Three US officials told Reuters on Tuesday that the United States is finalizing plans to send a Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine, a decision that could be announced as soon as this week.
Ukraine has asked its Western partners to provide air defenses, including US-made Patriot systems, to protect it from intense Russian missile strikes, including against energy infrastructure.
Ground-based air defense systems such as Raytheon Technology Corp’s (RTX.N) The Patriot is designed to intercept incoming missiles.
Patriot missiles are one of the most advanced US air defense systems and are usually in short supply, with allies around the world vying for them.
“It’s very important,” said Alexander Vindman, a retired Army officer who led Ukraine policy in the White House during the Trump administration.
“These would be perfectly capable of dealing with a lot of different challenges that the Ukrainians face, especially if the Russians bring in short-range ballistic missiles” from Iran.
Two of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the announcement could come as early as Thursday, but it awaits formal approval from US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and President Joe Biden.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the Patriot reports at a news conference.
There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials, the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, but Kiev held high-level military talks on Tuesday with Washington.
One of the officials said that Ukrainian forces will likely be trained in Germany before Patriot equipment is sent to Ukraine. Vindman said the training could take several months.
Details such as the version of the Patriot missile defense system, its range, or the number of units to be sent were not immediately available.
It was not clear whether the United States would limit how Ukrainians use the Patriot system. Washington has restricted the use of HIMARS launchers on targets inside Ukraine.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned NATO against supplying Patriot missile defenses to Ukraine, and Moscow likely viewed the move as an escalation.
The Pentagon says the recent increase in Russian missile strikes in Ukraine is partly intended to deplete Kiev’s supply of air defenses so it can control the country’s skies.
For this reason, the United States and its allies have been introducing more air defenses to Kiev, offering everything from Soviet-era systems to more modern Western ones.
For the United States, that included the NASAMS air defense systems that the Pentagon says have flawlessly intercepted Russian missiles in Ukraine.
Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly raised the possibility of NATO allies sending Patriot systems to Ukraine in October.
The Patriot system is typically used against more advanced threats including aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles, and usually includes launchers along with radar and other support vehicles.
The United States has provided Ukraine with $19.3 billion in military aid since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idris Ali) Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Kanishka Singh in Washington and Lydia Kelly in Melbourne. Editing by Susan Heavy and Cynthia Osterman
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