What is the US' Patriot missile system defending Ukraine?

What is the US Patriot missile system defending Ukraine?

  • Mobile Patriot units deploy surface-to-air missiles to protect troops and civilians 
  • Patriot systems can cost $1.1 billion and Russia claims it destroyed one last night
  • READ MORE: Putin hits Kyiv with ‘exceptionally complex’ missile and drone strike

Russia claims it has obliterated a roughly $1.1 billion, US-made Patriot missile defense system last night amid a scorching rocket assault on Kyiv. 

The Patriot system, delivered just last month to Ukraine by the US and its NATO allies, was in active use defending the city. 

Last night’s fiery barrage over Kyiv has led to conflicting accounts of the damage, including the Russian military’s claims that it has destroyed the top-line Patriot unit.

Night video apparently capturing the moment a Russian-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missile wiped out the Patriot system spread on social media. 

And Russia’s defense ministry declared that it had successfully eliminated the Patriot, according to the Zvezda military news outlet.

All told, Russian forces launched six Kinzhals over the night, nuclear-ready ballistic missiles capable of coasting at up to 10 times the speed of sound.

The volley was among the most fierce missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital since the war broke out: 18 Russian-fired missiles in total, along with 6 Shahed kamikaze drones, according to some reports.

But the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, says that Ukrainian forces managed to intercept all six Kinzhals using the Patriot system, detonating the Russian rockets in midair. 

Here’s what you need to know about the Patriot and how it got there:

The system relies on multiple components besides the launcher, according to a graphic by Raytheon Company

Grainy security video circulating on the Telegram messaging app appears to show the moment a surface-to-air battery explodes after exhausting all of its ammunition amid the attacks

Air defence missiles are seen impacting targets over Kyiv

Kyiv officials said the attack – the eighth on the capital this month – involved drones, cruise missiles and probably ballistic missiles launched ‘from different directions simultaneously’

Explosion of a Russian-launched missile in the sky over Kyiv this morning

What is the Patriot missile system?

The MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air (SAM) missile defense system gets its name from the sophisticated, Raytheon-made AN/MPQ-53 phased-array radar system at the heart of its targeting system. (The Patriot acronym stands for ‘Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target.’)  

The Patriot is a mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) unit, manufactured by the U.S. defense contractor Raytheon, that consists of this robust radar array, one control station, a power generator, missile launch stations, and a small fleet of support vehicles.

Depending on the missile interception needs, the system has a variety of differing configurations. 

One, the PAC-2 interceptor, launches a blast-fragmentation warhead, that radiates its damage in a ring. The newer PAC-3 missile uses more advanced hit-to-kill technology that is precise enough to detonate on impact, instead of via a proximity sensor within the warhead.

Patriot systems consists of a robust phased array radar, control station, power generator, missile launch stations, and a small fleet of support vehicles. Above, a Patriot surface-to-air missile system is presented at the Warsaw-Radom Airport in Radom on April 20, 2023

The Patriot comes in differing configurations. The PAC-2 interceptor launches a blast-fragmentation warhead spreading damage. Newer PAC-3 missiles employ more advanced hit-to-kill technology, precise enough to detonate without a proximity sensor inside the warhead

US European Command first promised Patriots to the Zelenskyy government in March 2022, but the missile system did not arrive on Ukrainian soil until April 2023, most reports say 

How did the Patriot get to Ukraine?

US European Command announced its intentions to supply the Zelenskyy government back on March 9, 2022 in the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the delivery did not become official until December 20, 2022, when the Biden administration vowed to include a Patriot system as part of a new $1.85 billion aid package to assist Ukraine in its wartime defense.

The Patriot system did not arrive in Ukraine until this April, when America’s NATO partners in the German government announced that they had delivered a Patriot system to Ukraine.

A second Patriot battery has allegedly been delivered, direct from the US, as of April 27, but neither the Pentagon nor the Biden administration confirmed that the system arrived at its destination.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, while thanking allied in US, Germany and the Netherlands in late April, also did not specify publicly how many Patriot  missile systems had been delivered.

What’s the price tag?

A single, newly made Patriot defense system costs somewhere near $1.1 billion, two-thirds of the cost (approximately $690 million) for the missile battery itself with the rest of the price needed for the system, support vehicles and radar ($400 million).

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