Ukraine is killing Russian missiles with hand-me-down air defense weapons the US retired decades ago


  • Ukraine is operating US-made Hawk air-defense systems from the 1960s.

  • Though the US retired these tools decades ago, Kyiv is now using them to kill Russian missiles.

  • One Ukrainian operator recently praised the effectiveness of the antiquated system.

The Ukrainians are using an American-made air-defense system that the US retired from service more than two decades ago to successfully shoot down Russian cruise missiles.

The MIM-23 Hawk is a medium-range, surface-to-air system that was first fielded in the 1960s and has long been considered obsolete, with militaries favoring more portable systems. But the hand-me-down weapons have found new life in Ukraine, proving they are still useful tools after all these years.

A Ukrainian soldier who operates the Hawk system, which stands for “Homing All the Way Killer,” said that although it’s not a new weapon, it is “effective in skilled hands.” He has more than two dozen kills to his name, including Russia’s Kh-59 cruise missiles and Iranian-made Shahed one-way attack drones.

The soldier, Oleksandr, was featured by the Ukrainian Air Force on Wednesday. In an interview, which was published to the AFU’s Telegram messaging app, he said Shahed drones are the most annoying to engage because they fly very slow, so its tiring to battle them over long periods of time.

A MIM-23 Hawk air-defense system.A MIM-23 Hawk air-defense system.

A MIM-23 Hawk air-defense system.Ukrainian Air Force

“‘Working with missiles is much easier, even when they are aimed at you,” Oleksandr said. “It was a little uncomfortable when three Kh-59 missiles, constantly changing altitude, flew right at us. But all the targets were captured and destroyed one by one.”

“The main secret is not even in the weapon we work on, but in the synchronous and coordinated work of the unit,” he said, according to a translation of his remarks. “We perfectly understand the risks and consequences if we do not hear or ignore each other.”

The Hawk system was deployed all around the world during its four decades in service with the US military, and it saw combat in the Middle East. By the 1990s, though, with the Cold War over, the aerial threat to American forces had changed, and the Hawk was retired and replaced with lower-altitude systems like the FIM-92 Stinger and Avenger. The MIM-104 Patriot was also available to meet other US air-defense needs.

Apparent kill marks on a MIM-23 Hawk air-defense system showing Russian drones and missiles it's taken down.Apparent kill marks on a MIM-23 Hawk air-defense system showing Russian drones and missiles it's taken down.

Apparent kill marks on a MIM-23 Hawk air-defense system showing Russian drones and missiles it’s taken down.Ukrainian Air Force

Though the US no longer use them, several countries still operate the Hawk and its multiple variants, including Spain, which first sent Ukraine a handful of launchers in October 2022. The Biden administration has since donated an unspecified number Hawk systems and munitions to Kyiv and has committed to procuring more for the country over the long term.

Ukrainian officials have routinely pressed the US and its NATO allies for more air-defense capabilities to battle the Russian threat. While the Hawk is an antiquated capability, it still helps plug crucial gaps in the sky.

The Hawk is not the only 1960s-era — and seemingly outdated — weapon to find successes in Ukraine. German-made Gepard cannons have also proven to be very effective at shooting down low-altitude Russian drones and cruise missiles.

Read the original article on Business Insider



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