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US Sending Soviet-Made Air Defense Systems to Ukraine: Report

The US is sending “secretly acquired” Soviet-made short-range air defense equipment to Ukraine to help it protect against Russian air attacks, The Wall Street Journal revealed.

The outlet added that the US acquired the systems decades ago to examine their technology and train American forces on them, citing an unnamed American official. The Pentagon has declined to comment on the reported development.

According to the outlet, the SA-8 — Russian name 9K33 Osa — is one of the Soviet-made systems being sent to Ukraine.

The mobile SA-8 has a range of 30 kilometers (19 miles) and a top speed of 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour on land and 8 kilometers (5 miles) per hour on the water.

US Arms Package

The SA-8 will be an upgrade on the already supplied Stinger air-defense missile system to the country that can take down helicopters and low flying aircraft at an altitude of up to 4.8 kilometers (3 miles).

The development comes a week after US President Joe Biden announced a $1 billion security package to assist Ukraine, including “800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 9,000 anti-tank weapons, 7,000 light weapons, and 20 million rounds of ammunition.” The arms aid package also includes 100 Switchblade drones.

Biden added that the US would help the country acquire “additional longer-range anti-aircraft systems.”

The Soviet-made systems would be easier to handle for the Ukrainian forces due to their familiarity with such systems. The Ukrainian military already possesses some of the Soviet-made air defense systems such as the S-300. The outlet, however, ruled out sending the S-300 to the besieged country.

To Establish de Facto ‘No-Fly Zone’

The fresh infusion of air defense systems to Ukraine is reportedly geared towards helping the country establish a de facto “no-fly zone” over its airspace.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly requested a no-fly zone only to be rebuffed by the US and NATO, fearing that it might pit them directly against the Russians.

The US has also not decided yet on Slovakia’s proposal of sending its S-300 to Ukraine if Washington provides a replacement.  

Meanwhile, Biden will attend a NATO summit this week in Brussels to discuss “ongoing deterrence and defense efforts” for Ukraine.

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