What will change the delivery of American Patriot missiles


The United States confirmed the delivery of the Patriot air defense system to Ukraine during President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington on Wednesday. An important step in internationalizing the conflict, but it should not fundamentally change the situation on the ground.

They will be the best guardians of the sky of Ukraine. Washington confirmed the delivery of “Patriot” missiles to Kiev on Wednesday, December 21, during President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the United States. Designed in the late 1980s and modernized several times, this valuable anti-aircraft system is the most modern system delivered to Ukraine by the West since the beginning of the Russian occupation.

“It is a system with a large detection range, which means it can detect strikes from very far away and can control several missiles at the same time,” explains General Dominique Trinquand, the former head of France’s military mission. UN.

These missiles, which are the pillars of NATO’s eastern flank defense, are capable of defeating all threats from the sky within a radius of 60-160 km. Able to fly at four times the speed of sound, they leave little chance to enemy aircraft and the most advanced missiles, even those flying at high altitudes.

A heterogeneous defense to coordinate

Each mobile battery has eight launchers with four missiles each. Computers, power generators, as well as high-performance radar complete this rare weaponry, which dozens of US allies like Japan or Israel benefit from. The battery to be supplied to Ukraine should come from the arsenal of Poland or Germany.

“This new system will be used to close the loopholes. Ukraine already has Soviet S-300 systems or Western medium-range systems such as the German Iris-T or the French Crotale. The Patriots and the Ukrainians have long-range capabilities,” says Marc Chassillan, a consultant specializing in defense issues. .

Faced with Russia’s strategy of bolstering defenses by raining down shells, the Ukrainians will have to coordinate difficultly between the various systems already in place.

“Patriots will be used to destroy high-velocity missiles, and others will deal with drones. But this remains an extremely complex coordination that armies are not used to doing, because our means are generally less heterogeneous,” says Dominique Trinquand.

Worth a billion dollars

But no matter how sophisticated this new weapon is, it should not change the balance of power on the ground. With this single battery, Ukraine will be able to protect only a few hundred square kilometers of its territory. Ukraine’s powerhouse and most populous city, the capital, Kyiv, could benefit from its deployment. An important safety device must be accompanied during the installation of a battery worth about a billion dollars.

>> To read: Should we fear a large-scale Russian attack on Ukraine in the dead of winter?

Each US missile also costs several million, which should encourage the Ukrainians to properly inspect targets before capturing them. “It’s not a good idea to shoot down a $50,000 drone with a million dollar missile,” former US Army colonel Mark Cancian told Vox online media.

“Unless this drone targets a power plant and is about to cut power to millions of people,” says Mark Chassillan. “The designation of the system also depends on the value of the target to be destroyed.”

The system will not start immediately

Another downside is that this Patriot battery will take time to deploy. Mastering this complex system, which requires about 90 soldiers, is not for tomorrow, even if the Ukrainian soldiers prove their amazing ability to quickly and well learn to work with Western weapons.

“Especially, they will have to train the Ukrainian surface-to-air shooters. Admittedly, they are already used to this type of system, but they will still need several weeks, even months. In addition, training on the maintenance of these weapons is very complex. equipment. Even if this training has already started, the system will only be operational in two or three months,” says Mark Chassillan.

It is probably too late for Kiev to help the Cold War led by Vladimir Putin. According to American officials, troops from Kiev are already scheduled to train at the Grafenwöhr base in Germany. Poland, which has several Patriot-equipped sites, could also provide a training ground for Ukrainian specialists.

“Confrontation between Russia and the United States”

Such an increase in American military aid is also a message to Moscow and, to a lesser extent, to Tehran, which may supply Russia with ballistic missiles after the kamikaze drones.

“It’s quite a political decision to propose a system that far outstrips the performance of your ally and its adversary,” said Mark Chassillan.

Washington, which has long hesitated to take this step for fear of creating tension, firmly affirms its unwavering support for Ukraine. This Patriot battery is part of a new $1.8 billion tranche of military aid, which also includes precision-guided bombs for Ukrainian fighters.

According to Dominique Trinquand, “Besides this new aid, Vladimir Zelensky’s visit to Washington, at a time when President Putin has decided to bring all defense officials together to discuss 2023, is a way to show that the conflict is now really between Russia and the United States. states”.

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