The Ukrainian military will soon have more advanced variants of the Patriot missiles that can shoot down Geranium-2 (Geran-2) kamikaze drones that are used to exhaust their air defense batteries and are less vulnerable to the American surface-to-air missile (SAM) platform.
The missile is a part of the latest $2.1 billion security assistance package the Pentagon announced, which also includes more MIM-23 HAWK surface-to-air missiles (SAM), 105mm and 203mm shells, small RQ-20 Puma reconnaissance drones, laser-guided ammunition and training and maintenance support for the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU).
The package will be executed under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), where the US government purchases weapons from arms manufacturers for Ukraine. Ukraine already possesses the Patriot air defense missile system it received earlier this year.
The latest package involves two missiles for the Patriot system. One is the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile – that Ukraine already uses – made by Lockheed Martin Corporation. The other is a missile developed by Raytheon Technologies Corp called the Guidance Enhanced Missile (GEM-T).
As per official literature, the latter “provides improved ability to defeat tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, or enemy aircraft in complement to the PAC-3 missile.”
Raytheon Technologies is boosting production and has committed to providing Ukraine with five additional systems by the end of 2024, Wall Street Journal reported on June 11.
US Replenishing Ukrainian Missile Stock After Russia Exhausted It?
The EurAsian Times had recently reported how the Gerans were exhausting Ukraine’s air defense missile inventory, nullifying its success in increasing the number of interceptions of the Russian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), cruise, and ballistic missiles.
The Geran’s peculiar characteristics made it less vulnerable to the Patriots’ current variant, which the GEM-T is expected to change. Russia employs the Iskander ballistic missile and the Kalibr and Kh-101 cruise missiles in coordination with the Gerans for striking military targets in Ukraine’s urban areas.
A section of experts noted that the Geran drones – based on Iran’s Shahed-136 drones that Russia was later concluded to have tweaked and manufactured locally – were proving difficult for the Patriot missiles to intercept.
Although a competent platform that has been heavily upgraded over time, the Patriot was primarily designed for aircraft and fast-flying fighter jets.
Patriot GEM-T Has A New Advanced Seeker
According to Raytheon, the GEM-T has a different digital fuse “with a low-noise oscillator and a modified down-link, which provides a higher signal-to-interference ratio.” This increases sensitivity in acquiring and tracking small airborne threats like drones, cruise missiles, and high-speed tactical ballistic missiles in a clutter.
The slow-moving Gerans have no radio-frequency (RF) emissions like remote control, satellite navigation, or burning exhausts for RF or infrared seekers to lock on to, making them less vulnerable to SAMs. The GEM-T might change that, and Russia must devise new tactics or introduce newer systems to tackle the threat.
Odesa Sky Resembles WW2
The Gerans, meanwhile, continue to strike Ukraine with the latest assault over Odesa. Videos on social media showed the skies being lit up with a hail of anti-aircraft tracer rounds streaking up in multiple lines.
The posts that emerged in the wee hours of June 10 said the firing was in response to a swarm attack by the Geran drones, but this claim could not be verified.
Based on the sound in the video, they could be the German-made Gepard tracked-chassis mounted dual guns or the Russian-origin ZU-23-2, also a twin-barrel system.
⚡️Odessa tonight, air defence engages Geran-2 pic.twitter.com/rwVdFxQjKv
— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) June 9, 2023
The scenes resemble the famous visuals of London or German cities during the Second World War. The horizon used to be a cauldron of explosions and ‘ack-ack’ rounds from several directions on the ground, darting upwards and exploding, trying to shoot down bombers.
Another (Temporary) Wonder Weapon?
So far, the pattern has been Ukraine introducing a new Western weapon system, and after initial success, Russia is finding a way to either destroy it or minimize its effects. The Turkish TB-2 Bayraktar drones, the American High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), and the German Leopard tanks were claimed to turn around the battlefield situation and push back Russia.
Moreover, even if the GEM-T manages to shoot down the Gerans, the question of sustainability remains since the missiles would be limited in numbers and are vulnerable to exhaustion when facing swarms and mass attacks.
But thankfully for Ukraine, the West has shown an equally big appetite to keep arming it, with at least the US showing no signs of being weary over the nearly $40 billion military expenditure on Kyiv.
An eventual reversal of even the Patriot’s capabilities might see the President Biden administration possibly approving another package of military support, probably convinced by a successful Ukrainian tactical victory.
Moscow, which has no illusions about the US ending support to Ukraine and might seek a compromise, still faces the prospect of the war dragging on and a permanent hot border.
Although it is in a strategically strong position with 20% of Ukrainian territory under its control and a stable, steadily growing economy, there is always the remote possibility of such long wars becoming an administrative and economic strain.