Between 90 and 100 Ukrainian soldiers are to begin training in the US to operate MIM-104 Patriot air defense systems, the US Department of Defense has confirmed.
The training is to begin as soon as “next week” at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, according to US Air Force press secretary Pat Ryder, who is quoted in a DoD press release.
The US announced the plan to provide Patriot systems to Ukraine in December 2022, after initially refusing to do so.
According to the Pentagon, training on the new systems is expected to last “several months”, after which the Ukrainian military is expected to receive the first shipment of Patriots.
Depending on the missile used, the Patriot can act as a medium- or long-range air defense system and is often used for protection against ballistic missiles and other high-speed threats.
In the Ukrainian service it would supplement Soviet-era systems, such as the S-300 and the Buk, that have formed the backbone of Ukraine’s ground-based air defense (GBAD) network since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022.
According to numerous analyses, Ukraine’s own air defense assets are being quickly depleted due to Russia’s frequent attacks, often targeting Ukraine’s civilian and energy infrastructure with cruise missiles and loitering munitions.
Wide range of systems
Since the start of massed attacks in August 2022, Western countries have scrambled to provide Ukraine with a range of air defense systems, including NASAMS, HAWK, and Aspide among others.
Most of the systems provided are geared towards short-range air defense, and also belong to older generations, providing adequate defense mostly against low-tech threats, such as Shahed suicide drones, supplied to Russia by Iran.
However, recent waves of attacks have reportedly resulted in relatively low damage, with Ukrainian military claiming that almost all missiles and drones had been intercepted.
Some reports suggest Russia is also preparing to purchase Iranian-made short-range ballistic missiles, having largely depleted its own supply of such weapons.
These missiles would constitute a much more serious threat to Ukrainian defenses, the Patriot likely being considered as the prime option for defense against them.
Designed in the late 1970s, the system has been constantly upgraded with new missiles and other components. It is designed around a powerful AN/MPQ-53/65 passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar set, designed to detect low-cross-section targets and be highly resistant to countermeasures.
The Patriot is currently operated by at least 17 countries, including Israel, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Greece.