A Patriot surface-to-air defense missile system has been acquired by Ukraine last week from Germany, according the German Government’s website.
In addition to the Patriot unit, the first one that Ukraine has received from Germany, Berlin has also provided missiles for the system and 16 additional Mercedes Benz “Zetro” armored trucks, bringing their total to 76 thus far.
What is the background?
In January, Germany’s Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, committed to giving Ukraine a full battery of Patriots, which generally consists of from four to eight units with four rockets each.
The US has also committed two Patriot batteries and, in late March in Oklahoma, completed the training of 65 Ukrainian servicemen in their use. The Netherlands has also promised two Patriot units.
The MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air missile (SAM) system and the primary such system used by the US Army and several NATO allies. A Patriot unit generally consists of a launch station, a control station, a generator and other support vehicles. (See more below.)
The main function of the Patriot is to intercept and destroy incoming enemy missiles and rockets. A battery of Patriots is estimated to cost $1 billion.
As reported by NBC and other outlets, recently leaked Defense Department documents reveal possible weak links in Ukraine’s military campaign against Russian forces, warning that Kyiv could run out of crucial air defense missiles by May.
"Under relentless attack by Russian missiles and drones, Ukraine is using up large amounts of air defense munitions, including Russian-made BUK and S-300 systems, according to two purported secret Pentagon documents, among a trove that have appeared online," NBC wrote.
The NBC report concluded that if Ukraine is not able to bolster its air defense munition supplies in time, Russia could potentially secure air superiority and begin flying warplanes over areas held by Ukrainian troops, according to one of the two documents, dated Feb. 28.
According to the Kiel Institute’s Ukraine Support Tracker, Germany ranks third in the world in military aid to Ukraine or some $3.57 billion dollars’ worth.
“Patriots” for patriots— Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) April 19, 2023
Do you know how to visualize a dream? We must tell about it to the world and give it life! This is exactly what happened with the Patriots, even before the large-scale war, even before my appointment to the most important position of my life at the most… pic.twitter.com/m6H63erV6Z
How Ukraine could use the Patriot in the upcoming offensive?
One possible Ukrainian use for the Patriot would be to cover a relatively small area that needs very reliable air defense. Where the Patriot launchers are stationed Ukrainian air defenders would, in most cases, have an excellent bet no Russian aircraft and cruise missiles would get through and a reasonable bet no ballistic missiles would get through.
However, due to the way the radars are designed, and the size of Ukraine’s air space, small drones might not only be able to penetrate air space covered by a Patriot system, but even attack the very expensive American launchers and tracking systems themselves.
An alternate use for a Patriot missile battery would be to select a sector of the fighting line and effectively take total control of the air space above it. It would be an air operation the Ukrainians have not yet attempted. But if successful, the Ukrainian air force would have something close to air superiority in that sector, with Ukrainian strike aircraft able to operate if not with impunity then without much risk of Russian air force interference.
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