War in Ukraine

Ukraine to Receive ASC 890 Long-Range Radar Detection Aircraft from Sweden. Why is it Important?

ASC 890

Sweden Announces Unprecedented $1.3 Billion Aid Package to Ukraine, Including ASC 890 Radar Aircraft.

Sweden’s massive aid package to Ukraine includes a significant addition that has never been seen in independent Ukraine before—an AWACS type aircraft or simply put a radar detection aircraft. It enables the detection of targets at long distances from the air, enhancing monitoring and increasing range.

The aircraft in question is the ASC 890, also known as the SAAB 340 AEW, based on the SAAB platform. For Ukraine, this is an extremely significant form of assistance. Here’s why it's important. 

Long-Range Detection

Let’s start with two offensive elements of the Russian army. Firstly, it’s aviation, which outnumbers Ukrainian forces by at least tenfold. Secondly, it’s cruise and ballistic missiles. To counter these threats, they first need to be detected. Ukraine had its monitoring systems, and apartners provided additional systems However, all these systems were ground-based, thus having a limited range.

The ASC 890 aircraft changes this. It is an airborne radar detection system capable of identifying targets in the air, on land, and at sea. Notably, the aircraft can also detect low-altitude targets, which ground stations often cannot.

The ASC 890’s detection capabilities include a viewing range of up to 450 km and the ability to detect enemy fighters at a distance of up to 350 km, even with the use of electronic warfare or other jamming systems.

Thus, having such an aircraft in Ukraine's arsenal will help with the earlier detection of Russian aircraft, cruise missiles, and even naval vessels, enabling Ukraine to organize its air defense more effectively.

Support for Fighter Jet Operations

Another crucial aspect is that AWACS aircraft assist fighter jet operations. For Ukraine, this could mean cooperation between the ASC 890 and F-16 aircraft, expected to arrive by the summer of 2024. Since Ukraine will use F-16s as part of its air defense, the ASC 890 will aid in detecting Russian cruise missiles. Additionally, F-16s will have air-to-air missiles to combat Russian fighters, which will be detected earlier thanks to the ASC 890’s extensive range.

Achieving Parity with the Enemy

Before the full-scale invasion, Ukraine did not have radar aircraft. Some intelligence on Russian actions was shared by allies, but this was insufficient for effective combat against Russia.

Russia, on the other hand, had and still has radar aircraft, known as the A50U system. The exact number of these aircraft in service is unknown. Russia frequently deployed A50Us over the Black Sea, with a range of up to 600 km, allowing them to monitor almost all of Ukraine's airspace. This complicated the actions of Ukrainian offensive aviation, as they could be seen by the enemy, along with missiles.

Two successful operations to down these aircraft in January and February 2024 helped reduce the activity of A50U flights. Additionally, two more aircraft were damaged on airfields during the full-scale invasion. Unofficial estimates suggest Russia may have 5-6 of these aircraft remaining.

By acquiring the ASC 890, Ukraine will gain the capability to monitor the skies and start achieving parity with Russia, as it will now have similar systems.

Sweden’s Assistance

The ASC 890 aircraft is part of a large aid package from Sweden. The total package amounts to $1.3 billion. The exact cost of the ASC 890 is not disclosed, but in 2023, Poland purchased two such systems from Sweden for $58 million.

Additionally, Ukraine will receive Rb 99 missiles, a licensed version of the American AIM-120B, over 200 Pansarbandvagn armored personnel carriers, and a significant amount of other aid to strengthen Ukraine's armed forces.

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