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Powerful, Modern & Effective: Ukraine’s Air Defense Operator Thrilled With ‘Kill Rate’ Of German IRIS-T System

At a time when an array of western missile defense systems are making their way into Ukraine, an operator of the air defense division in the Ukrainian military has hailed the German IRIS-T air defense systems.

The Ukrainian military said on January 21 that the IRIS-T successfully downed every incoming target during Ukraine’s first operational use of the system, New Voice of Ukraine reported.

In a new statement, anti-aircraft missile technician Vadym claimed to have successfully intercepted all nearby targets while maintaining the system.

“The German system is really modern, powerful, and effective. Even during its baptism of fire in October, it shot down all targets, mostly cruise missiles”, he explained.

Vadym said he received training in Germany after operating the Buk-M1 air defense system for Ukraine. “Our anti-aircraft military Buk-M1 unit eliminated ten targets, including Mi-24 helicopters and Su-30 and Su-35 aircraft,” he said.

“At first, we were located near Chornobyl, and later we were relocated. When I was offered training in Germany, I accepted the offer without hesitation, realizing that a huge responsibility went with it because the IRIS-T is one of the newest air defense systems.”

IRIS-T SLM ground-based air defense system

The German IRIS-T air defense system has been lauded by the highest echelons of Ukraine’s military for its combat performance since it became operational in Ukraine. Videos have revealed how these missiles have intercepted and destroyed sophisticated Russian missiles like the Kalibr amid a massive bombardment from Russia.

Germany delivered the first IRIS-T to Ukraine on October 11, 2022. It became the first country to deliver a western air defense system after Russia unleashed a barrage of missiles ravaging Ukraine’s urban centers.

According to then-German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, the least three air defense systems will be delivered to Kyiv in 2023. Not just that, Germany has also announced that it will deliver a battery of the cutting-edge PAC-3 Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine that will bolster Kyiv’s defense against incoming Russian ballistic missiles.

IRIS-T manufacturer Deihl claims that pairing it with the US-made Patriot PAC-3 missile defense system, which has a higher maximum altitude, will maximize its effectiveness.

Vadym’s statement appears to be an exoneration of negative reviews against the German air defense system, which has often come under fire for its performance. Further, the statement is significant as it comes when Ukraine is lobbying to secure more military aid from Berlin, including the Leopard-2 Main Battle Tanks.

Impeccable Performance

The first evidence of the operation of the IRIS-T SLM missile was recorded just days after the system was delivered to Ukraine. As reported by EurAsian Times, the first debris of the IRIS-T missile’s tail fragment was captured on camera on October 19 in or near Kyiv.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense previously revealed that the IRIS-T system had reportedly been deployed in southern Ukraine. While the system’s current location is unknown, this system has been extensively deployed to take down the Shahed-136 kamikaze drones and cruise missiles fired by Moscow.

There have been reports that the unabated barrage of Russian missiles and suicide drones has primarily exhausted the missiles used by these advanced air defense systems.

In late November, Yuriy Ihnat, Ukraine’s Air Force spokesman, said on national television that Ukraine mostly needed missiles for the German IRIS-T air defense system.

“Most of all, I would like to have enough ammunition for IRIS-T. This is an excellent complex, a new generation of air defense systems… We need even more of this weapon because it is designed to replace our old systems,” Ihnat said.

Infographic via Chuck Pfarrer’s Twitter.

Soon after, the German government announced in mid-December last year that it had sent some additional missiles for the previously provided IRIS-T air defense systems to Ukraine.

The IRIS-T missiles are far more expensive than the drones it takes down, causing a mammoth cost differential. One Twitter user said, “Each IRIS-T missile costs $430,000; let that sink in.” The cost of one Shahed-136 is believed to be around $20,000.

According to Diehl Defense, a typical single IRIS-T SLM system comprises three mobile launchers, multi-function radar installed on a truck, and another truck transformed into a command post vehicle.

The truck-mounted missile system is designed to destroy bombs, drones, anti-radar missiles, cruise missiles, attack helicopters, rocket artillery, drones, and combat aircraft. Additionally, it has a multifunctional radar that can simultaneously track several targets.

The missile’s imaging infrared (IIR) seeker enables a high-precision terminal approach with a large direct hit probability. The interceptor missile is guided toward its target using a data link, and once it is close enough to engage, its infrared imaging seeker acquires the target for the last stage of the engagement.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that IRIS-T SLM had demonstrated itself exceptionally and is a truly effective system. Meanwhile, the defense minister for Ukraine, Oleksii Reznikov, had also thanked his German counterpart, Christine Lambrecht, through Twitter for facilitating the agreement.

As Ukraine continues to reel under Russia’s missile strikes, the delivery of the remaining IRIS-T air defense systems could come as a shot-in-the-arm for Kyiv.

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