Sending Patriot Missile Techniques to Ukraine Is an Costly Blunder

Geoff LaMear is a fellow at Protection Priorities. He’s additionally an air protection artillery officer within the U.S. Army. His views are his personal and don’t replicate the views of the Division of Protection.

The opinions expressed on this op-ed are these of the writer and don’t essentially replicate the views of If you need to submit your individual commentary, please ship your article to for consideration.

With Ukrainian troops en path to america for coaching on the Patriot missile system, Washington is now sending a few of its most subtle weapons to bolster Ukraine’s already intensive air protection community. Sending Patriot missile methods to Ukraine might sound helpful, given repeated Russian drone and missile assaults on civilian areas, however the resolution does not match the issue.

The reality is Patriot methods are as prone to cease the drone menace as a water balloon is to cease a forest hearth. The mismatch is simply too nice. And Washington’s persistence regardless of that actuality is a blunder that may show pricey.

Air defenses depend on radars that scan for threats in a particular space. For Patriot methods, these areas are small and meant to be pinpoint areas like a army base or energy plant. A single Patriot system wouldn’t alter the inherent vulnerability that Ukraine experiences within the air, given its huge entrance of preventing in opposition to Russian troops. It’d shield just a few nodes that Kyiv prizes, however Russian air assaults can counter these missile methods.

One technique can be to saturate the Patriot with extra targets than it might probably defend in opposition to, utilizing mass drone or missile assaults. Even when the Patriot’s detection methods aren’t overwhelmed, there are precautions to forestall downing civilian airliners and pleasant plane, given the historical past of mistaken strikes, which can decelerate response time to the purpose of failure.

Patriot methods themselves are additionally an attractive goal as they’re weak throughout upkeep intervals or when the methods, susceptible to technical faults, do not work. Patriot methods shield strategic property in opposition to sporadic assault and are designed as a part of a multi-tier air protection bubble. Placing Patriot methods on their very own with out different layers of air protection dangers undermining the survivability and effectiveness of the methods.

Quick-range air defenses are additionally unlikely to work in opposition to drones, given Russia’s shift to utilizing nighttime assaults, which means solely missile-based air defenses are viable. And Ukraine’s most superior missile protection is the Soviet-era S-300, which serves roughly the identical perform as a Patriot.

Lest or not it’s mentioned that that is out of necessity, Kyiv claims interception charges of 85% with out these methods. That’s seemingly inflated, given Ukraine’s antiquated arsenal and the issue of intercepting drones. But when Kyiv’s present capabilities are enough, then it does not want further American air protection methods. Placing Patriots into the combination seemingly does little good and provides Russia an costly goal to show right into a scrap heap.

Ukraine can also be not outfitted to make use of Patriots. American personnel spend months learning what’s a posh and extremely technical system. That point is devoted by army planners regardless of U.S. troops sometimes going through no language barrier in doctrinal or technical paperwork, accessing consultants with years of expertise, and help from the contractors who design the methods.

Ukraine will nonetheless want intensive help to function and keep the gear even after coaching. To make use of Patriots successfully would require embedding U.S. personnel with these missile batteries. Doing so dangers U.S. casualties and a direct U.S.-Russia confrontation that would simply escalate.

Fixed drone assaults are prone to stress each the flexibility to provide anti-air missiles and to put on down the gear itself. Hitting missiles with missiles is not straightforward, and between the manufacturing facility flooring and the sector, issues come up. Patriot methods have many factors of failure, anyone being sufficient to render the system ineffective. Even assuming luck is on Kyiv’s facet, it is questionable to make use of multimillion-dollar interceptors to take down drones that price 100 instances much less. In contrast, lots of Ukraine’s most helpful ploys have been the least costly. One such occasion was utilizing radar-mimicking emitters to bluff Russia into attacking pretend air defenses.

The knee-jerk dosomethingism in Washington does not assist. It could produce heat and fuzzy emotions, however this does not translate right into a peace that may carry a return to normalcy for Ukraine’s folks. What’s extra essential, the pretense of ethical superiority or an finish to the carnage?

Washington absolutists could say that precept trumps pragmatism. However what number of 1000’s should die earlier than the inevitable negotiations carry in regards to the struggle’s finish? Tactically questionable weapon shipments will not change the end result. They could delay it. And odd Ukrainians and Russians, oftentimes conscripted right into a struggle not of their selecting, will proceed to bleed till that actuality is acknowledged.

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