Assembly of a Patriot system by German soldiers thumbnailImage: Bundeswehr / Francis Hildemann Assembly of a Patriot system by German soldiers thumbnailImage: Bundeswehr / Francis Hildemann

Germany pledged another Patriot battery to Ukraine to strengthen the Ukrainian air defence

In recent months, especially in the last few weeks, calls for more air defence for Ukraine have become louder and louder. Although the Ukrainian capital Kyiv is very well protected with a Patriot battery, at least one IRIS-T SLM system, Gepard SPAAGs and other air defence systems, many other cities are in comparison weakly protected.

One example is the second-largest Ukrainian city Kharkiv, which has come under increasing Russian attacks, particularly since March. Rockets hit the city almost without warning and civilians are regularly reported dead or seriously injured.

What is needed is much more air defence, above all the powerful Patriot air defence systems, which were already supplied once by the US and twice by Germany.

The problem is that only a few systems are in use in the armies of countries that provide military assistance to Ukraine, as well as the high costs of one of such systems. A fully equipped battery including missiles can cost around one billion euros. Too much for most allies to simply hand them over to Ukraine.

Now what to do? No country currently seems to show any real interest in providing Ukraine with what it really needs. This is one of the reasons why Germany recently decided to announce that it would be supplying another Patriot battery — the third in total — to Ukraine.

Patriot launcher in Ukraine
German-supplied Patriot launcher somewhere in Ukraine

And this is not just something that I assume, it’s a fact. This is what the German Ministry of Defence writes about the announcement of the delivery of a third Patriot battery.

This should also be seen in the context of the intensive joint efforts of Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius and Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock to lobby our partners for more air defence systems for Ukraine.

German moD via

Whether this will actually result in additional deliveries of Patriot or other air defence systems to Ukraine remains to be seen.

According to a statement made by Dmytro Kuleba (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine) on Friday, Ukraine is in active negotiations with partner countries regarding the delivery of two Patriot batteries and one SAMP/T battery. It should now be clear that one of the two Patriot batteries comes from Germany.

It has not yet been announced when the battery will be handed over, although the German MoD said that the initiation of the handover takes place immediately. However, related important details were not mentioned.

For example, there is so far no information on whether Germany will have to train Ukrainian soldiers again before handing over the Patriot battery to Ukraine. This would prolong everything significantly.

Then we are no longer talking about two or three weeks, but about six or seven weeks — for the training of personnel alone. This is followed by delivery to Ukraine, transport within the country and assembly of the battery.

Ukrainian soldiers training on the Patriot air defence system
Ukrainian soldiers during their training on the Patriot air defence system in Germany

However, it may well be that there is no need to train a new crew. For example, Ukraine may have had the opportunity to train its own personnel “on the fly” for about a year in the sense of a “train the trainer” programme.

It is also known that Spain has trained Ukrainian soldiers in the maintenance of the Patriot air defence system. If a new crew — consisting of around 70 soldiers — who already have experience in the field of air defence and also were trained in Spain were to come to Germany, this would certainly save one or two weeks of training time.

Smaller details such as the number of launchers that will be supplied as part of the battery are also still unclear. German batteries are normally set up with six to a maximum of eight launchers per battery, although it is quite possible that Ukraine will be supplied with fewer launchers.

Additional air defence will arrive shortly

Another IRIS-T SLM system is also to be delivered this month. The CEO of Diehl Defence announced a delivery in the coming weeks during a working visit to Ukraine yesterday, while the German Ambassador to Ukraine clarified today that the delivery will take place this month.

It is not yet known exactly where the newly produced IRIS-T SLM system will be deployed, but modern air defence systems are desperately needed in the east of the country.

IRIS-T SLM launcher winter 2022
Ukrainian soldiers in front of a IRIS-T SLM launcher

The German-made air defence system was expected to arrive in Ukraine by the end of the winter of 2023/2024, at least from the Ukrainian side. The reason for this is most likely the production of the missiles.

Although this is being continuously increased and is now probably somewhere in the region of 500 missiles per year, this is nowhere near enough to supply the systems already delivered to Ukraine and at the same time to save up enough to equip a new system with a two or three-digit number of missiles and send it to Ukraine.

It will therefore also be interesting to know when the next IRIS-T SLM system will be delivered to Ukraine later this year. After all, the Bundeswehr also expects to receive an operational system this year. However, it can also be assumed that we could still miss out on it for Ukraine.

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