Danish anti-ship missiles expected to help Ukraine gain control of Black Sea coast

Copenhagen’s pledge of Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a launch vehicle to Ukraine, announced Monday by the US, is the first sign since the Russian invasion in February that Kiev will receive US-made weapons that significantly increase its range of strikes.

Ukraine is looking for more advanced weapons such as air defenses, anti-ship missiles and longer-range missiles, but so far most aid has been given to short-range systems such as Javelin anti-tank weapons and artillery.

The harpoons, made by Boeing Co., could be used to push the Russian navy out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, allowing exports of grain and other agricultural products to resume.

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he was “particularly grateful to Denmark, which announced today that it will provide a harpoon launcher and missiles to help Ukraine defend its coast.”

Reuters reported on Thursday that the US has been working to help Ukraine transfer more anti-ship capabilities with a range of more than 100 kilometers as ports are blocked by ships and mines.

“This is an important and considered step to increase the capability and operational intensity of the Ukrainians against the Russians,” said Tom Karako, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the director of the Missile Defense Project.

He added that the weapons “endanger high-quality Russian ships attacking Ukraine from the Black Sea or elsewhere.”

Congressional sources and a US official have said Ukraine’s Neptune anti-ship missiles are in short supply, so the harpoons offer Ukraine more opportunities to push back Russian ships and launch mine clearance operations.

With the Harpoon missiles, Ukraine will likely depend on other countries for targeting data to use the systems effectively against ships at greater distances, Karako noted.

A handful of countries were willing to send harps to Ukraine, US officials and congressional sources said. But a US official said no country wanted to be the first or only nation to send harps for fear of retaliation from Russia if a ship is sunk with a harpoon from their stock.

The Danish Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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