Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Wednesday claimed a devastating strike using top-of-the-line Kinzhal missiles pretty much annihilated almost every high-tech, uber-costly US-made Patriot missile defense battery defending Kyiv.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, the Russian bombers hurled another missile salvo at the Ukrainian capital. Ukrainian gunners operating Patriot and other anti-missile systems cut that strike to bits as well.

According to official Ukrainian statements, much of it eye-witnessed and corroborated by independent media and average residents of the Ukrainian capital, Russian air forces in two waves, one at about 03:30 on Wednesday and the second at about 04:00 on Thursday, launched 35-40 precision-guided missiles at the Ukrainian capital.

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The vanguard of the Kremlin assault was a formation of six air-launched Kinzhal (NATO designator KILLJOY) “hypersonic” cruise missiles, a weapon billed by the Kremlin to be too fast for any missile in the world to intercept, including specifically the recently delivered American Patriot anti-aircraft missile system.

Hours later, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced: “According to reliably confirmed data, on 16 May, as a result of the strike by the Kinzhal hypersonic missile system on Kyiv, a multifunctional radar station was hit and completely destroyed, as well as five launchers of the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system manufactured in the United States."

British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 18 July 2024
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British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 18 July 2024

Latest from the British Defence Intelligence.

Western news outlets led by CNN reported two Patriot systems had been slightly damaged in the attacks. Local media reported at least twenty anti-aircraft missiles of all types were fired at the incoming strike, and a pair of ground explosions caused by, possibly, a Russian missile striking home, or pieces from a falling Russian or Ukrainian missile following a successful intercept. Moderate damage caused by falling debris to scattered civilian infrastructure also was reported.

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As to the “impossible-to-intercept” Kinzhal, the Ukrainian army-operated Patriots shot all six of them down, Ukraine air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said in a Wednesday evening television interview. The Patriots Ukraine has received are dispersed and knocking out an entire system in a single strike is “practically impossible,” he said.

 Ukrainian independent media, usually citing open source reports from NATO states delivering military equipment to Ukraine, have generally agreed that since early May two US-made Patriot systems, each consisting of 4-8 launcher vehicles, a single command vehicle, and one or two radar vehicles, arrived in Ukraine. The number and location of air defense systems is, in most cases, a closely guarded Ukrainian military secret.

The Russian Kinzhal missile, touted by Moscow as superior to any NATO long-range strike weapon and able to overcome any air defense system in the world, including particularly the US Patriot system, is a ballistic missile dropped from a high-flying aircraft and according to its designers capable of accelerating to a speed of Mach 10.

Russian state-controlled media has repeatedly claimed the weapon is impossible to intercept, cheaper and more effective that Western systems, and a key piece of the Kremlin’s nuclear deterrence force.  

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An explosion over Kyiv during a Russian missile strike early on May 16. PHOTO: AFP

Military and independent experts said that the half dozen Kinzhal shot down over Kyiv on Wednesday effectively demonstrated the opposite of Kremlin advertising: that in a real war, costly investment into better technology and testing it thoroughly delivers real-life battlefield results, and in Ukraine that means the better weapons aren’t in Russian hands. 

In Thursday comments to the military publication Breaking Defense, General Charles Flynn, commander of US Army Pacific Forces, said that the Pentagon never stopped upgrading the 1990s-developed Patriot, and that system – modernized and tweaked specifically to intercept Russian and Chinese guided missiles – operated by trained Ukrainian crews will change the way they and their Ukrainian opponents fight in the future.

“We have advanced that [Patriot] capability in ways that are profound… [training of the Ukrainian troops on Patriots] has a profound effect on the applications of those weapons systems and, maybe more importantly, how you defend and what you’re defending.”

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US arms giant Lockheed Martin has manufactured over 10,000 Patriot missiles over the years. The very latest version, called PAC-3 MSE, was fielded in 2016 and designed, besides airplanes, to take on incoming missiles. The American advertisement is the weapon will shut down a 60 km. radius of air space against missiles and almost three times that against airplanes.

Theoretically, one Patriot system is sufficient to protect the capital Kyiv, leaving open the questions of where the second system is and where Ukrainian military planners will place the French/Italian version of Patriot, called SAMP/T, when it arrives in the country, according to news reports, in late May. 

What is clear are the trends. On Thursday, the Russian air force launched another wave of explosive-toting weapons at Kyiv, including ground-skimming cruise missiles, a pair of ballistic missiles, Iranian drones intended to spoof Ukrainian radars, and even a pair of spotter drones to monitor the attack’s progress.

By mid-morning Ukraine’s air force claimed it shot it all down, including the decoy drones and the spotter aircraft as well. Ukrainian news platforms reported slight damage to civilian infrastructure in Kyiv, all to falling missile debris. According to all but claims in Russia-controlled media, not a single Russian missile got through to its target.

Below image: Graphic of the pieces of a single Patriot “system” – published by the manufacturer Raytheon. Ukrainian military media has suggested Ukraine has probably received and is currently operating two control vehicles, two to four radars, and as many as 12-16 launch vehicles donated by the US, Germany and the Netherlands.

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Image below: Compilation of images trolling official Russian claims of the “unbeatable” Kinzhal missile that “is impossible to intercept”. Compilation published by the handle https://twitter.com/RusEmbUSA

Below US Army image published by @Airpower 2.0 – contrast in capacities between the PAC-3 CRI missile used by Patriot, and the PAC-3 MSE missile used by Patriot

 

Below image: Ukraine army official missile kill claims for 17-18 May. Ukrainian air force spokesmen have credited the six Kinzhal shot-downs to the US Patrriort system.

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