US assessing potential damage of Patriot missile defense system following Russian attack near Kyiv
A US-made Patriot air defense system was likely damaged, but not destroyed, as the result of a Russian missile barrage in and around Kyiv early Tuesday morning local time, a US official tells CNN.
The US is still assessing to what degree the system was damaged, the official said. That will determine whether the system needs to be pulled back entirely or simply repaired on the spot by Ukrainians forces.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday in a post on Telegram that “a high-precision strike by the Kinzhal hypersonic missile system in the city of Kyiv hit a US-made Patriot anti-aircraft missile system.”
Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday that they successfully intercepted all six hypersonic missiles fired by the Russians, but the Ukrainian military declined to comment on the Russians’ claim that a Patriot system was hit. “We cannot comment on this. We’ll stay out of commenting on Russian sources,” said the Ukrainian Air Force spokesman, Serhiy Ihnat.
Ukraine currently has two Patriot air defense systems in country, one donated by the US and the other donated jointly by Germany and the Netherlands. It is unclear which of those systems was potentially damaged, but taking one out of commission – even for a short period – could affect Ukraine’s ability to defend Kyiv amid intensifying Russian missile attacks.
Russia has targeted the Patriot systems with hypersonic missiles before, US officials told CNN last week, including once on May 4. That attack failed, and Ukrainians successfully intercepted the missile before it could hit the Patriot, the officials said.
After extensive lobbying by the Ukrainians to provide them with the sophisticated air defense system, the US spent 10 weeks training Ukrainian troops on how to maintain and operate it. US and western officials were pleasantly surprised by how quickly the Ukrainians learned how to operate the Patriots, which arrived in Ukraine last month.
Another US official said it is possible that the missile barrage hit one of the Patriot battery’s several components. A complete Patriot battery has six major components: generators, a radar set, a control station, antennas, a launcher station and interceptor missiles. The components operate together to fire a Patriot missile and successfully guide it to its target.
But extensive damage to one or more of the components may force Ukraine to take the system offline and out of country for more extensive repairs.
The Patriot has a powerful radar to detect incoming targets at long range, making it a potent air defense platform capable of intercepting ballistic missiles and more. But the radar emission necessary to spot threats at a distance also makes it possible for the enemy to detect the Patriot battery and figure out its location.
US officials believe the Russian military has been able to pick up on signals that are emitted from the Patriot, allowing them to target the system using the hypersonic missile, known as the Kinzhal or Killjoy. And unlike some shorter-range air defenses provided to Ukraine that are mobile and harder to target, the large Patriot battery is a larger and more stationary system, making it possible for the Russian forces to zero in on the location over time.
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