Ukraine Has Received NATO’s Most Dangerous Anti Radiation Missile: AGM-88 HARM Already Used Against Russia

On August 8 U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl confirmed that the United States had supplied “anti radiation missiles” to Ukraine which could be launched from some aircraft in the Ukrainian fleet. The statement followed the publication of images showing the remains of an AGM-88 HARM anti radiation missile after it had been fired at Russian positions, with that class of weapon not previously known to have been supplied to the Eastern European state. The AGM-88 has been in service since 1985, but is still considered the most capable in the Western world for suppression of enemy air defences. These classes of weapons home in on enemy radio frequency emissions, which makes them ideal for neutralising ground radars and air defence sites, with the AGM-88 itself specifically having been first employed in the Gulf War but also in later U.S. military interventions against Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya. The Russian-Ukrainian War is the first in which the weapon is confirmed to have been used by a military other than that of the United States, although its usefulness considering the limited numbers of aircraft the Ukrainian Air Force fields remains in question. Indeed, Ukraine’s lack of aircraft known to be compatible with the missile has fuelled speculation that the missiles may have been fired by NATO aircraft secretly supporting the Ukraine Military in combat roles. 

Russia’s widespread and effective use of ground based air defence systems makes the AGM-88 a potentially ideal asset for the Ukrainian war effort should sufficient aircraft be available to employ it. The Ukrainian military has continued to receive new aircraft from NATO member states, most notably Su-25 attack jets from Macedonia, although it remains to be seen whether the missiles will significantly impact the balance of power without significant improvements to Ukraine’s fleet of combat jets. The possibility of the missiles’ remains being acquired by Russia, studied and used to help developing countermeasures, also remains significant. 

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