US President Joe Biden has offered high praise for the non-existent Patriot missile systems the US has promised, but not yet delivered, to Ukraine.
“We’re going to – we’re going to pr- – we’re going to provide an additional Patriot air decis- – air defense battery. They work, and the Russians are beginning to realize that. They function well, and they’re helping a lot,” Biden said in a cabinet meeting at the White House Thursday.
“Germany has also announced that – today that it’s going to provide the Ukrainians a – the – to deal with air attacks, a Patriot air defense system,” Biden added.
The president did not elaborate on how the air defense systems, which by all accounts haven’t been sent yet, were “helping” Ukraine at the moment.
Ukrainian officials indicated this week that preparations to take delivery of the Patriots “have already begun” and that Kiev “look[s] forward to the deployment” of the weapons “as soon as possible.”
However, a senior US defense official told media late last month that the Patriots earmarked for Kiev would take “several months” to arrive owing to the need to train crews and deploy the systems in the combat zone.
“Patriot does require training and we expect it will take several months to ensure Ukrainian forces have the training they need to employ it successfully,” the official said, promising that training would begin “very soon.” The official declined to comment on whether the Patriots slatted for delivery to Ukraine would feature the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement missiles (PAC-3 MSE) introduced into service with the US military in the mid-2010s, or the older PAC-3s, which have been around since the mid-1990s, and deployed with militaries around the world, including Germany, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan.
A separate US media report last month citing a pair of Pentagon officials indicated that the US military was considering training Ukrainian troops to operate Patriots at bases inside the US.
On Thursday, DoD press secretary Pat Ryder confirmed that the military is still scouting locations for training. “The details on the training of the Patriot missile systems are still being worked out in coordination with our Ukrainian partners,” Ryder said. “I can tell you that we’re exploring a variety of options to include potential training here, in the US, overseas, or a combination of both.”
Also on Thursday, President Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany jointly announced new heavy weapons deliveries to Ukraine, including Bradley and Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles, and a German battery of Patriots.
A single Patriot battery consists of six launchers and a range of support equipment, including a phased array radar, optional antenna masts, optional diesel generators, and an engagement control/operations center.
Unlike some of the other weapons systems provided by NATO to Kiev in the past, such as man-portable Stinger and Javelin missiles, the Patriot is a big, bulky piece of equipment that requires about 30 minutes to deploy and prepare to fire.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned last month that Russia would inevitably find an “antidote” to the US missile system, and assured that the Patriots’ delivery to Kiev would “just prolong the conflict.”
Made by Raytheon, the Patriot Missile System has been in service with the US military since the mid-1980s, and exported to over a dozen countries in the decades since then. Despite its lauded status as the US Army’s “premier” long-range missile defense system, the Patriot has demonstrated questionable performance against enemy targets.
During the Gulf War, the system showed an effectiveness rate of 9 percent against Iraqi Scud missiles. In asymmetric warfare, the system’s record is even worse, with Saudi Arabia’s PAC-3s proving unable to defend against drone and missile attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who have targeted Saudi cities, airports, military bases and even Patriot missile batteries. In 2018, a Houthi missile attack on the Saudi capital killed one person and injured two, with five Patriot interceptors launching but failing to take the projectiles down.
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