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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

US assessing possible damage of Patriot missile defense system after Russian attack near Kyiv

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An American-made Patriot air defense system was possibly damaged but not destroyed as a result of Russian missile shelling in and around Kyiv on Tuesday morning local time.

The official said the US is still assessing to what extent the system has been compromised. This will determine whether the system is to be completely withdrawn or simply repaired by Ukrainian forces in the field.

“The high-precision strike by the Kinzhal hypersonic missile system targeted a US-made Patriot anti-aircraft missile system in the city of Kyiv,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a Telegram post on Tuesday.

A US National Security Council (NSC) spokesman referred the Ukrainian government for comment.

Ukrainian officials said Tuesday they had successfully intercepted all six hypersonic missiles fired by Russia, but the Ukrainian military declined to comment on Russian claims that a Patriot system was hit. “We cannot comment on this. We will not comment on Russian sources,” said Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuri Ihnat.

Ukraine currently has two Patriot air defense systems, one donated by the United States and the other jointly donated by Germany and the Netherlands. It is not clear which of these systems is potentially compromised, but a short-term shutdown could affect Ukraine’s ability to defend Kyiv amid intensifying Russian missile attacks.

US officials said Russia has targeted the Patriot system with hypersonic missiles in the past week, including once on May 4. Officials said the attack failed and the Ukrainians successfully intercepted the missile before it hit the Patriot.

After extensive lobbying by Ukraine to provide a sophisticated air defense system, the United States spent 10 weeks training Ukrainian forces on how to maintain and operate them. American and Western officials were pleasantly surprised by how quickly the Ukrainians were operating the Patriots, which had arrived in Ukraine the previous month.

Another US official said that the missile strike likely struck one of several Patriot batteries. A complete Patriot battery consists of six major components: generator, radar set, control station, antenna, launcher and interceptor missile. The components work together to fire the Patriot missile and successfully guide it to its target.

However, extensive damage to one or more components may cause Ukraine to take its systems offline and go abroad for more extensive repairs.

The Patriot is a powerful air defense platform capable of intercepting ballistic missiles and more, with a powerful radar that detects incoming targets at long ranges. However, the radar emissions needed to detect threats at a distance also allow the enemy to detect and locate Patriot batteries.

US officials believe the Russian military could pick up on signals from the Patriot and target the system with a hypersonic missile known as Kinjal or Killjoy. And unlike some of the short-range air defenses provided to Ukraine, the larger Patriot battery is a larger, more stable system, allowing Russian forces to concentrate in that location over time.

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