Why did NATO choose it to support Ukraine’s air defense system?

  Recently, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told the media that the United States is speeding up the delivery of Norway’s Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) to Ukraine. So far, the United States has approved a total of eight NASAMS to Ukraine, two of which are expected to be delivered soon and six more in the coming period.
  As Russia began to launch large-scale missile and drone air strikes on major cities in Ukraine, the United States and NATO member states began to accelerate support for Ukraine’s air defense missile system, and declared that they would help Ukraine improve its air defense forces to deal with various air threats. So what special advantage does the United States have in aiding Ukraine’s NASAMS this time, and is the West capable of providing weapons to deal with multiple air threats?
  To answer the above questions, we must first understand why NASAMS is so special. The research and development of NASAMS began in the 1990s, when the Royal Norwegian Air Force and the Raytheon Company of the United States jointly established the NASAMS program to develop an advanced air defense missile with controllable cost that could deal with most air targets at that time. The system was equipped with the AN/MPQ-64 phased array radar which was quite advanced at that time. In addition to its good performance, this radar was also very small, and ordinary military off-road vehicles could be towed and maneuvered. In order to reduce costs, this air defense system directly adopted the AMRAAM medium-range active air-to-air missile that had been equipped with the U.S. Air Force at that time, and could be directly networked with the Norwegian national air defense system, adopting networked and distributed deployment, that is, it can Cooperate with other air defense weapons and radar information for optimal interception. Although European and American military industries have developed dedicated anti-missile systems such as THAAD and NMD, they all use off-the-shelf air-to-air missile systems as missiles in the medium and short-range air defense zones within 40 kilometers.
  In addition to the NASAMS system, the ammunition used by Spain in the Aspide surface-to-air air defense system recently aided by Ukraine also comes from the body of the Viper air-to-air missile. The Viper air-to-air missile is an Italian improvement from the AIM-7 Sparrow semi-active radar air-to-air missile developed by the United States. Interestingly, the United States has also converted the Sparrow missile into a ship-to-air missile and named it the Sea Sparrow air defense missile. In addition to the US Navy, as many as 20 countries including Germany, Turkey, Japan and South Korea have equipped this Sea Sparrow air defense system.
  From the NASAMS system and Sea Sparrow and other derivative systems, we can see that Western countries headed by the United States are very different from the Soviet Union and Russia in the design of air defense weapons. Take the contemporary S-300 system as an example. This system not only has very good maneuverability, but also is equipped with a variety of special missiles. One system can be used to solve various problems from ballistic missiles to drones; The Russian-made Doyle air defense missile, which is close to the Viper system, also uses a dedicated air defense missile, and has very good maneuverability and armor protection capabilities. It claims to be able to fight against a variety of air targets, and has the ability to detect and destroy targets on the move. Ability. This versatile and highly mobile air defense weapon has long been a selling point of Russian weapons. Except for short-range air defense weapons such as the Stinger, European and American air defense weapons rarely have the ability to launch on the move, and try to use off-the-shelf missiles in short- and medium-range air defense systems. Not only Europe and the United States are like this, but the missiles equipped with Israel’s Spyder air defense system are also the snake and Derby air-to-air missiles equipped by the Israeli Air Force.
  So what are the benefits of the United States, Europe and Israel directly using air-to-air missiles to equip ground-to-air systems? First of all, this can save the cost of missile research and development and speed up the development of the project; the second advantage is that it greatly reduces the logistical pressure. Because the air power of the United States, Europe and Israel is very strong, they are equipped with a large number of air-to-air missiles , if it is common with surface-to-air missiles, it can greatly simplify the logistical pressure in wartime. Take the AIM-120 missile equipped with the NASAMS system as an example. The number of missiles equipped by the United States and its allies is tens of thousands, and the ex-factory price is only about 500,000 US dollars. The Patriot missiles with similar performance have more effective anti-missile capabilities, but their unit price is as high as more than 2 million U.S. dollars, and the unit price of the latest PAC3 batch of missiles is more than 5 million U.S. dollars. In short, the use of air-to-air missiles is not only high in quality and low in price, but also in sufficient quantity.
  So why didn’t the Soviet Union and Russia follow the example of the United States and use air-to-air missiles as interceptors? First of all, in terms of technology, both the Soviet Union and Russia are very backward in the miniaturization of electronic equipment, so it is difficult to achieve a missile design that can be compatible with both air-to-ground and air-to-air launch scenarios. Another problem is the institutional issue of weapons research and development. Such projects in Europe and the United States are often led by weapons manufacturers, so manufacturers attach great importance to cost accounting, and directly adopting mature missiles is of course the most in line with the requirements of cost reduction and efficiency increase. However, the Soviet Union and Russia adopted the so-called design bureau system. Each design bureau is responsible for its own research direction. Air-to-air missiles are a design bureau, and ground-to-air systems are another design bureau. Since the design bureau relies on design projects to maintain operating costs, it is naturally a rational choice to develop new projectiles independently and increase project funds.
  So what does this have to do with Ukraine? Considering that Russia has added a large number of suicide drones, Ukraine is facing unprecedented air threats. Under such circumstances, Ukraine urgently needs a large number of anti-aircraft weapons to deal with air strikes. Of course, the United States can assist more advanced Patriot missiles and even the THAAD system, but the number of these expensive and powerful weapons is limited. On the contrary, systems such as NASAMS and Viper have a large number of spare ammunition, which is more in line with the cost-effectiveness of long-term large-scale wars . From this point of view, I am afraid that in the future, short- and medium-range air defense missile systems must consider the issue of universal ammunition.