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The US State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Ukraine of MIM-23 HAWK Phase III surface-to-air missile (SAM) system sustainment and related elements of logistics and programme support, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 9 April 2024.

The sale, which is worth an estimated USD 138 million (EUR 129.8 million, has been passed to the US Congress for final approval.

The United States first provided HAWK SAMs to Ukraine in 2022 after Spain gifted the country six HAWK launchers. The MIM-23 system has been withdrawn from US service, but various iterations of the system are still operated by around two dozen countries. While Ukraine subsequently received more capable SAMs such those of the Patriot system, at the time the HAWKs provided Ukraine with an air defence capability that extended beyond the short-range Stinger SAMs the US had initially provided.

The Ukrainian request includes sustainment-related articles and services for the HAWK Phase III SAM system, including engineering and integration for communications and interoperability; refurbishment and system overhaul of HAWK fire units; missile recertification components; tool kits; test equipment; support equipment; technical documentation; spare parts; training; US government and contractor technical and field office support; and other related elements of logistics and programme support.

“The Secretary of State has determined and provided detailed justification that an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale to the government of Ukraine of the above defense articles and services in the national security interests of the United States, thereby waiving the congressional review requirements under Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act, as amended,” the DSCA stated.

“Ukraine has an urgent need to increase its capabilities to defend against Russian missile strikes and the aerial capabilities of Russian forces. Maintaining and sustaining the HAWK missile system will enhance Ukraine’s ability to defend its people and protect critical national infrastructure,” the agency noted.

Although the DSCA included in its notification the usual caveat that “the proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region”, in reality this cannot be further from the truth; the United States and Ukraine’s other Western allies are obviously looking to turn the tide in Ukraine in Kyiv’s favour and, in doing to, thwart the belligerent foreign policy of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, the measure most likely to do that – a USD 95.3 billion US foreign aid bill that includes USD 60 billion for Ukraine – remains hung up in the US Congress. The bill was passed by the US Senate in February 2024, but Make America Great Again Republicans allied to former president Donald Trump have blocked it in the House of Representatives.

Funding for the HAWK SAM sustainment came from the 2022 Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, according to a US official who spoke to Reuters.

A Romanian MIM-23 HAWK SAM being fired from Capu Midia Training Area in Romania on 19 July 2017. Ukraine has operated donated HAWK systems since 2022. (Photo: US Army)