Ukraine needs at least 50 Patriot air defense system batteries to protect its cities and troops, President Vladimir Zelensky says
Ukraine needs dozens of US-made Patriot air defense system batteries if it hopes to protect its infrastructure and troops on the battlefield against Russian air superiority, President Vladimir Zelensky told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in an interview published on Saturday. The total cost of his demand exceeds the amount of money Washington has already spent on military assistance for Kiev.
Patriot is the "only system in the world" capable of intercepting certain advanced types of Russian missiles, Zelensky claimed, adding that "there is a weapon" supposedly capable of drastically reducing Russian capabilities when it comes to airstrikes and missile attacks.
In May, Kiev claimed its troops had managed to intercept a Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missile using a Patriot air defense system. Moscow denied those claims, adding that Ukraine routinely exaggerates the effectiveness of its air defenses.
In the interview, Zelensky maintained that as many as 50 Patriot batteries would be needed to sufficiently protect Ukraine's cities and its troops on the battlefield ahead of the much-touted counteroffensive. Launching the operation without such air defenses means "a large number of soldiers will die," he said. "Everyone knows perfectly well that any counteroffensive without air superiority is very dangerous," the president added.
Each Patriot battery costs around $1.1 billion, according to estimates by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank, cited by Forbes. The total cost of Zelensky's demand thus translates to a military aid package worth $55 billion, which is more than the total amount of US military aid allocated to Kiev thus far.
Washington has provided Ukraine with $37 billion worth of military assistance since its conflict with Russia escalated in February last year. This has included only two Patriot batteries so far. The Ukrainian Air Force confirmed that both went on combat duty in April.
Kiev has repeatedly asked its Western backers for more air defense systems, as well as Western-made aircraft - something the US and its allies were reluctant to provide until recently. Ukraine's problems with air defenses were exposed in purportedly classified Pentagon assessments leaked online. Analysis in late February predicted that most types of Soviet missiles would be gone by May, according to a WSJ report.
In late April, Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov admitted that Ukraine's missile stockpiles for the Soviet air defense systems were depleting. "We need to replenish them with something else," Reznikov said at that time.
Apart from Patriots, the US and its allies have also provided Ukraine with other air defense systems, including the US-made NASAMS, Germany's IRIS-T air defense missile systems, and Gepard anti-aircraft tanks. In February 2023, the head of the German Armed Forces Association (DBwV), Colonel Andre Wustner, warned that the $2 billion worth of military aid Berlin provided to Kiev had left Germany's military with a shortage of essential hardware.