In the early hours of Tuesday morning, a Russian missile barrage targeted the city of Kyiv, resulting in likely damage to a US-made Patriot air defense system. According to a US official who spoke to CNN, although the extent of the damage is still being assessed, it is believed that the system was not completely destroyed. The evaluation of the damage will determine whether the system needs to be entirely withdrawn or if it can be repaired on-site by Ukrainian forces.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed responsibility for the attack, stating on Tuesday via Telegram that their Kinzhal hypersonic missile system had conducted a high-precision strike on the US-made Patriot anti-aircraft missile system situated in Kyiv. In response, a spokesperson from the US National Security Council directed CNN to seek comments from the Ukrainian government.
Ukrainian officials say they have intercepted all six Russian hypersonic missiles, but decline to comment on the Russian claim that one of their Patriot air defense systems was hit. This could impact Ukraine’s ability to defend Kyiv amidst escalating Russian missile attacks. After considerable efforts by Ukraine to acquire this sophisticated air defense system, the US dedicated ten weeks to training Ukrainian troops on how to operate and maintain it. The speed at which the Ukrainians mastered the Patriot system surprised US and Western officials. The Patriots arrived in Ukraine just last month.
Another US official suggested that the missile barrage might have damaged one or more components of the Patriot battery. A complete Patriot battery comprises six major components: generators, a radar set, a control station, antennas, a launcher station, and interceptor missiles. All these elements work together to fire a Patriot missile and guide it effectively to its target. Extensive damage to any of these components could necessitate Ukraine taking the system offline and seeking more extensive repairs outside the country.
The Patriot air defense system is renowned for its powerful radar, capable of detecting incoming targets from long distances, making it an effective platform for intercepting ballistic missiles and more. However, the radar emissions required to detect threats at such a range also enable adversaries to locate the Patriot battery. US officials believe that the Russian military has been able to exploit these signals emitted by the Patriot, enabling them to target the system using their hypersonic missile known as the Kinzhal or Killjoy. Unlike some mobile and harder-to-target shorter-range air defenses provided to Ukraine, the large and stationary nature of the Patriot battery makes it susceptible to being pinpointed by Russian forces over time.
As tensions persist between Russia and Ukraine, the damage sustained by the Patriot air defense system underscores the evolving threat landscape and the challenges faced by Ukraine in safeguarding its territories. The incident serves as a reminder of the need for ongoing support and collaboration between Ukraine and its international allies to ensure the nation’s defense capabilities remain effective against advanced adversaries.