range air defense systems that can bridge the gap between Kyiv’s long-range and short-range systems. This made the Hawk a perfect choice.

The MIM-23 Hawk fits perfectly into the Ukrainian defense strategy,” explained Bohdan Tuzov of Kyiv Post. “The American systems will help Ukraine compensate for the loss of Soviet air defense systems and, in general, strengthen the protection of our airspace.”

Because the United States had decommissioned the MIM-23 Hawk from its own military services, there have been a lot of these air defense weapons kicking around. Mittal reported that the American military had a substantial stock of Hawks in its warehouses.

“The main advantage and strength of the Hawk air defense system is its mass production and the unclaimed stock of anti-aircraft missiles in storage in friendly countries,” explained the Ukrainian military website Militaryni.

“This makes it possible to build a wide air defense network based on them in a relatively short time and have a conditionally unlimited supply of missiles to intercept numerous drones and cruise missiles,” Militaryni added.

Moreover, Ukraine has been operating the MIM-23 for nearly the entirety of the war after several systems were donated to Kyiv from Spanish military stockpiles. Spain also trained a number of Ukrainian troops on how to use the Hawk system.

However, what really makes the MIM-23 Hawk useful for Ukrainian forces is what some may have considered its worst quality—it’s an older Cold War weapon. The MIM-23 was designed to counter the weapons Ukrainians will soon face.

“As the Russians deplete their stocks of modern equipment,” explained Mittal, “they are increasingly relying on older equipment from their weapon stockpiles.” And the Hawk has been made even more useful thanks to American upgrades.

The MIM-23 HAwk systems that the United States transferred to the Ukrainian Armed Forces underwent a substantial upgrade before they were shipped off to Ukraine. However, few details have been given out about what those upgrades entailed.

We do know that the MIM-23 Hawks sent to Ukraine were likely the Phase III upgraded models according to Militaryni, which means they would have been equipped with digital components, new radar systems, and a new command post.

“The third-generation systems are not inferior to such systems as Buk-M1 and S-125 in terms of range and altitude and are still capable of effectively intercepting most targets in the Ukrainian sky,” Militaryni wrote in its report.

By Media

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