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12 Oct, 2022 16:00

Kiev receives first unit of German air defense system

Ukraine's Defense Minister has hailed the arrival of the IRIS-T as the beginning of a “new era of air defense”
Kiev receives first unit of German air defense system

The first unit of Germany’s cutting-edge IRIS-T air defense system has arrived in Ukraine, the country’s Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov has confirmed. His German counterpart Christine Lambrecht described the shipment as an important contribution to the Eastern European nation’s ability to defend itself from “missile shelling.”

Taking to Twitter on Wednesday, Reznikov wrote: “A new era of air defence has begun in [Ukraine]. IRIS-Ts from [Germany] are already here.” The minister noted that Kiev needs more weapons of this kind, arguing that protecting the sky over Ukraine against the “terrorist state” of Russia is a “moral imperative.”

Several hours later, Germany’s defense ministry posted a tweet of its own, stressing that Berlin had kept its word and announced that the “first IRIS-T SLM air defence system has arrived in #Ukraine.”

In a follow-up message, ministry officials quoted their boss Christine Lambrecht as hailing the shipment as “very important support to Ukraine in its fight against missile shelling, against terror.”

Der Spiegel media outlet reported on the delivery already on Tuesday. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made the original pledge back in June, with the shipment initially slated for November. A total of four units made up of a command vehicle, a radar vehicle, and a truck-mounted launcher are scheduled to arrive in Ukraine some time in 2023.

According to media reports, Kiev requested at least a dozen of these ultra-modern air defense systems and offered to purchase them directly from the manufacturer, Diehl Defense.

Der Spiegel claimed the three units promised by Berlin have not even been manufactured yet, however. 

Meanwhile, Germany’s own military has not received a single unit of the ground-based IRIS-T system variant yet. This underlines concerns voiced by some German politicians and media outlets that Berlin is seriously depleting its own weapons stockpiles by supplying the hardware to Kiev.

Meanwhile, Ukraine had until recently consistently lambasted Germany over its perceived unwillingness to provide heavy weaponry.

With an effective range believed to be up to 40km (25 miles), the air defense system is rather expensive, according to former Ukrainian ambassador to Germany Andrey Melnik. Speaking to Wirtschaftswoche magazine back in June, the diplomat estimated that one such unit could cost some €140 million ($135.4 million).