US Patriot System Spotted in China? Netizens Debate If Russia Could Have Gifted The AD Launcher To Beijing

An interesting photograph circulating on social media has ignited a flurry of speculation. It depicts what appears to be a US-made Patriot air defense missile launcher being transported on a truck somewhere in China. 

India To Counter China’s Fujian With 3rd Aircraft Carrier; Defense Minister Says ‘Work On’ For Third Carrier

The appearance has fueled a plethora of theories, particularly due to the heightened attention that the Patriot system has been receiving for its ‘splendid role’ in the Ukraine war.

The Patriot air defense system has been credited for intercepting Russia’s invincible, un-interceptable hypersonic missiles in the ongoing Ukraine conflict. The system also garnered widespread global media coverage for making Ukrainian skies a No Fly Zone for Russian top fighters.

Its solid performance has solidified its position as a top favorite for nations seeking to bolster their defense capabilities. Ukraine is one such nation, and it has sought more of these systems to counter Russian aerial attacks.

This picture probably depicts a mock-up of a Patriot system. Credits: Twitter

Currently, Ukraine operates at least three Patriot systems, with one stationed in the vicinity of its capital, Kyiv. These systems were acquired through donations from the US, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Despite facing challenges, such as damages to one of the batteries, Ukrainian officials have remained steadfast in their demand for additional Patriots.

Kyiv’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, made headlines in March when he emphatically stated, “Give us the damn Patriots,” echoing the sentiments of Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, who advocated for the acquisition of 25 Patriot systems to comprehensively cover the nation’s airspace.

The global demand for the Patriot air defense system has also surged, prompting manufacturers to ramp up production. Raytheon, the primary producer of the Patriot system, has significantly increased its output to meet this demand.

Last year, Greg Hayes, the CEO of Raytheon, disclosed plans to boost production to 12 systems per year, underscoring the urgency to address the growing demand.

Similarly, Lockheed Martin, which produces the PAC-3 MSE missiles utilized in the Patriot system, has escalated its manufacturing efforts. Despite initial production challenges, Lockheed had reached a rate of 500 missiles per year as of December 2023 and plans to increase output.

The company has also strategically fortified its supply chain to mitigate risks and ensure seamless production. It has invested in second-source suppliers and provided sub-tier suppliers with the necessary support to align with program requirements.

Patriot System In China?  

The widely-circulated image initially sparked speculation about the presence of a Patriot launcher on a flatbed truck in China. Some suggestions on social media said that the system had originated from Western countries via Ukraine.

There has, as yet, been no confirmation about Russian forces capturing such a system in the ongoing conflict. Russian forces, however, have destroyed at least two M901 launchers for MIM-104 Patriot interceptors.

Alternative theories proposed the system originated from Taiwan, a user of the PAC-3 Patriot system. However, experts later identified the image as a “VISMOD” (Visual Modification) utilized for training purposes by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Intel analyst Ryan McBeth noted discrepancies between the tire treads and rear lights of the system in the image and those of authentic US-made Patriot systems — discrediting the theory of its origin.

The use of mock-ups for training and deception in warfare is not new.  Even in the ongoing Ukraine war, both sides have utilized dummy assets, including tanks, fighter jets, and Patriot air defense system mock-ups, to deceive enemy forces.

Previous satellite imagery suggests what appears to be the depiction of simulated US warships situated in the expansive expanse of a desert region within China.

This tactic aims to divert adversary resources towards false targets, underscoring the tactical significance of visual deception in contemporary warfare.

China has a well-established practice of utilizing mock-ups for training purposes. Historical satellite imagery has unveiled China’s construction of a replica of Taiwan’s capital city, including the presidential office and other government buildings.

Compared to actual maps, the replica appeared remarkably realistic, with accurate representations of roads and surroundings.

China is well-known for creating mock-ups of US aircraft carriers and other warships at designated training sites. These replicas serve as testing grounds to enhance missile capabilities and overall military preparedness.