Hungary boosts air defense capability with NASAMS anti-air system

"Strengthening Hungary's air defense capabilities is key to our country's security. We're acquiring the NASAMS missile system from Kongsberg, Norway, to provide advanced air defense to Hungary" (Picture: Twitter)

The Hungarian Defence Forces have taken delivery of the first two fire units of the NASAMS air defense system, supplied by the Norwegian company Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace in collaboration with the American defense giant RTX (Raytheon). The NASAMS system is set to replace Hungary’s post-Soviet 2K12 Kub systems, bolstering the country’s air defense capabilities.

The Hungarian Ministry of Defence has confirmed that an additional five fire units of the NASAMS air defense system will be delivered in the coming year. This significant acquisition follows Hungary’s contract signing in November 2020 with Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace and Raytheon for the procurement of seven fire units of NASAMS air defense systems, with a total contract value of $600 million.

Furthermore, Hungary will receive 180 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and 60 AMRAAM-Extended Range (AMRAAM-ER) missiles, purchased from the United States through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) procedure. According to the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the cost of procuring these missiles amounts to approximately USD 730 million.

“Strengthening Hungary’s air defense capabilities is key to our country’s security. We’re acquiring the NASAMS missile system from Kongsberg, Norway, to provide advanced air defense to Hungary” (Picture source: Twitter account of Hungarian Defense Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky)

According to the Hungarian Ministry of Defence, the first fire unit of the NASAMS air defense system is expected to achieve operational capability by the end of 2024. This substantial enhancement in Hungary’s air defense capabilities demonstrates the country’s commitment to ensuring its national security and preparedness.

The Hungarian Defense Minister held talks with Norwegian Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram on a number of important issues. First and foremost, they discussed the development of Hungary’s air defense system, to which Norway contributes with the NASAMS missile system. Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky said that the delivery of the system and the training will be carried out as agreed, and expressed the hope that this cooperation will be followed by others in the future.

As reported by Hungary Today, Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky stressed that the war is seen from a different perspective by Hungarians living in the immediate neighborhood and with a significant national community in Ukraine, where not only Hungarian lives are being lost in the fighting. Hungary protects Hungarians, whether they live on the Hungarian or the Ukrainian side of the border, he said, adding that this is why the government does not provide weapons or ammunition to Ukraine and does not allow arms shipments and equipment to cross its borders into Ukraine. He stressed that Hungary has nevertheless condemned the war from the very beginning, stands by Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and is helping the war-affected in the largest humanitarian operation in its history, both in Hungary and in Ukraine.

Hungary purchased NASAMS air defense systems

On 19 November 2020, the Hungarian Armed Forces announced they would buy NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems from Norwegian company Kongsberg and US company Raytheon. The short- and mid-range missiles will replace defense systems in place since 1976. The missile systems were scheduled to be delivered in 2023.

NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, also known as the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) is a distributed and networked short- to medium-rang, ground-based air defense system developed by Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace (KDA) and Raytheon. The system defends against unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), helicopters, cruise missiles, unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), and fixed-wing aircraft firing any of a wide range of existing missiles.

NASAMS was the first application of a surface-launched AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile). NASAMS is an upgraded version of the system capable of using Link 16, which has been operational since 2007. As of 2022, NASAMS 3 remained the latest upgrade; deployed in 2019, it adds the capability to fire AIM-9X Sidewinder and IRIS-T SLS short-range missiles (25 km (16 mi)) and AMRAAM-ER extended-range missiles (50 km (31 mi), and introduces mobile air-liftable launchers. NASAMS has proven interoperability with longer-range systems such as Patriot.

NASAMS is one of the most widely used air-to-air missiles in the world, and stockpiles of it are higher than any other comparable system. As NASAMS uses existing air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, AMRAAM, and AMRAAM-ER, there may be thousands of older missiles in NATO’s arsenal that can be fired from a NASAMS battery without change. The AIM-9X variant includes an internal cooling system, eliminating the need for the launch-rail nitrogen supply required by older variants of the missile.

A report described NASAMS as “extremely well suited to Ukraine because of the massive numbers of missiles that NATO and allies can supply, specifically for the air defense system.” In particular, older AMRAAM A and B models have been replaced, making available many older missiles that could be sent to Ukraine. For example, the UK government has offered to donate “hundreds of additional air defense missiles” including the AMRAAMs.

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