The United States government has confirmed that among several weapons sent to help Ukraine in its defense against Russian invasion is the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) anti-radar missile.
Russian media themselves had reported in early August that the missile was being used, sharing images of a destroyed example in which the serial number appears to be authentic.
The high-speed missile has been in the spotlight for successful attacks against targets behind Russian lines. The unexpected factor is that these missions are being employed with MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters, which would have been adapted to launch the AGM-88.
US officials do not reveal how many missiles were passed on to Ukraine or how the Russian-origin aircraft were integrated into the missile, only admitting that this was done on “MiG” jets.
The MiG-29 is currently the manufacturer’s only model in service with the Ukrainian Air Force, which has relied on supplies of spare parts obtained from Western countries to keep them in service.
Tablet to select the target
The swift adaptation of the US missile fighter jet surprised analysts. For The Aviationist, the task involves more than equipping the MiG-29 with the LAU-118A launcher on the wing pylons. It is necessary to integrate electrical and electronic systems to allow its use.
In addition, target acquisition is done by US fighters through a multi-function display, something that is not available on the MiG-29, which has only analog instruments.
The most likely hypothesis is that the Ukrainian pilots were carrying a tablet connected to the missile to carry out the targeting provided by the AGM-88 sensor.
Adapting Ukrainian aircraft to more advanced Western weapons systems appears to be a faster and more efficient strategy than proposals to train the country’s military to fly aircraft such as the F-16, F-15 fighter jets and the A-10 attack aircraft.
In addition to the long training time, US military aircraft require a whole maintenance infrastructure that does not exist in Ukraine. Furthermore, the possible downing of one of these jets by Russia could have very negative consequences on public opinion.