The Patriot is believed to be one of the world's best anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems. One of its principal advantages is that it can shoot down not only aircraft and cruise missiles, but also ballistic missiles which are the most dangerous when fired towards Ukraine.

Ukrainian air defenses have no capacity to fight high-speed ballistic missiles where the trajectory is almost vertical.

"It's almost unreal to shoot them down, but they can be counteracted," Yuriy Ihnat, spokesman for the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) said at a briefing.

According to the U.S. manufacturer, the latest modification of the Patriot can hit ballistic missiles at altitudes of up to 20,000 meters.

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The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) claims that the MIM-104 Patriot is the most widely employed antiaircraft and antimissile system in the U.S. arsenal. Commissioned back in 1982, it was first used in 1991 during the Gulf War against Iranian missiles. Since then, the system and its missiles have been constantly modernized.

The latest version is optimized for defense against ballistic and cruise missiles as well as fixed-and rotary-wing aircraft.

Over the years, the MIM-104 Patriot produced by Raytheon has proven highly effective and is in the arsenals of not only NATO member countries but also of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Japan, Israel and South Korea.

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With the US dithering, the implications need to be recognized and decisive action taken to avoid disaster in the shape of a Russian victory in Ukraine.

All use the 2001 modernized "hit-to-kill" version, MIM-104 Patriot PAC-3, which is extremely effective against ballistic missiles. One of its peculiarities is that a РАС-3 missile actually hits the target instead of detonating close to it.

Patriot technology

The MIM-104 Patriot is designed to ensure complete protection of major administrative and industrial centers and air and naval bases from all existing air attack vehicles in conditions of strong radio-electronic counteraction. The system can detect, identify and monitor more than 100 air targets at a time and calculate targeting data. Up to three missiles can be fired in one volley at one target.

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The PAC-2 missile launched from the Patriot can destroy enemy aircraft at ranges of up to 160 kilometers. One shot may be worth up to three million dollars.

However, like all air defense systems, the Patriot has weak spots, the most serious of which is complexity of operation and maintenance. In the U.S., it functions as a unit of a battalion which comprises a command post, a repair and maintenance company and four to six batteries. Each battery has six launchers, a radar station, a communication vehicle, a mobile power station and a fire control station. The battery personnel totals 70-90 men and one Patriot battalion numbers 600, each being highly qualified engineers and operators.

So, why does Ukraine need this system despite the huge costs of maintaining and using it?

Put simply, because it pays.

If the system defended, say, a nuclear power plant from a missile strike, the benefits could be potentially incalculable – both economic, social and environmental – in averting a potential catastrophe.

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There is one more important argument for the Patriot: it can destroy ballistic missiles. This is exactly what Ukraine needs now, facing the threat of Iranian ballistic missiles which Russia is expected to receive, according to Western intelligence and media sources.

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