he question of how the AGM-88 HARM is used by the Armed Forces remains the biggest puzzle, but an extremely valuable hint has appeared from the USA
The Pentagon has confirmed that in past aid packages to Ukraine, anti-radar missiles that can be used from Ukrainian aircraft have been transferred. This was officially announced by the US Deputy Secretary of Defense for Political Affairs, Colin Kahl, during a briefing.
“Also, in recent aid packages we have included a number of anti-radar missiles that can be launched from Ukrainian aircraft, which can affect Russian radars and other things,” Colin Kahl said.
At the same time, it should be recalled that recently the Russian military showed the wreckage of the anti-radar missile AGM-88 HARM , which destroyed one of the air defense systems of the Russian Federation. And the Pentagon’s statement excludes the possibility of using (at least now) this missile from a ground-based launcher.
But even not all Ukrainian combat aircraft can use anti-radar missiles. In particular, the only missile that is definitely in service with the Air Force of Ukraine is the Kh-58. And its only carrier is the Su-24. The Kh-58 missile has a launch range of up to 120 km when launched from a height of more than 10 km, the warhead weighs 47 kg, and the total weight of the missile is 490 kg.
In particular, on February 9, 2021, the State Scientific Research Institute of Testing and Certification of OVT reported on the modernization of Kh-58U guided air missiles, as well as components of the Su-24M aircraft’s detection, aiming and targeting system. There is no such information regarding the Kh-31P.
Also, the Su-24M and its reconnaissance variant, the Su-24MR, were repeatedly spotted with the Phantasmagoria radio-technical intelligence container, which is necessary for launching the X-58.
Thus, the first option for supplying anti-radar missiles from the USA to Ukraine is the X-58, which was also supplied for export. In particular, there is a theoretical possibility that they were bought by the USA, for example, in Algeria, India or Malaysia, which appear as X-58 operator countries.
But that doesn’t explain the wreckage of the AGM-88 HARM. Therefore, there is another option: the Su-24M, or another aircraft, such as the MiG-29 or Su-27, was adapted to its launch. In this vein, Polish or Slovak MiG-29s, which have been modernized to NATO standards, are often mentioned. But the fact is that these modernizations did not concern the integration of Western weapons into them.
There is absolutely no photo of a MiG-29 or Su-27 with an AGM-88 HARM under the wing, nor any verified information regarding the integration of these missiles into Soviet aircraft. The only hypothetical candidates are projects from Israel’s Elbit, which did not go beyond projects or single samples. For example, the MiG-29 Sniper, which is now in a museum in Romania.
At the same time, in this situation, perhaps, it is somewhat easier to adapt not an airplane, but a missile. AGM-88 HARM has an excellent mode of autonomous search for enemy radars, then the main task of the aircraft is only to deliver to the required point and launch a missile in the area of the target. For the Su-24M with the “Phantasmagoria” it is quite a real task to find the enemy’s radar, locate the target and launch the missile in autonomous mode.
The only difficulty that can be seen in this situation is the adaptation of the pylon and the use of a special adapter for the AGM-88 HARM, which will ensure the initiation of the missile. And it seems that this issue is technically much easier to solve than to redesign the entire aircraft.
In any case, this remains purely speculation, which may not take into account the real technical difficulties of integrating weapons into the aircraft. But the fact that the Air Force of Ukraine actively, and most importantly – effectively uses anti-radar missiles is a fact.
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