Russians Claim 1st Destruction Of $400M Patriot Air Defense System; Experts Lambast Kyiv’s Poor Planning

Eastern Ukrainian skies just got a lot safer for Russia as experts believe that the Russian Iskander ballistic missile could have destroyed the first Patriot air defense system.

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What was earlier thought to be an S-300 system at the receiving end of the Russian Iskander ballistic missile is now believed to be a Patriot Air Defense System. Based on drone-captured photographs of the destruction, analysts are suggesting that the target could be a German-supplied Patriot missile launcher.

There has been no official confirmation so far, but reports indicate that Ukraine lost its first Patriot system along with its crew.

According to Forbes, the attack was carried out after a Russian drone located a Ukrainian convoy moving the system just outside of Pokrovsk in eastern Ukraine. Following the tip on the convoy’s location, the Russian Iskander surface-to-surface missile was launched, taking out two Patriot launchers.

Patriots have wreaked havoc on the Russian forces, taking out their critical assets, including aircraft and missiles. Patriot has been called one of the few systems that can shoot down a ballistic missile, it has been shielding Ukraine against the barrage of Russian missiles.

As the Russian-Ukraine war is entering its third year, this would be the first destruction of the Patriot Air Defense system.

Also, the destruction comes at a critical time, when the Russian forces have been partially blinded as few of their Beriev A-50 ‘Flying Radars’ have been shot down by Ukraine. As Russia was planning the replacement, Ukrainian forces raided their Taganrog factory with drones where it was refurbishing its older A-50 aircraft.

The possibility is high that the Patriot battery that reportedly downed a dozen Russian Su-34 bombers was hit by the Iskander missile just 20 miles from the front line.

Reports have suggested that Russia, fighting a war of attrition, has been baiting Ukraine to exhaust all its Patriot missiles and leave itself vulnerable as the US Congress turned off the tap to give military assistance to Ukraine.

The photographs point to at least two truck-mounted quad-launchers for a Patriot surface-to-air missile battery. The remnants of the vehicles suggest a vehicle similar to German trucks used for transporting patriot missile containers. Germany has reportedly supplied two Patriot missile systems to Ukraine, along with spare parts.

According to open-source information, Ukraine reportedly has just three Patriot batteries—with radars and between four and eight launchers (along with four spare launchers). Two batteries and two launchers came from Germany, one battery came from the US, and the Netherlands donated two launchers.

A complete Patriot battery has six major components: generators, a radar set, a control station, antennas, a launcher station, and interceptor missiles. The components operate together to fire a Patriot missile and successfully guide it to its target.

German newspaper Der Bild’s journalist Julian Röpcke expressed shock at Ukraine “parking two Patriot launchers less than 10 meters apart” “long enough” for Russia to fire a short-range ballistic missile at it and destroy both. This all transpired less than 40 kilometers from the front.

Former Indian Air Force pilot Vijainder K Thakur contended: “Moving the 3 AD systems in a convoy, even in darkness, was the real undoing that made the Iskander strike catastrophic; the damage caused by the secondary explosion of the interceptor missile warheads most likely proved more destructive than the strike by the Iskander missiles.”

“It is possible that Ukrainian forces were aware of the UAV’s presence, but road and surrounding terrain conditions didn’t allow dispersal,” Thakur added. The Russian drone has, in all likelihood, provided the coordinates for the attacks as well as the damage assessment after the strikes.

The Institute of the Study of War at the moment does not confirm the destruction of the Ukrainian Patriots since the Russians had demonstrated the footage of destroyed German MAN KAT1 trucks, which can be used as a base for Patriot air defense missile launchers or in logistics.

Patriot AD System

Expensive Patriots

The Patriot is the most expensive single weapon system the US has supplied to Ukraine, costing about US$1.1 billion: US$400 million for the system and US$690 million for the missiles. Ukraine lacked credible air defense for a year, and only in April 2023 did the first Patriot systems arrive in the war-struck country.

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While a Patriot can shoot down a Russian Iskander missile, it can do so only when the batteries are deployed and are on alert. The systems are vulnerable when being moved.

In May 2023, one of the Patriot systems was partially damaged and was repaired without being removed from the field. After extensive lobbying by the Ukrainians to provide them with a sophisticated air defense system, the US spent 10 weeks training Ukrainian troops on how to maintain and operate it.

In May and June 2023, during some of the most complex attacks involving drones, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and hypersonic missiles, Ukraine’s two Patriot batteries shot down all 34 ballistic missiles that Russia had fired at Kyiv, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based research organization.

The Ukrainian air defense had been stretched thin even before the Russians took out two Patriot launchers. With the US Congress already stopping further aid to Ukraine, the Ukrainian forces will find it difficult to replace the lost launchers.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • The author can be reached at ritu.sharma (at)
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