US-Made Patriot Air Defense System Likely Damaged in Russian Missile Attack near Kyiv

ZAMOSC, POLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Patriot launchers modules mounted on M983 HEMTT part of the US made MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) system are pictured on a open field on February 18, 2023 in Zamosc, Poland. The German armed forces deployed Patriots batteries to their NATO neighbor, after a missile explosion in Przewodow, which previous investigation suggests that came from Ukrainian air defense, killed two civilians. Since Russia's large scale military attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022 more than 9.7 million refugees from Ukraine crossed the Polish borders to escape the conflict, with 1.4 million registering in Poland whilst others moved on to other countries. (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)

In a recent early morning attack near Kyiv, a US-made Patriot air defense system was reportedly damaged, though not destroyed, by a Russian missile barrage, according to a US official speaking to CNN. The extent of the damage is currently being assessed, as it will determine whether the system needs to be completely withdrawn or can be repaired on-site by Ukrainian forces.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed responsibility for the strike, stating that their Kinzhal hypersonic missile system successfully targeted the US-made Patriot anti-aircraft missile system in Kyiv. However, Ukrainian officials have refrained from commenting on the claim, stating they will not rely on Russian sources for information. Ukrainian authorities did confirm that they intercepted all six hypersonic missiles fired by the Russians.

Ukraine currently possesses two Patriot air defense systems, one donated by the US and the other jointly donated by Germany and the Netherlands. The specific system that may have been damaged remains unknown. Nonetheless, even a temporary loss of one of the systems could impact Ukraine’s ability to defend Kyiv amidst escalating Russian missile attacks.

This is not the first time Russia has targeted the Patriot systems with hypersonic missiles. US officials had previously revealed an unsuccessful attack on May 4, where Ukrainians successfully intercepted the missile before it could hit the Patriot. Given the significance of the air defense system, the US spent ten weeks training Ukrainian troops on its operation and maintenance.

One possibility suggested by a US official is that the missile barrage damaged one or more components of the Patriot battery. A complete Patriot battery comprises generators, a radar set, a control station, antennas, a launcher station, and interceptor missiles, all working in harmony to fire and guide the Patriot missile. If extensive damage is found in one or more of these components, Ukraine may need to temporarily take the system offline for more extensive repairs, potentially impacting its defense capabilities.

While the Patriot air defense system is highly effective in detecting and intercepting incoming threats, its powerful radar emissions can also make it vulnerable to detection by the enemy. US officials believe that the Russian military has been able to pick up on the signals emitted by the Patriot, enabling them to target the system with their hypersonic missile, known as the Kinzhal or Killjoy. Unlike other mobile and harder-to-target air defenses provided to Ukraine, the larger and more stationary nature of the Patriot battery has made it susceptible to prolonged targeting by Russian forces.

The situation underscores the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, with the latter heavily relying on international support, including advanced air defense systems, to safeguard its sovereignty. The damage to the Patriot system highlights the challenges faced by Ukraine in countering Russian aggression and defending critical areas such as Kyiv.