On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced that Ukraine will receive a Patriot missile battery and up to $1.85 billion worth of military equipment and ammunition from the US. The announcement came amid Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington D.C.
The visit is the first time that Zelensky has left Ukraine since the war with Russia began in February. The Ukrainian President spoke with his American counterpart before the two addressed reporters in a press conference.
The trip marks the 300th day of the war, which has thus far progressed unpredictably. Despite predictions by the CIA that Ukrainian forces would fold under pressure in the first weeks of the invasion, Russian forces have been pushed back in the northeast and south. Continued US and Western backing is essential to Ukraine’s war effort.
US military aid
On Twitter, Biden announced that the next tranche of military assistance to Ukraine would consist of “a $1.85 billion package that includes equipment and ammunition contracts. And a Patriot missile battery that we will train forces to operate as part of our efforts to strengthen Ukrainian air defense.”
Today, I’m announcing the next tranche of security assistance to Ukraine:
A $1.85 billion package that includes equipment and ammunition contracts. And a Patriot missile battery that we will train forces to operate as part of our efforts to strengthen Ukrainian air defense.
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 21, 2022
During the press conference at the White House, Biden explained that the $1.85 billion package “includes both direct transfers of equipment to Ukraine…as well as contracts to supply ammunition Ukraine will need in the months ahead for its artillery, its tanks, and its rocket launchers.”
“Critically in addition to these new capabilities, like precision aerial munitions, the package will include a Patriot missile battery…which we’ll train Ukrainian forces to operate as part of the ongoing effort to bolster Ukraine’s air defense,” the US president reported.
Zelensky thanked Biden for the continued military assistance and said that the Patriot missiles would “significantly” bolster Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.
The Patriot missiles will be a “very important step to create secure airspace over Ukraine,” the Ukrainian President said. He urged the US to continue funding Ukraine’s war effort on the basis that it would “go towards strengthening our global security.”
Why is the Patriot missile system important?
The MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air (SAM) missile system designed by the US to provide air defense capabilities against hostile aircraft, cruise missiles, larger drones, and short-range ballistic missiles.
Acquiring a robust air defense system has become a priority for Ukraine due to Russian airstrikes, drone attacks, and missile barrages. Russian forces have been hitting Ukrainian military targets, as well as civilian infrastructure, and key nodes in Ukraine’s energy grid.
The Patriot’s radar system can track more than fifty potential targets simultaneously over a range of one hundred kilometers. It fires the PAC-3 and older PAC-2 missiles. The newer PAC-3 missile can hit targets at a range between fifteen and twenty-two kilometers.
On the battlefield, the Patriots are deployed as mobile batteries. Each unit consists of a command center, a radar station to detect potential threats, and launchers. Each missile costs about four million dollars.
Earlier this month, at a G7 meeting, Zelensky raised concerns over Russia’s bombardment of Ukraine. He told other leaders, “Unfortunately, Russia still has the advantage in artillery and missiles.”
Now, equipped with the Patriot and other SAM systems, the Ukrainian military will have stronger capabilities to repel Russian attacks.