What's new

How the U.S. Patriot Missile Became a Hero of Ukraine War


Jun 19, 2014
Reaction score
United States
United States
KYIV, Ukraine—Around 3:30 a.m. one recent morning, more than a dozen Russian missiles flashed on the radar screens of the Ukrainian air-defense crew defending this capital city.

The missiles were coursing toward Kyiv, some as fast as six times the speed of sound and many heading directly for the crew’s missile battery.
The Ukrainians didn’t panic, their commander said in an interview. They didn’t have time.
But they did have a U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air missile system, which days earlier had, for the first time, knocked down an ultrafast Kinzhal ballistic missile. Also known as the Kh-47, the Kinzhal is one of Russia’s most advanced weapons.

Early that morning, May 16, the Patriot’s radar detected the missiles, including six Kinzhals, at a distance of about 125 miles. The system’s computer tracked the missiles and launched interceptors, destroying all of them, the last at a distance of about 9 miles—seconds before impact.

“No one was 100% sure that the Patriot was capable of destroying a Kh-47 hypersonic missile,” said Col. Serhiy Yaremenko, commander of the 96th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, which defends Kyiv. “Ukrainians proved it.”

Forty years after it was brought into service, the Patriot air-defense system is finally doing what it was designed for. It is destroying incoming missiles and other aerial threats in Europe and proving indispensable to the Ukrainian forces defending their ground troops, cities and critical infrastructure.

Ukraine’s political and military leadership have lauded the system as the only one capable of tackling the threat from Russian ballistic missiles, which the Kremlin had boasted couldn’t be stopped. Combining the Patriot with other Western air-defense systems as well as Ukraine’s Soviet-era weapons, Ukraine is now fending off most aerial threats against Kyiv, from ballistic and cruise missiles to drones.

The Ukraine conflict has proven a test bed for new weapons ranging from suicide drones to cyber jamming. But the Patriot and other veteran weapons such as antitank Javelin missiles and Stinger antiaircraft missiles have become must-haves for Ukraine. All are due to be replaced in the U.S. arsenal with new, more sophisticated versions now undergoing development and testing, easing the way for Washington to hand them off to Ukraine.
“We are the best promoter of the Patriot,” said Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine has two full Patriot systems, which include a launcher, radar and a control station. Zelensky recently told The Wall Street Journal that he wants more to protect critical infrastructure and civilians in cities across the country, as well as front-line troops vulnerable to Russia’s superior air power.

Raytheon Technologies, the Patriot’s main contractor, is increasing production to 12 a year and plans to deliver five more to Ukraine by the end of next year, said Chief Executive Greg Hayes.

“We have been very surprised at its effectiveness,” said Hayes of the Patriot, which he said alongside other air-defense systems has intercepted as many as 90% of incoming threats in Ukraine. He said Ukraine has tweaked the Patriot’s software to enable it to track and destroy hypersonic missiles flying twice as fast as it was designed for. Yaremenko said officers in Ukraine’s partner countries have told him, “We are learning from you right now.”

Work on what became the Patriot began in earnest in the 1960s, when the Pentagon first awarded a contract to build an advanced air-defense system for the Army to use against Soviet attack. The program was almost canceled several times because of cost overruns and the technical challenge of, in essence, hitting a bullet with a bullet. It received its name—an acronym for Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept of Target—in the U.S. bicentennial year of 1976, and the U.S. military began using it in 1984 during the Cold War.

In testing and combat, the Patriot has hit more targets than it missed, though it had a patchy record against Iraqi Scud missiles when deployed in combat during the Gulf War in 1991. The Patriot has been upgraded over the past 40 years, and Raytheon said the current iteration bears little resemblance to the original.

The improvements boosted demand, especially among Gulf states including Qatar and Kuwait, and 18 countries operate the system or have them on order. New customers have to wait more than two years, Raytheon said. The U.S. deploys the system widely to protect its own forces overseas.

Raytheon builds the Patriot’s core radar and targeting system in Andover, Mass. Lockheed Martin makes the interceptors fired by the Patriot at its plant in Camden, Ark. Aerojet Rocketdyne makes the interceptors’ engines.

Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are expanding their plants, part of a broader Pentagon effort to restock U.S. munitions stockpiles depleted by the war in Ukraine and meet fresh orders from other countries. Lockheed Martin is also turning to Patriot customers and users such as Poland to produce parts, said Brenda Davidson, vice president of the PAC-3 program. “Demand continues to increase,” she said.

The interceptors have been upgraded. Ukraine has both the PAC-2, which uses an explosive charge to down targets, and the PAC-3, which smashes the missile or aircraft at high speed.

Raytheon has made around 240 Patriots, and Lockheed Martin has produced more than 4,500 PAC-3 interceptors.

A Patriot battery includes three main parts, sited on truck platforms: radars and their power generators, launchers carrying up to 16 missiles, and the engagement-control station that monitors the radar and provides target data. A Patriot battery is run by as many as 90 soldiers, but the control station can be operated in the field by as few as three.

The radar can monitor 120 degrees of sky and detect incoming threats more than 100 miles away at heights up to 30,000 feet. In a virtual instant, the computer calculates the incoming threat’s trajectory and aims and fires the interceptors, which can be steered in flight to the target.

Each Patriot system costs about $1 billion and takes two years to build, while the interceptors run as high as $4 million apiece, according to Pentagon budget documents.

The interceptors’ cost and limited availability requires Ukraine’s operators to make careful choices. “What are you trying to shoot down?” said a former Patriot operator now working in the defense sector.

While air-defense systems including Nasams and Hawk can take care of Russia’s low-flying cruise missiles and relatively inexpensive Iranian drones, Ukraine has struggled to counter ballistic missiles, which are initially powered by a rocket, then arc toward their target. The Kinzhal, or Dagger in Russian, is launched from an aircraft, making it harder to track.

To help tackle that threat, the U.S. and Germany pledged to send one Patriot system each, and the Netherlands promised to send two additional launchers.

Ukraine sent around 90 soldiers to the U.S. to train on the Patriot, in an accelerated 10-week program that the Army said was completed ahead of schedule. Typically training courses stretch from 16 weeks for fire-control operators and up to nine months for maintenance staff, defense executives said.

The Ukrainians immediately saw the advantage over their Soviet-era systems, said Yaremenko, including the Patriot’s greater level of automation and integration.

“If you buy a car from 1989 and then move to a car from 2020, you will probably feel a difference,” he said. “It’s a spaceship.”

Russian officials criticized the U.S. and allies on the decision to send Patriots, but said they wouldn’t be able to stop Russian missiles.
Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the Patriot in December as “quite an old system.”
“Fine, let them deliver it,” he told reporters. “We’ll smack the Patriot as well.”

The Patriots arrived in Ukraine in April, a few weeks after Russia launched a barrage of dozens of missiles, including six Kinzhals, at Ukraine. On May 4, the Ukrainians used a Patriot system to down a Kinzhal.

Yaremenko said his troops didn’t have time to celebrate, as Russia was launching almost nightly strikes aimed, in part, at exhausting Ukraine’s stocks of interceptor missiles.

Russia’s efforts are expensive, he said, as the cost of its missiles can run to millions of dollars each, and they are being intercepted before they hit their targets.

On Friday, the Biden administration announced a new, $2.1 billion arms package for Ukraine. At the top of the list: additional munitions for Ukraine’s Patriots.

Yeah, sure ...


In other words: Never happened.

Russians are still winning and I guess Hollywood is already making a film about US engaging these missiles

and how in the last minute their actions saved 2 million Ukraines and the decision was a very tough choice to make

Russians are still winning and I guess Hollywood is already making a film about US engaging these missiles

and how in the last minute their actions saved 2 million Ukraines and the decision was a very tough choice to make

Ukraine has gained more territory in its offensive in the last week than Russia could in Bakhmut over the last 6 months. And they continue to move South and gain more territory.

And new Bradley’s and Strykers on the way. With all the crews surviving it’s like those losses never happened.
The threat of a nuclear war is lower thanks Patriots. Putin understands the message. Now Europeans rushing to buy Patriots. Good business for US.
Western propaganda as usual

after 6 months of prep and 1000s of vehicles by the West and missiles and mercenaries

Ukraine counter offensive has only taken 4 villages and 400 metres
Western propaganda as usual

after 6 months of prep and 1000s of vehicles by the West and missiles and mercenaries

Ukraine counter offensive has only taken 4 villages and 400 metres
May be you should get some fresh air and get out of Putin Twitter feeds and get a picture of whats going on in the world: two countries joined NATO. Baltic Sea now a NATO lake and Russia's land border with NATO doubled. Seems like this is your definition of strategically prevailing. History will judge Putin as a CIA plant as that alone would explain this treachery.
This is fake news, the missile shot down by the Patriot system was not a Kh-47.

Instead, the Patriot system was wounded by a Russian missile, and it is being prepared to be withdrawn from Ukraine for repairs.

Last edited:

Ukraine is collecting Russian missile leftovers after each intercept.

Ukraine should put these in a War Museum.
Russia lobs a dozen missiles, likely to hit important targets but at a minimum to inflict civilian casualties to demoralize.

Instead most get shot down and falling debris starts a few fires in buildings. At this rate, Russians will be left with rocks to throw at civilians in Kyiv if a dozen missiles kill 2 civilians.

Top Bottom