The US has been quietly giving Ukraine radar-hunting missiles that could really be a problem for Russia

U.S. Marines load an AGM-88 high-velocity anti-radiation missile onto an F/A-18C Aug. 13, 2021 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Tyler Harmon
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A senior Defense Department official said this month the US had sent anti-radiation missiles to Ukraine.
The official did not say which missile, but there are reports of AGM-88 missiles in service in Ukraine.
The AGM-88 may have a limited impact overall, but it gives Russian troops another cause for concern.
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Russian radar stations are in open season as Ukraine deploys US-made anti-radiation missiles designed to detect radar beams.
Ukraine's advantage will likely be temporary as the Russian military adjusts, but for now the presence of AGM-88 HARM, or High-Speed ​​Anti-Radiation Missiles, will make Russian troops think twice before launching theirs Turn on radars.
The presence of AGM-88 poses problems for Russian air defense radars needed to defend against Ukrainian helicopters and jets, and counter-battery radars used to locate Ukrainian artillery - including US-made multiple rocket launchers.
Reports of radar-disrupting missiles in Ukraine surfaced in early August after Russian bloggers reported the discovery of fragments of a HARM that allegedly struck a Russian anti-aircraft missile site in Ukraine. The Pentagon soon confirmed that HARMs had been shipped to Ukraine.
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"We have installed a number of anti-radiation missiles that can be fired by Ukrainian planes and can affect Russian radars," Colin Kahl, the secretary of state for defense policy, told reporters Aug. 8, although he did not identify the missiles or provide other details.
A radar hunter
US Navy A-7E Corsairs during Operation Desert Storm in February 1991. The jet in the foreground carries an AGM-88.CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
HARM is a powerful weapon, but it's not a new one. First deployed in 1983, the 14-foot, 800-pound missile has a range of 30 miles and a top speed of Mach 2.
US aircraft suppressing enemy air defense missions have used the AGM-88 on several operations including in Libya, Iraq and Yugoslavia. The rocket is now used by a total of 15 countries.
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The AGM-88 is a descendant of the AGM-45 Shrike, which saw mixed success in the Vietnam War.
The Shrike - based on the troubled AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile - had a short range and could only target a limited number of radar frequencies. North Vietnamese radar operators learned to confuse the missile's radar seeker by turning their transmitters on and off.
US Marines take off a training AGM-88 from an F/A-18C aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt, January 12, 2015.US Navy/MCS Seaman Anthony N. Hilkowski
The HARM has corrected these deficiencies. Its radar seeker covers a wide frequency range and maintains the location of the radar transmitter even when the radar is turned off. Its 30-mile range means it can be launched out of range of many anti-aircraft weapons.
The US Navy will deploy the AGM-88G Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Extended Range (AARGM-ER) and Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW) in 2023, designed to engage a larger number of targets in hostile air -Defense system being developed for the F-35.
For its part, Russia has the Kh-31P anti-radiation missile – based on the Kh-31 supersonic anti-ship missile – which was sold to China as the YJ-91.
The Limits of Air Power
A Russian Su-34 shot down by Ukrainian forces in Chernihiv on April 22, 2022. Nicola Marfisi/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Anti-Radiation Missiles aren't silver bullets, but they can be very useful. If launched before an airstrike, they can suppress air defenses and clear a safe path for friendly aircraft.
They can also be fooled by tricks like lock radar transmitters. For example, the US TLQ-32 decoy system places fake transmitters some distance from real radar. (The point of impact of the bait is called the "ARM pit".)
Rather, anti-radar missiles are just one of many tools - like jammers and decoys - in the ever-evolving game of cat-and-mouse of electronic warfare.
Anti-radiation missiles are in many ways a psychological weapon. HARM will not shut down Russian radars entirely, but their operators are becoming more cautious and selective in their transmissions.
A US Air Force F-16C armed with an AGM-88 and other missiles at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey May 20, 2002.US Air Force/Tech Sgt. Kevin Grünwald
In Ukraine, anti-radiation missiles are likely to have limited effect.
Air power has not been a key factor in the conflict so far: Ukraine is short of modern aircraft, and Russian pilots have been surprisingly reluctant and ineffective. Shutting down Russian air defense radars will not necessarily result in more success for Ukrainian planes.
Currently, artillery is the deadliest weapon in the Ukraine war, and HARMs will help Ukrainian forces hit the Russian counter-battery radars that track shells and rockets in flight, calculate their trajectories, and locate the howitzers and rocket launchers that fired them.
Suppression of Russian counter-battery systems will help protect Ukraine's vastly outnumbered artillery - particularly the US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, which have conducted devastating strikes on Russian ammunition dumps and command posts.
Michael Peck is a defense writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy Magazine, and other publications. He has a Masters in Political Science. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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