The UK will for the first time supply Ukraine with a number of powerful missiles to defend against Russian airstrikes, but it is not supplying the weapons that launch them.

Instead, AMRAAM rockets – capable of shooting down cruise missiles – will help arm air defense systems that will be handed over to Ukraine by the United States.

A supply shortage of such systems means Western allies, meeting in Brussels this week, are struggling to meet increasingly urgent demands from the government in Kyiv to protect Ukrainian skies from Russian missile and drone attacks.

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Asked by Sky News whether the West’s failure to give Ukraine more of these much-needed air defense systems sooner was due to a lack of political will or a lack of supplies, the US Secretary of State Defense, Lloyd Austin, gave only a half answer.

“Well, it’s certainly not a matter of lack of will,” he said Wednesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, speaking after chairing a contact group of NATO allies. NATO and other partners who have come together to pledge military support to Ukraine.

“The commitment, the determination that the President [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mike Milley] and that I witnessed in this contact group meeting today was inspiring, and that is what I said to the members of the group. They remain committed to doing everything they can to generate additional capacity.”

But a senior diplomat told Sky News that a shortage of air defense system supplies was a key factor limiting allies’ ability to meet Ukraine’s needs.

The UK and other NATO members cut defense spending, reduced the size of their armed forces and reduced their ammunition stocks after the end of the Cold War.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has belatedly triggered an overhaul of their collective security funding, but it takes time to restock stores.

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British air defense missiles, believed to be in double digits, will arrive in Ukraine in the coming weeks.

“Russia’s latest indiscriminate strikes on civilian areas in Ukraine warrant additional support for those seeking to defend their nation,” Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement released by the Defense Ministry on Thursday. .

“So today I authorized the supply of AMRAAM anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine.

“These weapons will help Ukraine defend its skies against attack and bolster its overall missile defense alongside the US NASAMS.”

Washington has pledged to send a total of eight National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) to Ukraine, with the first two to be delivered soon and the remaining six over a longer period.

Germany has also delivered an air defense system, with three more expected to arrive next year.

As well as the new rockets, the UK will also donate hundreds of additional, less powerful air defense missiles, as well as hundreds of drones and another 18 artillery howitzers.

The announcement came as NATO defense ministers met for a second day in Brussels on Thursday, although Mr Wallace was not present for Wednesday’s meeting.

They should discuss ways to replenish their own ammunition stocks and work together to procure weapons for their safety as well as to continue to support Ukraine in the long term.

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