Back in December, the U.S. Department of Defense made an unexpected announcement: The U.S. military would be providing Ukraine with one MIM-104 Patriot air defense battery with ammunition.
At the time, Ukraine was getting battered almost on a daily basis by Russian missile and drone attacks that were killing and wounding scores of people.
After repeated setbacks on the battlefield, Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to force the Ukrainian leadership to the negotiating table by destroying the country’s critical infrastructure and freezing the Ukrainians to death.
As one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world, the MIM-104 Patriot was intended to deal with Russian missile salvos. Now, after almost five months, the weapon system is finally operational in Ukraine.
The MIM-104 Patriot is Operational
Chief of the Ukrainian Air Force Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk verified that there are operational MIM-104 Patriot air defense batteries in the country manned by Ukrainian crews.
More than one MIM-104 Patriot air defense systems are currently active in the Ukrainian air defense umbrella.
Between January and March, the Ukrainian military sent handpicked troops to Germany and the United States to receive training on the air defense weapon system. In less than three months, the Ukrainians finished a training course that normally takes up to almost a year.
With a price tag of around $1 billion per MIM-104 Patriot battery, the weapon system isn’t cheap, but it offers some great capabilities. It has a range of about 45 miles and can hit targets flying at more than 75,000 feet.
The MIM-104 Patriot air defense system is highly capable and in use by the U.S. military and dozens of other countries around the world. This is the first time the air defense system will see large-scale conventional fighting since the Gulf War in 1991.
Thus far, the Kremlin’s missile strategy has not only failed to achieve its objectives, but it has also depleted the country’s missile stock to such a large degree that the Russian military has trouble targeting legitimate military targets that could offer an advantage on the battlefield.
The MIM-104 Patriot and Controversy
When the U.S. first started deliberating sending MIM-104 Patriot air defense systems to Ukraine, the Kremlin reacted aggressively. Russian officials stated that such a move on behalf of the U.S. would be provocative and would escalate the conflict.
To be sure, at every turn of the conflict, the Kremlin has threatened with escalation—even with nuclear attacks against Ukraine and the West.
“I find it ironic and very telling that officials from a country that brutally attacked its neighbor in an illegal and unprovoked invasion, through a campaign that is deliberately targeting and killing innocent civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure, that they would choose to use words like ‘provocative’ to describe defensive systems that are meant to save lives and protect civilians,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder has said at the time in response to the Russian officials’ comments.
And at the end of the day, not only did the U.S. send more than one MIM-104 Patriot air defense weapon system to Ukraine, but Germany also joined in and sent some of its own too.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy, Cybersecurity, and Intelligence at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.