US Military Expert on Why Patriot Systems Won’t Be Game-Changer in Ukraine
The Biden administration is reportedly poised to send MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine. Sputnik discussed the potential deployment with David T. Pyne, an EMP Task Force scholar and former US Department of Defense officer.
"I worked as a consultant for the Missile Defense Agency from 2003-2005 and participated in missile defense simulation exercises conducted at a facility near Washington, DC," David T. Pyne told Sputnik. "The Patriot missile defense system has proven effective against short-range ballistic missiles and rockets. It also has a limited capability to shoot down cruise missiles. I believe its capability to intercept medium range ballistic missiles is quite limited."
Pyne expects that if the Biden administration provides Ukraine with the MIM-104 Patriot systems, the batch would include two types of missiles: the Patriot Advanced Capability PAC-2 and PAC-3. According to the former Pentagon officer, PAC-2 is less advanced but has a range of nearly 160 kilometers and uses a GEM-T blast fragmentation warhead to shoot down incoming missiles.
The PAC-3 is reportedly more capable of intercepting ballistic missiles: it can intercept them at ranges of 40-60 kilometers depending on which variant is utilized; it also has a smaller explosive "hit to kill" warhead compared to the PAC-2, according to Pyne.
"PAC-2 missiles that were only successful in intercepting 10% of missiles during the First Iraq War in 1991," the EMP Task Force scholar said. "However, US missile interception technology has improved significantly since then and the PAC-2 missiles have been upgraded."
The US military expert does not have doubts that the Ukrainian military would be capable of using the systems properly, assuming they undergo months of training prior to their delivery.
While normally it takes months to train soldiers to use the Patriot missile system, however, reports indicate that the US military is planning to reduce this training to weeks, as per Pyne.
He projected that the MIM-104 Patriot systems "will not be ready for use in Ukraine until late January at the earliest if not later even if they were delivered later this month."
Furthermore, in theory, "the Patriot would represent a significant boost in capability over Ukraine’s western-supplied NASAMS medium-range missile defense system which has a missile defense intercept range of only 30 kilometers," according to him. Kiev received its first National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) from Washington in November.
14 December 2022, 17:52 GMT
However, the major problem is that the supposed delivery of Patriots is unlikely to change the bigger picture, according to the former Pentagon officer.
"I don't believe that the addition of Patriot missile defense systems will have much effect on the course of the war given that Ukraine already has S-300 missiles with ranges of 40-75 kilometers," Pyne said.
First, the military expert drew attention to the fact that once the Patriot systems are identified they will become high-priority targets for Russian artillery and rocket launch systems "which we know are far more numerous and significantly more capable than most Ukrainian artillery systems."
Second, it is unlikely that the Biden administration will send a large number of PAC-3 missile defense systems to Ukraine, if the decision is confirmed, according to Pyne. "I think they will likely only send a handful of systems, perhaps no more than a dozen," he suggested.
Third, whatever number the Biden administration sends will be insufficient for Ukrainian defense requirements, the former DoD officer remarked.
"[Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky is always complaining that no matter how many weapon systems we provide to Ukraine it is an insufficient number, which has resulted in a strained relationship with President Biden so I assume this will be no exception," Pyne said. "Zelensky has repeatedly stated that western-supplied Ukrainian air defense systems are intercepting 100% of all Russian missiles they are fired at, which is a claim we know not to be true."
'Biden is Degrading US War-Fighting Capabilities'
What strikes the former DoD officer is that the Biden administration is shipping air and missile defense systems to Ukraine rather than building up national missile defense systems at home.
"I believe that the degree to which the Biden administration has degraded US warfighting capabilities by shipping such a massive amount of our missiles, rockets, rocket launch systems, artillery and munitions to Ukraine is near criminal and must be investigated by the incoming Republican-led House of Representatives as it has left the US less ready to fight a major war than we have been in a great many years," emphasized Pyne.
The GOP got the majority in the lower chamber of the US Congress, which it is due to lead starting from January 2023. Some Republican representatives have already pledged to launch investigations into the Biden family's dealings with Ukrainian tycoons and politicians and reconsider the amount of aid that is flowing from Washington to Kiev.
Pyne has repeatedly stated in his articles and interviews that a "neutral" Ukraine more corresponds to the US national interests than a protracted and senseless conflict, which is fuelled by western weapons deliveries.
"If the US and NATO had not provided Ukraine with all these weapons then the war would have ended by March or early April and Ukraine would have lost far less territory, with much less deaths and destruction to their cities," the EMP Task Force scholar pointed out. "I believe that it is contrary to US national security interests that we have provided Ukraine with any heavy weapons at all and that we should cease all weapon shipments to Ukraine."
Moreover, western military assistance to Ukraine is "creating a potentially existential threat to NATO by potentially provoking a Russian military response," Pyne noted, warning that the conflict could eventually evolve into a nuclear standoff.
"I believe that it is imperative that the Biden administration cut off weapon shipments to Ukraine to pressure President Zelensky to accept Russia’s cease-fire proposal issued in late September and sign an armistice agreement to permanently end the war as I have been advocating since that time," Pyne concluded.
Meanwhile, the White House has not yet confirmed reports of the US sending Patriot missile systems
to Ukraine. "When it's ready to announce and speak to the details, we'll certainly do that," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.