About 100 Ukrainian soldiers will likely travel to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, next week to begin training on the Patriot missile defense system, bringing Kyiv closer to protection against continued Russian missile attacks than either in the long run.
Ukraine has been requesting the United States for months to provide the Patriot surface-to-air guided missile defense system because it can attack aircraft, cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles. During his visit to the United States in late December, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that sending the battery would make a significant difference to Kyiv’s defense against a Russian invasion.
Air Force Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday that the number of Ukrainians coming to Fort Sill is about the number needed to operate a battery, and they will focus on learning to operate and maintain the Patriots.
Kyiv’s decision to withdraw troops from the battlefield for training across the Atlantic is unusual, although it has sent troops for short-term training at European bases for other complex systems, such as the HIMARS rocket launcher.
Typically, Patriot training could last several months, but “the longer those soldiers are out of the front lines, the less they’ll actually be in combat,” Ryder explained, so the training would be shortened. According to Rider, Fort Sill was chosen because it already housed Patriot training schools.
The United States promised the Patriot battery in December as part of a military aid package. Last week, Germany promised to provide Patriot batteries to Ukraine as well.