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Balkan Patriot ‘almost ready for action’ could be deployed to Ukraine

When the question of strengthening Ukrainian air defense is raised, all eyes are on Romania, a neighboring country which has American-made Patriot systems. This interesting fact was revealed by local journalists during the visit of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to the White House.

Ukraine wants to produce the American interceptor used in the shootdown of the Su-35 - Patriot anti-aircraft system
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

During his official trip to the United States, President Klaus Iohannis confirmed the possibility of deploying one of Romania’s Patriot systems in Ukraine. Of the three systems currently operated by Romania, the one actively used will not be the one heading towards eastern Ukraine.

President Iohannis highlighted Ukraine’s urgent need for modern anti-aircraft systems, similar to those provided by one of the Romanian Patriots. He clarified that this issue is not new; Romania has initiated discussions in recent weeks with other operators of the Patriot system, to determine which country could provide such support to Ukrainian defense.

Shooting down an Su-34 is easy, Patriot's fight is against the Su-35
Photo by Anthony Sweeney

Ukraine needs

“Systems like this exist in Romania and we are aware of it. In fact, President Biden has raised this issue. I confirmed our openness towards him. However, this requires in-depth discussions at home with CSAT to assess what we can potentially leverage in return. It is untenable for us to envisage a scenario in which Romania would find itself without air defense.” » said President Iohannis. Furthermore, he said that the ongoing negotiations for the deployment of the Patriot system in Ukraine are not aimed at the current system, but rather at one of those planned for introduction in the future.

“I am optimistic that a solution will be found. The disputed system is just one of three others that have reached a higher level of operational readiness. This includes the first Patriot system, which was put into service in November 2023,” » the Romanian president further clarified.

Romanian Patriots

Romania has acquired seven Patriot air defense systems, four of which have already been delivered and discussions are underway for the other three. Among the sets delivered, one system is fully operational. Any negotiations regarding the loan of a Romanian Patriot system to Ukraine would involve one of the three systems currently in service.

The collective price of these seven systems amounts to approximately $4 billion, making the Patriot acquisition the most expensive in Romania’s history. However, this record will not last long: it is expected to be surpassed by the imminent purchase of 5th generation F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

It should be noted that Romania has purchased state-of-the-art hardware and software for the Patriot systems in service. This configuration is combat-proven and proficient in countering a wide range of today’s airborne threats.

Polish SAM failed to intercept Russian Kh-type missile entering Poland - Patriot SAM
Photo credit: Janek Skarzynski/AFP

Germany responded first

In a recap from BulgariaMilitary.com, Germany was the first European country to respond to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for help. Various press reports indicated that German Chancellor Scholz quickly agreed to Zelensky’s request after just one phone call. The term “immediately” was notably used to emphasize the timeliness of the response.

Germany’s support for Ukraine has extended beyond the Patriot. In mid-April, Berlin made a significant commitment to sending the IRIS-T anti-aircraft system to Ukraine in the near future. German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck revealed that three IRIS-T systems are currently operational in Ukraine and that more systems will certainly be deployed throughout the year.

IRIS-T SLM anti-aircraft system
Photo credit: Vincorion

The Ukrainian president expressed gratitude for Germany’s timely action and said: “German leadership is outstanding and its unwavering determination will help us protect thousands of lives and strengthen Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression.”

The surface-air system

The Patriot anti-aircraft system, formerly known as the MIM-104 Patriot, is a surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, primarily used by the United States military and several allied countries. It is manufactured by US defense contractor Raytheon and is named after the acronym for “Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target”. The system is designed to detect, target and strike incoming missiles. It has been in service since 1981 and has undergone numerous improvements since its initial deployment.

Second Patriot battery for Ukraine, it will come from Germany
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Patriot system is a complete package including a radar assembly (RS), an engagement control station (ECS), an antenna mast group (AMG), a power plant (EPP) and up to 16 launchers, each capable of holding four Patriot missiles. . The radar assembly is responsible for detecting incoming threats, while the engagement control station manages system operations. The antenna mast group reinforces the radar’s line of sight and the power plant powers the system. The launchers store and deploy the missiles.

Two interceptors

The Patriot system uses two types of interceptor missiles: the MIM-104E Enhanced Guided Missile (GEM) and the MIM-104F (PAC-3). The GEM is an upgrade of the original missile, designed to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones. The PAC-3 missile is smaller, more maneuverable and designed to directly strike the incoming threat, increasing the system’s effectiveness against ballistic missiles.

Ukraine fired 6% of annual PAC-3 production in 120 seconds
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

The operational range of the Patriot system varies depending on the type of missile used. The GEM missile has a range of approximately 160 kilometers (99 miles) and can reach altitudes of up to 24 kilometers (15 miles). On the other hand, the PAC-3 missile has a shorter range of 20 kilometers (12 miles), but can reach higher altitudes of up to 40 kilometers (25 miles). This range and altitude capability makes the Patriot system a versatile defense tool, capable of countering a wide variety of airborne threats.

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