Defense Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said Tuesday that Ukrainian troops would begin training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma on the Patriot Air Defense System as soon as next week amid ongoing aerial attacks from Russian forces.
Ryder told reporters the training would prepare approximately 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers to operate, maintain and sustain the defensive system over a training course expected to last several months.
“Once fielded, the Patriot will continue to contribute to Ukraine’s air defense capabilities and provide another capability to Ukrainian people to defend themselves against Russia’s ongoing aerial assaults,” Ryder said.
PENTAGON PRESS SEC: "I can confirm that training for Ukrainian forces on the Patriot Air Defense System will begin as soon as next week at Fort Sill, Oklahoma." pic.twitter.com/gFDK1HbPsL
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) January 10, 2023
Ryder further noted the Patriot would contribute to the air defense capabilities of Ukraine as part of a broader effort by the United States and the international community to provide Ukraine with the air defense capabilities that it needs to defend its population and its armed forces.
“It’s something that will enable them to take down … ballistic missiles, adversary aircraft; [it’s] really up to them on how they employ it,” he said.
The announcement comes less than a month after the Biden administration said it would provide another $1.85 billion in military aid to Ukraine, which included the Patriot air defense system that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asserts the country needs to defend itself from Russian attacks.
Zelenskyy said in a report by The Hill that U.S. aid would go towards funding weapons “crucial” to help Ukraine against Russia and serve as “the turning point to win on the battlefield.”
The Patriot, which stands as an acronym for Phased Array Tracking Radar for Intercept on Target, as reported by Reuters, is an advanced U.S. air defense system built by Raytheon Technologies Corp with theater-wide surface-to-air missile defense.
While the manufacturers designed the system to intercept aircraft and ballistic missiles, Reuters writes it could also strike down “kamikaze” drones Russian forces have frequently used to destroy Ukrainian critical infrastructure.
Raytheon reported Patriot systems have intercepted over 150 ballistic missiles in combat since 2015.
NBC News reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin called the system outdated last month and said Russia would “knock down” the Patriots.
With over 240 systems built by Raytheon and used in 18 different countries, it usually contains a radar, control station, power generator, launch stations, and support vehicles.
Military forces first used the Patriot during the 1991 Gulf War, with batteries protecting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Israel. Officials used it again in Iraq in 2003.
Pentagon officials report the United States has funded Ukraine with more than $24.2 billion in security assistance since its war with Russia began on Feb. 24, 2022.