Raytheon’s Ukraine War Missile Defense Footprint

Peace Advocate March 2023

Photo by Ginge Armour from Unsplash.

by Richard Krushnic

NATO’s main preoccupation these days is determining how well it can arm Ukraine without driving Russia into using tactical nuclear weapons—and how many red lines does it dare to cross while trying to crush Russia. The major red line that hasn’t been crossed—yet–is provision of jet attack aircraft. Crossing that line is fraught with risk. If the US and NATO allies provide both effective air-attack capability and effective wide-area air defense, the likely outcome would be use of tactical nuclear weapons by both sides. It is my understanding that all war games contemplating exactly this scenario have resulted in global nuclear war.

So, the question here is whether or not the US and NATO allies are going to do what they have not done so far: provide effective wide-area air defense to Ukraine. Ukraine started out with effective air defense—Russian S-300 ground-to-air missile batteries. But over one year of war, most of the S-300 systems have been destroyed or don’t have a supply of replacement missiles. Even contributions of S-300s and less effective systems from other countries hasn’t stopped the perception that air defense is getting destroyed considerably faster than it’s getting effectively replaced on the ground. Now that Ukraine’s air defense systems have mostly been destroyed, Raytheon Technologies missiles are becoming a significant portion, if not the heart, of Ukraine’s air defense.

Some history

Almost a year before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country planned to send 1,000 Lockheed-Raytheon Javelin and 500 Raytheon Stinger missiles to Ukraine. Three days after the invasion, Biden announced that the US would send 500 Stingers to Ukraine. By late April 2022 — two months after the war began — the U.S. alone had provided 1,400 Stinger systems and 5,500 Javelin systems to Ukraine. In December 2022, Gregory J. Hayes, Raytheon’s chief executive, noted that the US sent an additional 200 Stingers, bringing the total sent to 1,600.

The joint missile-building venture was awarded a $309 million contract by the US Army on May 16, 2022, to manufacture more than 1,300 Javelin systems, which cost between $80,000 and $200,000 apiece, to meet domestic and Ukrainian demands. The Javelin has an effective battlefield range of 1.5 miles. Another $311 million contract was awarded in September 2022 for 1,800 more. Lockheed Martin CEO Jim Taiclet told CBS in early May that the joint venture was working to double its production capacity of Javelins to 4,000 from the current 2,100 a year. But Taiclet also added that it would take “maybe even a couple of years” to “crank up” the company’s supply chain to meet the production goals.”

Since October, 2022, two batteries of Raytheon Technologies’ NASAMS (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems) have been on the ground in Ukraine. A NASAMS battery includes a radar, sensors, launchers that can be loaded with six missiles each and a mobile command center where soldiers can monitor airborne threats. Every component can be towed or placed on the back of a truck and moved quickly. It is not clear how many launcher sets are in each battery. This medium-range air defense system has a much greater range than the shoulder-fired Stinger, but less than the Patriot. The launchers can also fire Raytheon AMRAMs (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) and a version of the Sidewinder. This makes the NASAM launchers especially attractive to the military, since the US has stocks of all three missiles it can send. In November 2022, the Army awarded Raytheon Co., Tewksbury, Massachusetts, a $1.2 billion firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of NASAMS, associated equipment, services, and spares.

In December 2022, it was announced that two batteries of Patriot missiles — one from Britain and one from the US — would be sent to Ukraine soon, with trained Ukrainian personnel. Each battery will probably have around 32 launchers. Raytheon’s Patriot is a bit longer range and more adept at shooting down ballistic missiles than other Raytheon missiles already in Ukraine. If, say, three more batteries are sent, this would be a serious red-line crossing; however, it probably wouldn’t trigger a nuclear response unless accompanied by a large number of attack jets with trained pilots and ammo.

Raytheon’s RIM-7 Sea Sparrow has served widely with the U.S. Navy and many allied nations since it first entered service in 1967. It can attack ship-to-ship up to 12 miles away and air-to-air up to 22 miles away. Nearly half the Seasparrow production work is done in Tucson, AZ, but work is also done in 8 other nations. Raytheon was awarded a new $400 million contract for more Sea-sparrows in November of 2022.

Some more history. Raytheon SM-3 (Standard Missile-3) is one of the US provocations leading up to Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine. The SM-3 is the most successful and most widely deployed US intermediate-range air-defense systems. Unlike all of the air-defense systems supplied to Ukraine, the SM-3 can shoot down intermediate-range ballistic missiles that fly above the atmosphere. SM’3s, controlled by the US, are operational in Romania, and are now becoming operational in Poland. Nuclear-tipped Raytheon Tomahawk cruise missiles can be fired out of the same MK-41 launch tubes as the SM-3. Since the US controls the facilities in Poland and Romania, it could easily sneak in nuclear-tipped Tomahawks that could reach Moscow.

As far as we know, there are no SM-3s in Ukraine. US efforts to bring Ukraine into NATO engendered Russian visions of SM-3s and nuclear Tomahawks on their border in Ukraine. Raytheon SM-3s in Romania and Poland (because the launchers can carry nuke missiles), along with NATO expansion, the 2014 coup, and the 8 years of attacks on Russian Eastern Ukraine have been recognized as reasons Russia invaded Ukraine.

Raytheon Patriot missiles and the air defense red line

If several more Patriot batteries are added to the other air defense missiles already sent or committed, Ukraine could gain wide-area control of the air, at least in a significant part of the country. To cross that red line, there would have to be several times as many of the Raytheon missiles mentioned above, and significant numbers of longer-range systems, such as the Raytheon Patriot, would have to be added. In December 2022, NATO got closer to the red line by sending the first two Patriot batteries, one from the US and one from Britain. Each has 32 launchers. The US has 50 batteries in its inventory, so it can afford to send more. Unlike all the other air defense systems sent to Ukraine so far, the Patriot can shoot down short-range ballistic missiles.

Each Patriot battery consists of a truck-mounted launching system with eight launchers that can hold up to four missile interceptors each, a ground radar, a control station, and a generator. The US has exported Patriots to 15 countries, including Romania and Poland. Romania received its first Patriot battery in September 2020, and is supposed to have received a total of 7 batteries by the end of 2022. Poland is supposed to receive 6 more batteries by 2026. The point at which Russia will no longer allow Patriots to enter before breaching Armageddon with tactical nukes depends on how many get deployed and how many Russia destroys.

Raytheon is deeply complicit in NATO’s toying with the thin red line. It made the original and variant versions of the entire Patriot system up to the present, most advanced, version, the PAC-3. Lockheed and Raytheon received a $6.1 billion contract for more Patriot Pac-3s in 2020. All Patriots going to Ukraine will probably be of the older versions contracted solely to Raytheon. However, since the key red line is the combination of effective wide-area air defense and a large number of attack jets with trained pilots and ammo, that red line may not be crossed for at least two years, since it takes at least that amount of time to train pilots for F-16 jets. On the other hand, if NATO pilots fly them, the final red line could be crossed in 2023.

And some more history. NATO forces buildups in Romania and Poland convinced Russia it could under no circumstances allow the same apparent threat to happen along its 1,300-mile border with Ukraine, much of which is 350-450 miles from Moscow. This proximity would enable an attack of Moscow without warning. The Ukrainian main battle tank red line now being approached in Ukraine, has already been crossed in Poland, where 240 US main battle Abrams tanks have already begun arriving in 2023, and 250 more upgraded Abrams are scheduled for arrival in 2025. Poland received 6 Patriot batteries by the end of 2022, and will receive 7 more by 2026. Other NATO country buildups also move us closer to Armageddon, since they too threaten Russia’s existence. Averting Armageddon may depend on US willingness to accept in Ukraine the inevitable emergence of the multi-polar world.

So the question becomes this: If Russia continues being effective in drawing in Ukrainian forces to close range, and then decimating them with artillery, can the Ukrainians hold on for two to three years until the massive number of Raytheon effective air-defense systems are on the battlefield? It is somewhat likely that NATO will not be able to prevent Russia from completing takeover of all of Donetsk and Luhansk during this time, and from continuing to destroy far more weapons systems than are being replaced by NATO.

In this situation, there is only one way to short-circuit the time needed to achieve effective air defense: supplying large numbers of strike aircraft, with long-range precision guided missiles to destroy assets in Russia and short-range anti-radiation missiles to destroy Russian air-defense radars in Ukraine. If significant Russian victory is imminent before the effective Raytheon air-defense can be provided, will the US permit Russia to accomplish many of its objectives, or will it provide large-scale attack aircraft to Ukraine, which could cause nuclear war? Isn’t it about time to start seeking to develop strategies that do not take us closer to Armageddon?

Richard Krushnic is a Massachusetts Peace Action researcher and activist, is working to create a Massachusetts Public Bank, is retired from public financing of community economic development, and does community development projects in Nicaragua.