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Patriot System to Ukraine: Crucial or for Appearance Only?

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A Medium Extended Air Defense System missile is launched to intercept a target during a MEADS test at White Sands Missile Range Nov. 29. The test exploited the MEADS capability for full-perimeter, 360-degree defense with the PAC-3 MSE Missile performing a unique over-the-shoulder maneuver to defeat the target attacking from behind the MEADS emplacement.
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Source: Operation Disclosure | By Kirilo Sakhniuk, Freelance Journalist

Submitted on December 23, 2022

Patriot to Ukraine: crucial or for appearances only help?

In recent months, Ukrainian defenders are in particular need of advanced American air defense systems. The possibility of delivering the MIM-104 Patriot to Ukraine has been discussed almost since February, but no real measures have been taken yet. 

The MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air missile (SAM) system

Nevertheless, the situation is changing and now the foreign press reports that the United States may provide its air defense systems in the near future. Ukrainian President Zelensky said that he talked with the US president every day about the supply of new weapons. He noted that he was quite enthusiastic about such prospects.

The MIM-104 Patriot is presented by the USA as the most advanced and unsurpassed anti-aircraft system. The main characteristics of its modifications are well known.

The leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine imposes certain hopes on the American air defense system. AFU considers it almost the main means of protection against Russian missiles.

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However, the complex has shortcomings in combat use. For example, during the Gulf War, Patriot air defense systems of previous modifications showed low effectiveness of hitting ballistic and complex aerodynamic targets. It is claimed that in the latest modification PAC-3 these shortcomings were solved, but in a combat situation this has not yet been confirmed.

Therefore, there is some doubt about the Patriot’s ability to effectively hit Russian aircraft and missiles. In recent decades, this air defense system has been considered by Moscow as one of the main threats. So Russian designers have created new equipment and weapons that take into account its characteristics.

The critical factor in this context will be the number of SAMs delivered to Ukraine and their placement. A small number will not seriously strengthen the air defense and will not create a reliable, layered system.

So why is Washington delaying supplies in every possible way?

Patriot air defense systems are very expensive and difficult to maintain. It will take at least six months to train Ukrainian soldiers. Of course, the United States can send its own military personnel to Ukraine to service air defense systems. But this is a big risk for American soldiers. For Russian missiles, defeating such targets is the number one goal.

In addition, at the moment the Pentagon does not have extra air defense systems that could be transferred to Ukraine without their security and national defense interests being affected. European countries also do not agree to reduce defense capability in exchange for assistance to Kyiv. As a result, help for appearances only. Promises and no action, but where is the result?

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