Will One Patriot Battery Make A Difference?
US President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr, with the deluded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy at his side, announced on December 22, 2022 that the latest weapons package that Washington DC would provide to Kiev would include one Patriot air defence anti-missile battery, along with an unspecified amount of missile ammunition. There is good reason, however, to question whether or not this single battery will make a difference on the battlefield of Ukraine.
A senior US defence official told reporters at the Pentagon: “Our goal is to help Ukraine strengthen a layered, integrated approach to air defence.” The official also said that it would work together with other, shorter-range air defence systems that the West had already provided to Ukraine. However, “Patriot does require training, and we expect it will take several months to ensure the Ukrainian Forces have the training they need to employ it successfully”, he stressed.
A single Patriot battery includes six-eight launchers, a radar unit and a command-and-control section, along with support functions to include power and maintenance. It takes 90-100 troops to run a single Patriot battery, which is a technologically a complex system. The senior US official claimed that “the Ukrainians will have to complete the training in order to be able to, you know, field the system. And it’s the Ukrainians who are operating the system, so that’s absolutely essential”.
The second problem relates to how much of an area can a single Patriot battery even cover, despite its capabilities against distant targets? Ukraine is getting one Patriot battery; however, the NATO deployed six Patriot batteries in 2013 to defend a NATO radar and two air bases in an area (much smaller than Ukraine) against threats allegedly stemming from Syria and Iran. While the Patriot can engage manned aircraft up to a range of 160km, it can engage tactical ballistic missiles out to a range of 30km, meaning that the area it can defend is very limited.
As the Russians know well, a Patriot battery is also a soft target, which means it can be easily destroyed. The Patriot System is also limited by the fact that its radar can only cover 120 degrees of the horizon. It means that if the threat comes from a different direction from that which it’s facing, it can’t see it. “In the kind of environment we’re seeing in Ukraine, where threats can come in from multiple directions, you either have to have more radars or more batteries,” Ian Williams of the Missile Defence Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC told AFP on December 15, 2022.
Boundless Ocean of Politics has received this article from Christopher Lewis of Schiller Institute, Frankfurt, Germany.
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