Britain is considering donating Starstreak anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine to help Kyiv protect its airspace from Russian invasion, the country’s Defense Minister Ben Wallace revealed on Wednesday.
It is believed that the U.K. considers the systems in question, manufactured by Thales Group, to be classed as defensive weapons, and will allow Ukraine to better protect its airspace.
“It is vital that Ukraine maintains its ability to fly and counter Russian airstrikes,” Wallace told lawmakers on Wednesday, a day after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky had addressed the House of Commons with his latest plea for greater assistance from NATO members in the Russo-Ukrainian war.
“In response to Ukrainian requests, the government has decided to consider donating Starstreak high-speed portable anti-aircraft systems. We believe that this system remains within the definition of a defensive weapon, and will allow Ukrainian forces to better protect their airspace,” Wallace told the House of Commons.
If confirmed, the donation will be another important step in terms of allied support for Ukraine.
The Thales Starstreak man-portable anti-aircraft missile, in service since 1997, is also used by Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa and Thailand.
So far, Ukraine has welcomed the fact that the United Kingdom has contributed thousands of anti-tank missiles which have helped to slow the Russian advance on Kyiv. However, support from the United Kingdom has been limited to defensive weapons.
“Everything we do is within the boundaries of the decision to deliver defensive systems that are calibrated not to escalate to a strategic level,” Wallace added.
As a NATO member, the United Kingdom has rejected Ukraine’s request to impose a no-fly zone over the country. According to London, such an area could cause NATO forces to shoot down Russian planes, leading to a significant escalation of the conflict.