The Biden Administration is considering the possibility of transferring Patriot missile defense systems to Ukraine, according to a CNN report. The outlet’s sources – “two US officials and a senior administration official” – said the plans are being “finalized” and a decision may be announced as early as this week.
CNN notes that Patriot systems deployed in Ukraine will help secure airspace for NATO countries in Eastern Europe. It is unclear how many missile launchers the US will send to Ukraine, but a typical Patriot battery includes a radar that detects and tracks targets, computers, electrical power equipment, a battle control station and up to eight launchers, each containing four missiles.
Once the plans are agreed upon, the Patriot is expected to be handed over to Ukraine as soon as possible, with training on its use taking place at the US Army base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.
The Patriot system can destroy aerodynamic and ballistic targets at a distance of 160 km and 50 km respectively, but has several significant disadvantages – its high overall cost and complex control systems. The Insider earlier reported that one of the main issues with Patriot systems is that it is an expensive, technologically complex and sensitive system – especially in regard to its operating and maintenance conditions. One Patriot battery costs an estimated $1 billion and requires 70 skilled personnel to be operational.
Ukraine has repeatedly requested the US to provide these systems. Talks intensified after an incident in Poland on November 15, when missiles fell in the village of Przewodowy, 6 kilometers from the border with Ukraine. Jake Sullivan, the US Presidential National Security Advisor, said that such supplies could be perceived by Russia as “provocative.” Ukraine was planning to buy their European counterpart – the medium-range Franco-Italian SAMP-T air defense systems – in place of the Patriot.
On December 10, reports revealed that the US no longer objects to Ukraine's strikes on Russian territory. “We're not saying to Kyiv, 'Don't strike the Russians [in Russia or Crimea].' We can't tell them what to do. It's up to them how they use their weapons. But when they use the weapons we have supplied, the only thing we insist on is that the Ukrainian military conforms to the international laws of war and to the Geneva conventions,” a Pentagon source told The Times. The US demands that Ukraine not US weapons to fire on civilian targets and individuals.