TechUkrainian soldiers harness vintage hawk missile system to down drones

Ukrainian soldiers harness vintage hawk missile system to down drones

MIM-23 Hawk
MIM-23 Hawk
Images source: © U.S. National Archives
Mateusz Tomczak

4 July 2024 20:57

Ukrainian soldiers have commented on the MIM-23 Hawk air defence systems. This weapon was retired from service in the American army two decades ago. Still, despite this, it remains effective in modern conflict scenarios, even in engagements for which it was not originally designed.

"During training abroad, we worked on simulators, and the instructors explained that due to certain design features, this system is not typically viewed as being designed to counter drones. [...] Yes, despite Shahed drones being a challenging target for us, the Hawks manage! During the first anti-aircraft engagement, six such drones were destroyed one after the other," said a Ukrainian soldier from the unit operating the MIM-23 Hawk, as quoted by Business Insider.

MIM-23 Hawk in the war in Ukraine

The MIM-23 Hawk (Homing All the Way Killer) is an American medium-range anti-aircraft missile system. It was designed in the 1960s to pose a threat to the aircraft of the then Soviet Union.

Ukraine has received MIM-23 Hawk systems, which, although retired from service in many Western countries, remained in storage. It is known that the United States and Spain, among others, have sent such weapons to Ukraine in aid packages.

The range of the MIM-23 Hawk system was initially 24 kilometres for targets located at a maximum altitude of 15 kilometres. However, later variants incorporated modifications that allowed the use of missiles with greater capabilities. The range increased to 40 kilometres thanks to these modifications. In practice, the MIM-23 Hawk has proven effective in Ukraine against aircraft such as the Su-25 or Su-24, as well as older cruise missiles like the Kh-102. According to Ukrainian soldiers, Shahed drones can also be added to the list of MIM-23 Hawk targets.

This refers to the Shahed-136 drones that the Russians receive from Iran. These are relatively simple unmanned aerial vehicles based on a delta wing design. They are about 4 metres long and weigh approximately 200 kilograms, with about 50 kilograms accounted for by the warhead. The low construction costs of these drones mean the Russians use them on a very large scale. They have even endeavoured to produce Shahed-136 drones in their own country.

As Ukrainian soldiers explain, when using older weapons, it is very important to thoroughly check their technical condition and understand their operation method.

"The main secret is not even in the weapon we use but in the synchronous and well-coordinated work of the unit. We are well aware of the risks and consequences if we do not hear and complement each other," added a Ukrainian soldier from the unit operating the MIM-23 Hawk.

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