Two US officials told CNN that Russia attempted to destroy the US-made Patriot air defense system with a hypersonic missile in Ukraine last week.
Officials said the attack failed and Ukrainian forces used the Patriot system to intercept the missiles. It marked the first successful use of an advanced air defense system in Ukraine just weeks after the missiles arrived in the country.
One official said Ukrainian air defense forces fired several missiles at the Patriot from different angles to intercept Russian missiles, showing how quickly they had become adept at using the powerful system.
US officials believe Russia could pick up on signals from the Patriot and target the system with a hypersonic missile known as Kinjal or Killjoy.
The Patriot missile system has a powerful radar that detects incoming targets at long ranges, making it a powerful air defense platform capable of intercepting ballistic missiles and others. However, the radar emissions needed to detect threats at a distance also allow the enemy to detect and locate Patriot batteries. And unlike some of the short-range air defenses provided to Ukraine, the large Patriot battery, which is highly maneuverable and difficult to target, is a fixed system that allows the Russians to concentrate on their positions over time .
Officials said there was some way to camouflage these signals, but the Russians were clearly able to determine the approximate location of the Patriots stationed outside Kiev. The intercept happened on the night of May 4, Mykola Oleshchuk, commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, said over the weekend.
Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder confirmed earlier this week that Ukraine had used the Patriot system, which could reach supersonic speeds, to intercept the Kinjal.
Ukraine has previously received at least two Patriot systems, one each from the United States and Germany, to bolster its air defenses, which have been unable to intercept more advanced Russian missiles such as the Kinzhal.
When the US first announced it would send the Patriot missile system to Ukraine, the delivery deadline was several months, given the complexity of the system and the need to train dozens of Ukrainian soldiers to operate the battery with multiple components. But the Ukrainians are already well-versed in the use of air defense systems, allowing the US to compress a standard training program of nearly a year into a few months.
The final overhaul of the Patriot system took place in mid-April, when US, German and Dutch trainers soon joined with Ukrainian troops before the system was sent to Ukraine for a final overhaul.