Patriot Missile Systems Will Aid Ukraine’s Defense But Analysts Warn That Their Effectiveness May Be Limited

This week, the US announced that it would give Ukraine a Patriot missile battery, but experts warn that while it will be a useful contribution to the struggling nation’s air defense, it is not a panacea.

According to a State Department spokesperson, the US on Tuesday announced a new aid package for Ukraine that included the “first-ever transfer to Ukraine of the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System, capable of bringing down cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, and aircraft at a significantly higher ceiling than previously provided air defense systems.”

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came to the US to congratulate Joe Biden on the transfer.

Retired Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks previously told CNN that the system’s capabilities “improve accuracy, it enhances the kill rate, so it truly accomplishes exactly what you want it to do which is protected on the ground on very precise targets.”

The Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) describes the Patriot’s radar system as combining “surveillance, tracking, and engagement tasks in one unit,” which sets it apart from other air defense systems.

With the exception of requiring a “final launch decision” from the people in charge of it, the system is “essentially autonomous” in its interactions with approaching aerial threats.

The US Army’s Patriot system, also known as Phased Array Tracking Radar for Interception on Target, has been requested by Ukraine on numerous occasions because it is one of the most effective long-range air defense systems available.

A senior administration source told CNN that the “reality of what is going on” on the ground in Ukraine affected their decision to do so, even though the US did not comply with the request during the first 10 months of the war.

As winter came and the temperatures dropped, the Russian military increased its attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure and power grid in recent weeks. Biden was informed by Zelensky that nearly half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure had been destroyed by “Russian missile terror.”

Attacks like this have only accelerated Ukraine’s requests for the Patriot. In fact, the Army refers to the Patriot system as the “most advanced air defense system” in its arsenal because it is capable of intercepting “any airborne threat” regardless of the weather.

Retired Former US Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling told CNN that there are probably some irrational expectations about what a Patriot battery can accomplish for Ukraine.

For instance, it won’t be instantly usable when the US agrees to deliver it since, according to Hertling, it takes months to teach troops how to use the complicated system and about a year to train US troops to serve as maintainers or repairmen. Additionally, it won’t be able to cover the entire nation.

Hertling said that these systems “don’t pick up and move across the battlefield.” “You position them to protect your most important strategic goal, such as a city like Kiev. Anyone who believes that this system would span the 500-mile border between Russia and Ukraine is simply unaware of how the system works.

The Patriot is “not a game-changer” in fact, according to Tom Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at CSIS, who told CNN that it can “still only defend a relatively tiny piece of land.”

Not to mention the huge logistical requirements; the Army estimates that 90 personnel are required to operate only one battery, which has computers, an engagement control system, a phased array radar, power-producing equipment, and “up to eight launchers.”

According to a recent assessment by CSIS, each Patriot missile round costs around $4 million. According to Hertling, it is unlikely that every missile Russia deploys against Ukraine will be intercepted by expensive rounds.

Drones or smaller ballistic missiles won’t be targeted by this technology, he declared. Can it perform that? Absolutely. However, using a $3–$5 million rocket to destroy a $20,000 drone or a $100,000 ballistic missile that Russia purchases doesn’t provide a significant return on investment. What it can do is make room for those types of targets so that the low and medium systems can pursue them.

Other US allies, such as Israel, Germany, and Japan, have also purchased the system, which was supplied to Poland to aid in its defense against Russia as it invaded Ukraine on its border. When the Patriot system was transferred to Poland in March, the US military made it clear that it was only being used to defend NATO territory and “would in no way support any aggressive activities.”

Hertling also asserts that in the case of Ukraine, offensive activities are significantly more crucial than the Patriot system. The US was reportedly considering dramatically increasing the amount of training given to Ukrainian forces by educating as many as 2,500 men every month at a US base in Germany, according to a CNN report from last month.

This month, the Pentagon announced that battalion-sized units would begin receiving combined arms training in January. This training will involve infantry maneuvers and live fire drills.

According to Hertling, “The Patriots are a defensive, anti-ballistic, and anti-aircraft armament system, with a focus on defense.” You can’t win battles by being defensively strong. Armed with offensive powers, you win wars.

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