Spain committed to provide Ukraine with 4 MIM-23 HAWK systems.

Ukraine’s air defense system is becoming much more powerful with the help of its Western allies. Most recently, Ukraine has added two very respectable air defense systems from Spain, Aspide and MIM-23 HAWK, according to a notice of the Spanish Ministry of Defense on November 10, 2022. Spain committed to provide Ukraine with 4 MIM-23 HAWK systems. Ukraine has a strong need for much more advanced missile interceptors. So far, the only impressive air defense systems are NASAMS and IRIS-T delivered by the US and Germany.

Currently, the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces mainly rely on Soviet-era missile systems, mainly S-300 and Buk-M1. However, their combat effectiveness is not really high. There are opinions that the MIM-23 HAWK anti-aircraft missile complexes, produced since the 1960s, are now really outdated. Regardless, it is still a significant addition to the Ukrainian air defense forces.

HAWK is an American design from the Iron Curtain and Cold War era. The system was developed in the late 1950s and has been in operation since 1960. Since then, the MIM-23 HAWK has been modernized several times for missile interception. In the 1990s, they added modern radars for target detection, tracking and locking, a new warhead for missiles, and increased resistance to electronic warfare. According to Russian media, the MIM-23 can help Ukrainian forces effectively intercept aerial targets, especially drones as well as cruise missiles.

The maximum range of the MIM-23 HAWK is about 45 – 50 km, the missile is equipped with a solid fuel engine, can reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.4, and has a ceiling of 20 km. The navigation system is a semi-active homing guidance system – a fairly advanced technology at the time of its inception.

MIM-23 HAWK is very experienced in combat. Even in recent years, it was actively used in the Iraq and Libya wars. In Libya, the government in Tripoli received them as aid from Turkey. It can be said that MIM-23 HAWK is one of the most engaged air defense complexes. It first appeared on Israel’s side during the 1967 “Six-Day War”, but was unsuccessful, due to shortcomings in the radar system. By the “Yom Kippur War” in 1973, the US Military Industrial Corporation had overcome the shortcomings of the system, helping the Israeli army to shoot down 17 Arab planes and helicopters.

The most numerous version is the I-HAWK, capable of hitting targets at a range of 1 to 35 km, at an altitude of 6 to 18 km. In terms of tactical characteristics, it is equivalent to the Soviet S-125 “Neva” and 2K12 “Kub”/”Kvadrat” air defense missile complexes, which have long been retired from the Russian army. Over the course of several decades, the Hawk has demonstrated superiority in dozens of conflicts around the world. However, because it was built on 1960s technology of the last century, no matter how much upgraded, HAWK is no longer suitable for 21st century wars.

The last US military MIM-23 HAWKs were retired and put into storage in 2002, replacing them with man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). Spain is not indifferent to the conflict in Ukraine. Almost every month, military transport planes take off from Madrid to transport ammunition, supplies, medical equipment… to its allies.


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