Denmark offers Harpoon missiles to Ukraine to fight Russian Black Sea blockade

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Denmark’s plan to send Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a launcher to Ukraine would provide kyiv with an advanced weapon capable of breaking through the Russian naval blockade, potentially allowing the resumption of grain exports via the Black Sea.

But it may take months for Ukraine’s military to be trained in using the weapons and integrating them into the country’s coastal defense systems, military experts said, indicating the missiles would not be an instant game-changer.

The United States has developed Harpoon missiles during the Cold War. They are very versatile and can be fired from surface ships, submarines, aircraft and land launchers. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin did not specify which variant Copenhagen had offered to send, but a 2013 guide to the missile system from manufacturer Boeing says coastal defense systems use the land-based option.

Austin praised Denmark for Harpoon’s contribution after a meeting of the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group on Monday. Copenhagen did not comment publicly on the arms delivery, and the Danish Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Harpoons — which can cost up to $1 million per unit — are precision-guided weapons that require GPS coordinates to strike. kyiv could use intelligence provided by NATO assets for targeting, said Alexey Muraviev, a Russian military expert at Curtin University in Australia.

There is precedent for such assistance. Washington provided kyiv with maritime intelligence that helped it sink Russia’s Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva in April, creating “more than a huge problem” for Moscow, it said. -he declares.

Malcolm Nance, a Navy veteran and former MSNBC analyst who volunteered to fight in the Ukrainian military last month, said on Twitter that Ukraine could use its Turkish-designed Bayraktar TB2 drones to support targeting.

Some experts have suggested that Russia might view the moves as an escalation by NATO, but Nance downplayed that risk. “What are they going to do. Invade Ukraine? he wrote.

One hurdle for Ukraine is the difficulty of integrating US-designed missiles into its coastal defense systems, which are built with Soviet technology, Muraviev said. He said it could take months before the harpoons are deployed against the Kremlin’s Black Sea Fleet.

Harpoons have been compared to javelins, anti-tank weapons that Ukrainian troops have used to good effect against Russia. They are also part of the arsenal of Taiwan, the self-governing island in East Asia that has a contract to buy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons from Boeing. Some parallels have been drawn between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the threat Taiwan faces from its much larger, nuclear-armed neighbor China.

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If kyiv’s forces are properly trained and the missiles are properly integrated into its platforms, the harpoons could force Russian ships to stay away from Ukrainian shores. It could mean a boost in the fight against world hunger: Ukraine was one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat and maize in 2020, and a weakening of the Russian blockade could boost global food supplies and lower prices.

But Muraviev warned that Russia would likely react to Ukraine’s use of harpoons, perhaps by stepping up its efforts to take Odessa, a major Black Sea port that is still under Ukrainian control. This would force Ukrainian fighters further away from Russian ships.

Moscow could also rely more on its submarines because harpoons are primarily designed to hit surface ships, he said.

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