US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin stressed the importance of air defence for Ukraine, especially with the onset of winter, following a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group (Ramstein format).
Austin said this at a press conference following the Ramstein meeting.
In a statement, the Pentagon chief stressed the importance of the United States and its allies’ air defence systems jointly provided to Ukraine – Patriot, Hawk, IRIS-T, NASAMS and Gepard systems.
“Air defence will continue to be Ukraine’s greatest need to protect the skies, civilians and cities, and innocent people far from the frontline,” Austin added, saying that Russia tried to use “cold and darkness” to break down Ukrainian resistance last year.
The US defence secretary called ground-based air defence “one of Ukraine’s greatest success stories”, which has allowed it to secure its critical infrastructure and restart grain exports partially.
“At today’s meeting, I called on allies and partners to ‘dig deep’ and contribute all the air defence assets they can as the winter campaign in the war in Ukraine begins,” he said.
UK intelligence reported that Russia will likely attack Ukrainian energy infrastructure facilities in winter. However, Ukraine is preparing for this.
According to the ministry, despite the pressure of the war, Ukraine will be able to provide sufficient fuel supplies during the winter. However, Ukraine will also need more modern air defence equipment to protect the cities from Russian missile and drone attacks.
Austin also said that Ukraine would soon receive the first M1 Abrams tanks from the United States.
Earlier, Germany announced that it will increase the IRIS-T air defence systems production due to the Russia-Ukraine all-out war which has lasted over 18 months.
German arms manufacturer Diehl Defence is seeking to increase IRIS-T air defence system production to meet demand due to Russia’s war against Ukraine. The German air defence system has been efficient in downing Russian war drones.
The effectiveness of Russian combat drones has been low during this war, as Ukraine has learned to shoot down most drones of the Shahed type. However, massive drone assaults from different directions pose a threat.
Combined with ballistic and cruise missiles, Russia could damage Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. In the fall of 2022, the Russians resorted to missile terror by launching massive missile strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. This led to blackouts and heating outages in Ukraine.
To avoid such a scenario in the fall 2023 and winter 2023, Ukraine will need more modern, powerful air defence capabilities to protect its civilian and energy infrastructure, the experts say.