Inside $1 billion Patriot Missile systems installed in Poland – could they defend Ukraine?
Ukraine: Volodymyr Zelensky expresses frustration with Nato
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Russia has ramped up its invasion of Ukraine over the last week, having encountered stiff resistance from local soldiers and civilians. Recent victories have left the invaders hobbling en route to the country’s capital but made the situation increasingly dangerous for locals, who have found themselves on the receiving end of Russian missile raids. NATO response has so far concentrated on arming locals while shoring up neighbouring members, and one of the world’s most sophisticated missile systems just landed in Poland.
What is the Patriot Missile System?
The Patriot missile system is the colloquial name for the MIM-104 Patriot, an American-made military defence designed primarily for interception.
First invented in 1969, the contraption has deployed surface-to-air missile defences on battlefields since 1981.
Since then, it has become the chosen system for NATO members looking to enhance domestic defence.
Each unit costs approximately $1 billion (approximately £766,636,000) and can hold several different missile types.
They can counter ballistic and cruise missiles and capably take down enemy aircraft.
Typically, units contain four missiles each, measuring 5.2 metres long, 40cm in diameter, and optimised with four 85cm fins.
They come equipped with track-via-missile (TVM) technology able to intercept incoming fire 70km (43 miles) away and 24km (14 miles) high.
That range means that the units recently installed in Poland wouldn’t help Ukraine if Russians made it to the countries’ shared border.
A fleet of US Air Force planes flew Patriot systems from a base at Ramstein, Germany, to install them today.
They now reside around the perimeter of the Rzeszow-Jasionka International Airport, to Poland’s east.
The airport recently stepped up its alert level, and the arriving systems have immediately pointed east towards Ukraine.
US European Command (EUCOM) vowed to install the Patriot as “defensive deployment” on March 8.
Sunday’s attack by Russia on the Yaroviv international peacekeeping centre left at least 35 people dead and another 134 injured, placing neighbouring Poland, just 70 miles to the east, on higher alert.
The border with Ukraine remains roughly 50 miles away, meaning it is too distant for the newly installed system to defend itself from further attacks.
But Poland is not the only NATO ally with a Patriot system now actively combing the local airspace.
Including Poland, the following countries have Patriot systems installed at home:
- The Netherlands
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
- The United Arab Emirates
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