The The Biden administration finalizes plans to send the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine it could be announced as early as this week, according to two US officials and a senior administration official.
The Pentagon plan still needs to be approved by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin before being sent to President Joe Biden for his signature. The three officials told CNN that approval is expected.
Ukraine is calling on the US to send an advanced long-range air defense system that is highly effective at intercepting ballistic and cruise missiles as it comes under fire from Russian missiles and drone attacks that have destroyed key infrastructure across the country. It will be the most effective long-range defensive weapon system sent to the country, and officials say it will help secure airspace for NATO countries in Eastern Europe.
It is not clear how many missile launchers will be sent, but a typical Patriot battery includes a radar that detects and tracks targets, computers, power generation equipment, a firing control station and up to eight missiles, each containing four ready-to-launch missiles .
Once the plans are finalized, the Patriots are expected to be shipped quickly in the coming days and the Ukrainians will be trained to use them at a US Army base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, officials said.
Ukraine has wanted the system for months, but the logistical challenges of delivering and operating it are enormous. Despite those obstacles, “the reality of what’s happening on the ground” led the administration to make the decision, a senior administration official told CNN, noting the continued intense Russian missile fire.
Unlike smaller air defense systems, Patriot missile batteries need much larger crews, requiring dozens of personnel, to operate them properly. Training for Patriot missile batteries typically takes several months, a process the United States will now carry out under pressure from near-daily airstrikes from Russia.
The system is considered one of the most capable long-range air defense weapons against incoming ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as some aircraft. Thanks to its long-range, high-altitude capability, it could potentially shoot down Russian missiles and aircraft far from their intended targets in Ukraine.
Previously, The US has sent Patriot batteries to NATO allies like Poland as a way to bolster their defenses and sent other weapons systems to Ukraine to help against a Russian invasion.
In recent years, the US has sent Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia and Iraq to counter threats posed by Iran and its proxies, and to the Pacific region to deter North Korea.
In total, more than a dozen US allies, including Germany, Japan and Israel, have also purchased the system.
The U.S. has sent defense national advanced medium-range surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine in recent months.
CNN has reached out to the National Security Council for comment.
CNN previously reported that the Biden administration was considering a move.
Last month, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told CNN that the US was “very focused” on providing air defense systems to Ukraine.
“We are now very focused on air defense systems, and not just us, but many other countries,” Blinken told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“And we’re working to make sure that the Ukrainians get these systems as quickly as possible, but also as efficiently as possible, making sure they’re trained with them, making sure they have the ability to maintain them and everything that’s what you have to come together and that’s it. We have a very thoughtful process set up by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Ramstein, Germany, that meets regularly to make sure that the Ukrainians get what they need, when they need it.
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