Air Defense: Norway Gives It All To Ukraine


April 29, 2022: Norway has sent its entire stockpile of Mistral 2 MANPADS (Man-portable air-defense systems) to Ukraine. Norway no longer uses MANPADS but it is looking for a new one to be used by the one infantry battalion that guards the Russian border. The new missile system is supposed to be selected by 2025.

Norway, like many nations, retires weapons its forces no longer need or use just in the case older weapon is needed for some future emergency. Eventually retired weapons become too old for use and are scrapped.

Mistral is basically a heat seeking missile but the fire and forget option enables the operator to locate a target using the optical/infrared sight, mark that target as the one for the missile to go after when launched and send the missile on its way. “Fire and Forget” has become a common feature for all manner of guided missiles, especially anti-tank, anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles of all sizes.

The Mistral is similar to the American Stinger missile but not as portable. Stinger is a 14.3 kg (31.5 pound) shoulder fired anti-aircraft system that fires its 10.1 kg (22.2 pound) missile out to 4,500 meters. Both systems have similar resistance to countermeasures and a warhead of about the same size (2-3 kg/4.4-6.6 pounds). Mistral uses various launchers (weighing from 22.5 kg/49.5 pound to a ton) to fire one or more 18.7 kg (42 pound) missiles out to 6,500 meters.

Mistral entered service in 1989 but underwent a major upgrade in the 1990s to Mistral 2. A Mistral 3 upgrade entered service in 2019 and one of the features of that version is a longer range (over 7 kilometers).

Ukraine prefers more portable and modern MANPADS but Mistral 2 is still useful and combat proven over the last three decades. Mistral is more suited for defending fixed locations, like supply warehouses, hospitals or headquarters.

What Ukraine would really like from Norway is NASAMS and Norway is considering that request. Ukraine needs NASAMS right now, which means Norway would have to send some of the NASAMS batteries it is using to protect itself from an increasingly hostile Russia.

NASAMS is far superior to the similar Russian Buk M1 system Ukraine and Russia use, NASAMS is a system developed by Norway in the early 1990s and entered service in 1998. Norway pioneered the use of AMRAAM air-to-air missiles as surface-to-air weapons and developed the fire control and launcher equipment needed to make it all work. It was a simple but very effective use of air-to-air missiles for air defense. Other air-to-air missiles have been used for ground-based air defense systems but the Norwegian version is seen as the best of the lot. Norway has six NASAMS batteries for its own defense. Eleven other nations, like Hungary, Spain, Holland, Chile, and the United States, Finland and Lithuania also use NASAMS.

The NASAMS was initially developed for the Norwegian Air Force by Norwegian firm Kongsberg, in cooperation with American partner Raytheon, which produces AMRAAM. A major upgrade, NASAMS 2, officially entered service in 2007 and since then it has gained interest in more nations.

NASAMS popularity is due to a truly open architecture that, unlike the competitor systems, allows NASMS to be used with a wide variety of radars. Initially NASAMS used the American made MPQ-64 Sentinel radar but some customers requested a system that can work with different radars and air-to-air missiles. NASAMS has been tested and configured to work with more than 25 different radar systems and can fire just about any air-to-air missile that can be fired from NATO aircraft. All that is required is modifications to the size and electrical connections in the NASAMS launcher cells and software modification of the fire control system. Since NATO has long-established standards for “NATO weapons” NASAMS takes full advantage of this.

So far NASAMS has been configured with AIM-120 AMRAAM (together with the longer-range ER variant), AIM-9X Sidewinder and the European IRIS-T. The last one is an interesting story. Norway has a big stock of IRIS-T for their F-16 fighters but the new Norwegian F-35 is not compatible with IRIS-T, so they decided to use this very modern European missile as an anti-aircraft missile in NASAMS systems. This example clearly shows how flexible this system is while the competitor systems are “tied” to a limited number of missiles and radar.

A typical NASAMS battery consists of 12 launcher vehicles (each carrying six missiles), eight radar vehicles, one fire control center, and one tactical control vehicle.




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