Ukraine has reportedly used the Patriot air defense system to shoot down at least one Russian fighter.
The information, as revealed by defense officials and congressional staff to CNN, suggests that interceptor missiles fired by the Patriot system targeted Russian jets as they were engaged in bombing missions against Ukrainian targets.
The circumstances are concordant with events that took place on May 13, 2023, in which the Russian Air Force lost a Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bomber, a Su-35 fighter and two Mil Mi-8 helicopters in the Bryansk region near the border with Ukraine.
The aircraft were part of the same air group and were supposed to carry out a missile and bomb attack on targets in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine, as reported by Russian newspaper Kommersant at the time.
The crashed aircraft were geolocated at around 50 kilometers from the frontline. This puts them beyond the range of most air defense systems operated by the Ukrainian Air Force, such as the Soviet-made S-300 (40 kilometers) or the recently supplied NASAMS (30 kilometers range).
Among the systems pledged or delivered to Ukraine by Western allies, only the Franco-Italian SAMP/T Mamba (100 kilometers) and the US-made Patriot (70 to 100 kilometers, depending on the variant) systems have missiles capable of reaching such distances. However, only Patriot had been delivered and put into use at the time.
In early May 2023, Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk, commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, reported that two divisions of Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems had been deployed. One of them was damaged in an intense Russian missile attack on Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, but according to US defense officials, it was then repaired and remains operational.