On Thursday, a senior US official confirmed that NATO allies could transfer anti-ship missiles to the Ukrainian military, giving Ukraine a new means of defending itself against the ongoing Russian invasion.
“We have started consulting with allies on supplying anti-ship missiles to Ukraine,” the official told Reuters. “There may be technical challenges for that to happen, but it’s something we’re consulting with allies and starting to work on.”
The official did not specify the type of anti-ship missiles envisaged. Ukraine reached an agreement with the United Kingdom on the supply of an unspecified anti-ship missile in early February; this ammunition may have been the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), a sophisticated small anti-ship missile used by British and American forces. The Atlantic Council recently recommended that Ukraine have the same system.
On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a joint meeting of NATO member states for more armaments, including tanks, fighter jets, anti-aircraft systems and anti-ship missiles. For political reasons, jets and long-range anti-aircraft systems have proven difficult to organize, and public transfers of these much-needed systems have yet to take place.
News of a possible shipment of anti-ship missiles came the same day as the first confirmed loss of a Russian Navy ship in the Ukraine conflict. An Alligator-class tank landing ship exploded and burned in the busy port of Berdyansk on Thursday morning, and at least one other amphib was damaged. The Ukrainian military confirmed the victim and said “there will be others”, but did not provide details of the cause.
So far, the only confirmed uses of anti-ship missiles in the conflict have been Russian launches, with munitions used against neutral merchant shipping and static land targets in Ukraine.