Following the recent missile attacks on Ukrainian cities, the pressure on the US and its allies to equip Kyiv with cutting-edge air defense systems is mounting. In light of the current situation, the US is mulling supplying Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine.
Speaking in Brussels, the US Defense Secretary emphasized the efforts made by the US and its allies to give Ukraine military assistance, noting that “around 50 countries” took part in the most recent meeting of the so-called “contact group.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley mentioned Patriot missile systems when talking about air defense systems for Ukraine. However, he did not say whether or when the system would be available.
In discussing air defense systems for Ukraine, Gen Milley made references to Patriot missile systems and certain Israeli equipment — but he stopped short of saying that such hardware would be shared.
— Andrew deGrandpré (@adegrandpre) October 12, 2022
“Many countries have Patriot. Many countries have other systems. There’s a whole series of Israeli systems that are quite capable,” he said.
He added that Ukraine’s utilization of its current air defense systems had successfully prevented Russia from having air superiority. According to Milley, the current strategy is to assist Ukraine in developing and maintaining an integrated system by bringing in a range of Western systems.
This revelation also comes shortly after US President Joe Biden, in a conversation with President Zelensky, following the bombardment of Russian cities, pledged to work to provide Ukraine with cutting-edge air defense systems.
Patriot is a capable and combat-tested air defense system. It is a mobile air defense-guided missile system that can engage and intercept aerial threats in any weather.
The system will be a powerful upper-tier addition to the existing air defense systems provided by the United States and its partners. For instance, Washington is already supplying eight NASAMS, or National Advanced Surface to Air Missile Systems, with two of them due to arrive soon.
Germany has also delivered the first of four IRIS-T air defense systems to Ukraine. The delivery of the IRIS-T to Ukraine was confirmed by Oleksii Reznikov, the defense minister of Ukraine, on October 11.
A new era of air defence has begun in ??. IRIS-Ts from ?? are already here. ?? NASAMS are coming. This is only the beginning. And we need more. No doubt that russia is a terrorist state.
There is a moral imperative to protect the sky over ?? in order to save our people. pic.twitter.com/jvbXUwDjc8
— Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) October 11, 2022
Patriots can also give Ukraine the capability to defend crucial locations from ballistic missile assaults. It will also offer longer-range capabilities against conventional “air-breathing” threats like fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and even drones.
Defense Against Iranian ‘Kamikaze’ Drone Threats
In addition to firing a barrage of missiles, Russia has also launched Iranian suicide drones, which appear to be seriously damaging Ukrainian forces.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine, stated during a video presentation to the G7 summit on October 11 that Ukrainian military intelligence revealed Russia had ordered 2,400 Iranian Shahed-136 kamikaze drones.
The US and its allies are discussing the best ways to shield Ukrainian infrastructure from the devastating strikes in response. So, the air defense systems will become the top priority for future aid.
Patriots may also be able to counter the risks posed by Iranian-made drones, which are currently playing an important role in Russia’s offensive missions against Ukraine.
“What Ukraine is asking for, and what we think can be provided, is an integrated air and missile defense system. So that doesn’t control all the airspace over Ukraine. But they’re designed to control priority targets that Ukraine needs to protect,” said Milley.
Meanwhile, the US Army is already looking for suggestions from industry on how to defend against strikes from loitering weapons known as “kamikaze drones.” These drones have been used extensively in the conflict in Ukraine.
In the upcoming week or two, the service plans to release a formal request for suggestions, or white papers, from industry, according to Col. Mike Parent, division chief for acquisition and resources in the Army’s Joint Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System Office.
“We have an aggressive timeline, we’re going to put that request for white papers out, and we’re going to expect the industry to come back very quickly,” he added.
Parent noted that the goal is to move swiftly to respond to proposals and demonstrate the technology. The research will focus on fending off threats from Group 3 drones, a category of tiny unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that weigh between 55 to 1,320 pounds.
The Iranian Shahed-136 drone, which weighs about 200 kilograms (440 lb), also belongs to this category. Milley said that “Kyiv has very effectively used their SA-6s and SA-8s, S-300s and SA-10s, 11s, etc. They’ve been very effective at denying Russian air superiority. And that, in turn, has denied the Russians the ability to conduct ground combined arms maneuver.”
He explained that the objective is to give Ukraine a multi-layered air defense system that includes short-range, low-altitude, medium-range, and long-range, high-altitude systems.
Israel is also included in the Defense Contact Group. However, it has so far shown a great deal of reluctance to give Ukraine cutting-edge weapons, particularly defense systems. Nonetheless, Patriot wouldn’t be sent to Ukraine straight away since Ukrainian forces would need to be trained before it could be sent there by the US or anyone else.