Aerial Warfare

First Ukrainian Crew Completes Training on Patriot Air Defense Missile System

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Soldiers Train on Patriot Launcher at Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Soldiers Train on Patriot Launcher at Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Since January, 65 Ukrainian soldiers have been training at Fort Sill, a U.S. Army base in Oklahoma, to operate a Patriot air defense system. The troops expect to graduate in March and return to Ukraine to begin deploying the mobile air defense system. The Voice of America (VOA) reported that given the sensitivity around the advanced training, the Pentagon has forbidden photographs of the participating soldiers and declined to allow VOA to name them. Among the Ukrainian men and women who traveled to Oklahoma, the youngest is 19, the oldest is 67. For the past 10 weeks, using an accelerated program developed by the Pentagon that has them training at least 10 hours a day, six days a week, they have worked to master the Patriot air defense system. In a few days, the team will be ready to graduate.

The MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, the primary such system used by the United States Army and several allied states. It is manufactured by the U.S. defense contractor Raytheon and derives its name from the radar component of the weapon system. The AN/MPQ-53 at the heart of the system is known as the “Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target”, which is a backronym for “Patriot”. Starting in 1984, the Patriot system began to replace the Nike Hercules system as the U.S. Army’s primary High to Medium Air Defense (HIMAD) system and the MIM-23 Hawk system as the U.S. Army’s medium tactical air defense system. In addition to these roles, Patriot has been given a function in the U.S. Army’s anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system. The system is expected to stay fielded until at least 2040.

Soldiers Train on Patriot Launcher at Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Soldiers Train on Patriot Launcher at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Amber Osei/U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery School)

The Patriot is one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world. It can detect a threat within a radius of 150 km and intercept cruise and ballistic missiles as well as aircraft and other targets at an altitude of 20 km. Patriots are also highly mobile, can intercept several targets simultaneously and are resistant to electronic jamming. Launchers come in different configurations, with four PAC-2 missiles, or with 16 PAC-3 missiles. At Fort Sill, the Ukrainians trained on both. U.S. defense officials say that the Patriot will be an addition to other short- and medium-range air defense systems provided to Ukraine by the U.S. and allies. Together, this should create a multilayered system of protection of the Ukrainian sky and help defend against various attacks from ballistic missiles to kamikaze drones.

The U.S. will send a Patriot surface-to-air missile system to Ukraine to bolster its air defense capabilities, a move that represents one of the most advanced defense systems that the Americans have so far provided to support Ukraine since Russia invaded last winter. 3 batteries expected in total. On 21 December, 2022 it was reported that the United States would send a Patriot battery to Ukraine as a part of military aid. On 5 January, 2023 it was reported that Germany would send a Patriot battery to Ukraine as a part of their own military aid package. On 17 January, 2023, the Netherlands announced it will send one launcher, and on 20 January, the Netherlands announced it will send a second launcher. The Dutch government announced it will send launchers (lanceerinrichtingen) and missiles, not complete systems (a battery) which includes radars, etc.

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