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What are Patriot missiles and why does Ukraine want them?

What are Patriot missiles and why does Ukraine want them?

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WASHINGTON — After months of debate, the Biden administration said Wednesday it is deploying its most advanced ground-based air defense system, the Patriot, to Ukraine in response to Kiev’s urgent request to help defend against an onslaught of Russian missile and drone strikes.

The Patriot system is part of a $1.8 billion aid package for Ukraine that was announced when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Washington to meet with President Biden and other officials.

Americans of a certain age can trace their introduction to Patriot missiles to the 1991 Gulf War, when a number of them launched Iraqi Scud missile after Iraqi missile in defense of Israel.

One of the most sought-after air defense systems in the American arms market today, the Patriot is deployed by Saudi and Emirati forces in Yemen and across the NATO alliance in Europe. Israel still uses it. Now add Ukraine to the list.

Here’s a look at the air defense system.

The Patriot is a mobile surface-to-air missile and anti-ballistic missile system that can shoot down incoming missiles before they hit their intended targets. Patriot batteries can also shoot down planes. Mounted on trucks that can be moved at will, each system can hold four interceptor missiles. In military circles, they are considered a security blanket that protects a population, troops, or even buildings from shelling.

Zelenskyy in Washington: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will visit Washington today to meet with President Biden and address Congress. The visit will be the first time Mr Zelensky has left Ukraine since Russia invaded its second year Ukraine.A new Russian offensive? A senior adviser to Mr Zelensky said Ukraine is preparing for the possibility that Russia will sharply escalate the war in a winter offensive that could involve mass infantry attacks.

The US military has used Patriot batteries in numerous conflicts over the past 30 years. Most recently, US troops at Al Dhafra Air Force Base in the United Arab Emirates fired Patriot interceptors at missiles heading toward the base in January, the US Central Command said.

Kyiv hopes to use this security blanket to ward off incoming missiles. Since Russian President Vladimir V. Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February, Moscow has unleashed a spate of missile and air strikes on civilian and military targets in Ukraine.

But in recent weeks, following a humiliating withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson — the southern city Mr Putin claimed as part of his country’s territory just a month earlier — Moscow has been adamant. Russia has destroyed Ukraine’s power plants, heating systems and other energy infrastructure, leaving millions without power or heat to battle freezing winter temperatures.

This month, Russian drone strikes on the southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa have plunged more than 1.5 million people into darkness. The government in Kyiv sees the Patriot system as an opportunity to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses.

Beyond the practical, Kyiv sees symbolic benefits in the Patriot system: proof that the United States, rather than tiring of supporting Ukraine, is stepping up efforts to help it resist Russian onslaught.

Patriot batteries can project defenses over 600 miles. While far from foolproof, they can target and shoot down long-range ballistic missiles and aircraft from hundreds of miles away. They also have powerful radar systems – better than comparable air defense systems – that make it easier for Patriots to tell who is friend and who is foe.

A lot of. A single interceptor missile costs about $4 million, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Each launcher costs around $10 million. This can limit their use to situations where incoming airstrikes will cause major damage or take lives.

Not for a long time. Patriot missiles have many critics — a 2018 Foreign Policy headline claimed that “Patriot missiles are made in America and fail everywhere,” which US military officials called an exaggeration. But the public was previously misled about Patriot’s performance. During the Gulf War, military officials said the system intercepted all but two Iraqi Scud missiles. The Pentagon later had to revise that to a 50 percent kill rate.

Today it is believed that the effectiveness rate is higher, but it is difficult to find exact figures. Military experts say it’s important to know how — and under what circumstances — you use one.

A Patriot battery takes nearly 100 people to operate, officials say. Ukrainian troops would have to be trained to operate the system. But the learning curve shouldn’t be that steep, as Ukrainian military personnel have proven to be quick studies of military systems.

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