Ukraine’s air defense used Martlet missiles transferred from the UK to intercept hundreds of Russian UAVs, countering attacks on winter energy infrastructure.
Russia has recently increased attacks using suicide drones (UAVs) on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, including an “unprecedented” raid in the past few months with 75 suicide UAVs on 6 provinces of Ukraine. Ukraine on November 25 caused 120 infrastructure and 77 civil buildings in the capital Kiev to lose power.
Analysts say this is a sign that Moscow has begun to carry out large-scale attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure like last winter. A series of raids at this time in 2022 caused heavy damage to many Ukrainian electricity production and transmission facilities, forcing the country to apply a nationwide rotating power cut regime.
Ukrainian officials said they had strengthened the air defense network at key infrastructure to cope with Russia’s attack. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on November 28 that the country’s air defense had intercepted 90% of missiles and UAVs in recent enemy attacks, but did not specify what weapons were used.
Britain’s Times newspaper on December 4 revealed that the country’s manufactured Martlet missile was the “key” to helping Ukraine intercept a series of Russian UAVs in the Kiev region recently, citing members of the 1129th Air Defense Regiment “Bila Tserkva”, the unit in charge of protecting the airspace in the area.
“The Martlet missile destroyed a total of 213 UAVs of all types, including the Shahed, Orlan and Lancet series,” said Lieutenant Colonel codenamed Kansas, commander of the 1129th Regiment.
Martlet, also known as LLM, is a multi-purpose light missile developed by Thales Group, headquartered in Northern Ireland, that can be launched from the air, sea and land, destroying many types of targets. including armored vehicles and UAVs. The missile has a length of 1.3 m, a weight of 13 kg, a range of 8 km, and a maximum speed of Mach 1.5 (about 1,850 km/h).
The missile is equipped with a multi-mode probe, combining laser beam tracking and thermal imaging sensors in the final phase. This allows the Martlet to rush to the target even when the laser signal is interrupted. The laser proximity fuze also helps increase the lethality of the missile even if it does not accurately hit the target.
The missile is optimized for small-sized targets, so it is suitable for intercepting attacks in large numbers using UAVs. This weapon is also considered suitable for use in urban warfare environments because it causes little collateral damage.
British media last April quoted a defense official as saying that London had secretly transferred Martlet missiles to Ukraine a month earlier, but did not disclose the quantity.
The British Ministry of Defense has not confirmed the information, but in October of the same year said it had provided Kiev with many air defense systems, including Stormer armored vehicles mounted with Starstreak missile launchers and hundreds of anti-aircraft missiles of all types.
British defense officials said the Martlet missile could be fired from Starstreak’s launch tube, adding that the “most suitable” target for this missile is a UAV.
According to military expert David Hambling, the Martlet missile was originally designed as an anti-ship weapon but has proven effective when confronting targets on land. “This is a useful addition to the Ukrainian army,” he emphasized.
However, this expert believes that the Martlet missile is not suitable for Ukraine to use as an offensive weapon due to its short range and cost, which is dozens of times more expensive than first-person UAVs, which Kyiv owns. Large numbers and equally effective in attacking targets such as Russian tanks and armored vehicles.
Despite effectively intercepting recent Russian raids, partly thanks to Martlet missiles, Ukrainian officials believe that Kiev needs more Western support to fend off upcoming enemy attacks in the winter.
President Zelensky said late last month that the country needed to be transferred more highly effective air defense systems from Western partners, while Mr. Yermak, Mr. Zelensky’s chief of staff, said on December 5 that Kiev would need more Long-range missiles for defense.