Ukraine’s state-owned, joint-stock defence company, ‘Ukroboronprom’, has announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with MBDA Germany, a company eager to position itself as the central hub for the continent’s missile system procurement.

The document envisages a joint study of programmes or opportunities for co-operation regarding air defence systems and concepts, “in particular for countering uncrewed aerial systems (C-UAS).

Potential areas of partnership also cover research, development, production and investment in Ukraine’s ability to source these defensive capabilities.

“Cooperation with the world’s leading arms companies not only expands Ukraine’s existing capabilities on the battlefield, but also lays a solid foundation for the further development of our defence industry and promotes its integration into Nato’s defence industry,” stated the general director of Ukroboronprom, Herman Smetanin.

US support may no longer be an option

With the potential withdrawl of US military aid to Ukraine, should Congress fail to legislate the $60bn funds the Senate recently appoved, then European countries are expected to take on the burden themselves despite their insufficient defence industrial output.

However, if Congress decides to approve the military support package then the US Government is considering the provision of long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS); these missile defence systems have a range of 300 kilometres.

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The short-range version of the system – which the Atlantic Council, a US security think tank, described as “game-changing” – were previously donated to Kyiv in October last year.

Ukraine conducted successful ATACMS strikes in October 2023 but did not have enough supplies to sustain a strike campaign with the systems that could have presented operational challenges for Russian forces in Ukraine.

The provision was not enough to encumber Russian aviation operations and the supply of ammunition was insufficient – a trend that largely explains the recent Ukrainian withdrawl from Avdiivka.

MBDA to stimulate Ukrainian C-UAS

MBDA Germany is attempting to position itself at the centre of the European missile market through a range of programmes. One such programme involves the company’s subsidiary, Bayern Chemie, restarting production of ramjet systems for Raytheon’s Patriot missile defence systems.

As part of its business strategy, the German supplier will bolster Ukraine’s C-UAS capabilties. MBDA has a range of systems in its air defence portfolio.

One of their C-UAS solutions is Sky Warden: a system with various effector solutions. These effectors, which are available on the market or can be introduced at short notice, can be integrated into highly mobile, tactical platforms.

The Sky Warden system manages the full C-UAS kill chain from detection to neutralisation and is designed to operate both as an integrated component in a layered air defence architecture, or in a standalone configuration.

Another solution is high-energy laser weapon systems. MBDA Germany successfully tested its Laser Weapon Demonstrator onboard a German frigate in September last year. Since then, the company has revealed its plans to expand this particular product, which can serve as a C-UAS solution.

The Bundeswehr requires a smaller, integrated and modular system as opposed to the 20 foot, six and a half tonne container unit that was on board the German Sachsen frigate. In conjucntion, MBDA Germany will also make the system more powerful – with the ability to engage more difficult targets such as drone swarms.

Currently, the LWD’s beam operates at 50-100 kilowatts, which requires a three-to-five-second engagement time to destroy a target.