A U.S.-made Patriot air defense system was reportedly used to shoot down a Russian hypersonic missile in Ukraine late this week, marking perhaps the first time that a hypersonic missile has ever been shot down in combat.
Ukraine Air Force commander Mykola Oleshchuk claimed that the newly-acquired weapon from the U.S. was used to shoot down a Russian hypersonic missile called Kinzhal, or “Dagger” in Russian.
“Congratulations to the Ukrainian people on a historic event!” Oleshchuk posted on Telegram. “Yes, we brought down the ‘unparalleled’ Kinzhal!”
Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said that intercepting the nuclear-capable Kinzhal was “a slap in the face for Russia” because the Russians “were saying that the Patriot is an outdated American weapon, and Russian weapons are the best in the world.”
“Well, there is confirmation that it effectively works against even a super-hypersonic missile,” he added.
The New York Times reported that U.S. officials verified using technical means that a Patriot missile was used to destroy the feared Russian hypersonic weapon.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed in 2018 that the Kinzhal was “invincible against all existing and prospective missile defense and counter-air defense systems.”
The Kinzhal can reportedly fly at five to 10 times the speed of sound and it travels at a lower elevation than a ballistic missile, making it much more difficult to shoot down.
The Washington Post reported that prior to the Patriot air defense systems arriving in Ukraine, the nation’s missile systems couldn’t even react to the speed of the Kinzhal.
The Patriot, which stands for Phased Array Tracking Radar for Intercept on Target, is one of America’s most advanced surface-to-air missile defense systems.
The Patriot, which costs approximately $1 billion per installation, was designed in the 1970s and the first Patriot was delivered in December 1981.
Each installation consists of “a powerful radar, control station, power generator, launch stations and support vehicles,” the Post added.
The Patriot fires three types of missiles, one of which — the Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) — is designed to destroy missiles like the Kinzhal, the report said, adding that the missile can take out ballistic missiles carrying nuclear or chemical payloads at a “keep out” altitude that destroys the missiles in the atmosphere so that the payloads do not contaminate the earth, weapons expert Reuben Johnson told the Post.