Patriot missile system: The $1 billion battery that will save Ukraine from Russian drones

The Patriot would be the most advanced surface-to-air missile system the West has provided to Ukraine in the war against Russia.

A US-made Patriot III missile being launched during the annual “Han Kuang” (Han Glory) military drill from an unlocated place in Taiwan. (Photo: AFP)

By India Today Web Desk: The United States has announced that it will send $1.8 billion in military aid to Ukraine, days after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with his American counterpart Joe Biden and addressed Congress. The military package will include a unique system designed to intercept incoming missiles – the Patriot missile battery.

The development comes in the wake of a growing call from Ukraine for the West to provide advanced weapons to counter the Russian assault in the 10-month-old conflict. The Patriot would be the most advanced surface-to-air missile system the West has provided to Ukraine to help repel Russian aerial attacks.


The Phased Array Tracking Radar for Intercept on Target (PATRIOT) is a surface-to-air missile defense system which is considered one of the most advanced interceptors and air defense systems in the military theatre. Developed by Raytheon Technologies Corp, it is a system of truck-mounted launching system with eight launchers that can hold up to four missile interceptors each, a ground radar, a control station, and a generator.

A US Patriot missile is fired from a mobile launcher during the Han Kuang 22 exercise in Ilan, eastern Taiwan. (Photo: AFP)

The Patriot battery was first deployed in the field in the 1991 Gulf War, with batteries protecting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Israel, and later used during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The U.S. batteries are regularly deployed around the world. The system needs as many as 90 troops to operate and maintain it.

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The Patriot system is a package of radars, command-and-control technology, and multiple types of interceptors that work together to detect, identify and defeat tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, drones, advanced aircraft, and other threats. According to Raytheon, the Patriot’s architecture is flexible and it has been designed in a manner that allows it to be continually upgraded and improved.

The system has different capabilities depending on the type of interceptor used. The PAC-2 interceptor uses a blast-fragmentation warhead, while the newer PAC-3 missile uses more advanced hit-to-kill technology. The system’s radar has a range of over 150 kilometers, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) said in 2015.

Graphic: Raka Mukherjee/India Today


The Patriot system in Ukraine could be used against short-range ballistic missiles as it boasts a long firing range. While they can effectively protect a small military base, they are not that effective when it comes to saving cities. Patriots are often deployed as a battalion, which includes four batteries. This won’t be the case with Ukraine, which officials said would be receiving one battery.

While the Patriot system is designed to intercept threats like aircraft and ballistic missiles, it can also shoot down the “kamikaze” drones Russia has frequently sent to hit Ukrainian critical infrastructure.

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The Patriot system is a costly weapon and is estimated at $4 million dollars. But that’s just the cost of one interceptor missile. The launchers cost about $10 million each. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, a newly produced single Patriot battery costs over $1 billion, with $400 million for the system and $690 million for the missiles in a battery.


According to Raytheon, the Patriot battery is currently deployed in 17 nations apart from the United States. The system is operated in the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Taiwan, Greece, Spain, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Romania, Sweden, Poland, and Bahrain.

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While Ukraine will be the latest addition to that list, a major challenge will be to train the Ukrainian forces in using the missile system. U.S. troops will have to train Ukrainian forces on how to use and maintain the system. Army soldiers assigned to Patriot battalions get extensive training to be able to effectively locate a target and lock on with radar and fire.

While it is still several months away from arriving in Ukraine, the system will send a strong message to Russia about America’s commitment to supporting Ukraine’s fight against the invasion.

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