Ukraine may soon have a huge boost in its air defense capabilities with Israel providing some Patriot missile systems after apparent behind-the-scenes discussions among the Biden, Netanyahu and Zelensky administrations, reports the Financial Times.

The US, Israeli and Ukrainian governments have held talks over the fate of the eight MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems held by Israel. The FT, citing several sources on Thursday, June 27 said that discussions to send at least some of the Patriot batteries to Ukraine, a decision that could double the number of this key weapons system, dramatically increasing Kyiv’s ability to defend itself from the Russian drone and missile onslaught.

While discussions are continuing and nothing has yet been agreed it has been suggested that the missile batteries would be “returned” to the US who would then provide them to Kyiv. Even so, the transfer would mark a sea change in the relations between Jerusalem and Moscow.

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While Israel has provided diplomatic support, humanitarian aid and some defensive technology to Ukraine it has resisted calls to provide weapons and other military equipment to Kyiv since Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Some commentators feel that the risk-cost balance between Israel and Russia has changed because of Moscow’s changing and closer relationship with Teheran. Iran is the main backer for both Hamas and Hezbollah and is considered the main threat to Israel and the region.

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Last week, the Biden administration said that it had prioritized providing critical air defense capabilities to Ukraine and indicated, in what was described as an “extraordinary policy adjustment,” it would divert equipment intended for other overseas customers to Ukraine.

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a press briefing on Wednesday, June 20 said, “We work with all of our partners to take into account what [Ukraine’s] defense needs are, and we’re going to do everything we can to support those.”

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Israel said earlier this year that it would be replacing its Patriots, which it acquired in the 1990s, with more advanced equipment. Despite their age the missiles have been well maintained and proved themselves during the ongoing war in Gaza. While Israel mainly relies upon its Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow systems for its air defense, the IDF has said that Patriot carried out at least nine interceptions during the current war.

The Patriot missiles used by Israel are primarily the M901 PAC-2 an older model that is still fully compatible with the newer PAC-3 which has been provided to Ukraine. Military analysts suggest that the older interceptor missiles have a longer range and a bigger warhead than the PAC-3 making them more suitable for Kyiv’s anti-aircraft, in addition to its anti-missile, needs.

Justin Bronk, senior research fellow at the UK’s Royal United Services Institute told the FT that “PAC-2 is actually more useful than PAC-3 for long range intercepts against aircraft, so they’d certainly be useful [in Ukraine].”

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