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Ukrainian soldiers train at full speed with US Patriot missiles.


At the end of a 10-week intensive course at a US Army base in Oklahoma, the Ukrainians essentially conduct their own training in preparation for the front lines.

FORT SILL, Okla. - Several dozen Ukrainian soldiers are finishing their training on the Patriot missile system and will be deploying to the front lines within weeks, armed with America's most advanced ground-based air defense to help



Russian missile attacks.

The Ukrainian soldiers, all combat veterans skilled in Russian-designed artillery systems, have

surprised their

American instructors by how quickly they have mastered the intricacies of operating and maintaining

sophisticated Patriots, which can shoot down Russian ballistic missiles, unlike other systems the West has provided, and they can hit targets much further afield.

A sign welcomes visitors to the military post at Fort Sill, near Lawton, Oklahoma.

(AP Photo/Sean Murphy)

Now, at the end of a custom-designed 10-week intensive course at this US Army base, the Ukrainians are essentially conducting their own training, the US instructors said, adapting tactics and techniques in real time in response to Russian attacks


the power grids and other targets in your country.

At a cloudy and windswept training ground, the Ukrainians on Tuesday rehearsed installing a Patriot battery - tracking radar, control systems, a generator and launch stations that can fire multiple missiles at once - like the one The United States agreed to donate in December.

The drill, completed in

less than 45 minutes,

stopped short of firing actual missiles.

"Our assessment is that the Ukrainian soldiers are impressive, and capable of learning very quickly due to their extensive knowledge of air defense and experience in a combat zone," Brigadier General Shane P. Morgan, commanding officer, told reporters. of Fort Sill.

The US military has trained, or is training, almost

4,000 Ukrainian soldiers

at firing ranges in Germany.

But for the Patriot system, Pentagon officials decided to train the Ukrainians on American soil.

Fort Sill, a former cavalry outpost in southwestern Oklahoma, is where 5,100 soldiers from the United States and

18 other countries

learn to operate and maintain the Patriot system each year.

Since their arrival in mid-January, the Ukrainian students have spent

10 hours a day

, six days a week, in classroom instruction and carrying out exercises, military officials said.

Sessions are generally taught in English, with

some translations.

In more informal exchanges, the American instructors say they are taking

advice from their Ukrainian students,

who have fought against Russian forces that the Americans have not yet met directly in combat.

The American instructors say they have been able to speed up introductory courses and move on to more advanced concepts because the Ukrainians were already familiar with Soviet-era systems, giving them a

reference point

when working on a more automated platform like the Patriot.

"This is lightning-fast Patriot training; it's quite remarkable," said Thomas Karako, who directs the missile defense project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and has written extensively on the Patriot system and his training.

The Army provided, for the first time, a group of journalists on Tuesday with access to training for 65 Ukrainian soldiers who were chosen by their commanders to learn how to operate the Patriot system.

The Pentagon said in January that

90 to 100 Ukrainians

were expected to receive the training, about the number of US troops needed to operate a US Army Patriot battery, but Ukraine decided to send fewer forces, US officials said. .

The Pentagon imposed strict guidelines for the three-hour visit.

It prohibited taking photos or videos of the training and its participants, and prohibited interviews with the fatigued Ukrainian soldiers who were only a few meters from the journalists at the training ground.

The restrictions reflect continuing concern by the White House and the Pentagon about stoking Russian anger over Western involvement in the war or sparking a broader conflict.

At the same time, however, the Biden administration has insisted that US training itself is not likely to worsen tensions with Russia.

Officials repeated Tuesday that the Patriot is a

defensive system,

not an offensive weapon.

"The Patriot air defense system poses, I repeat, no threat to Russia," said Col. Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for US Army Forces Europe and Africa, which oversees US training in Germany.

After finishing at Fort Sill in the coming days, the Ukrainians will travel to


, where their Patriot system will await them, US officials said.

The troops will then spend a few weeks with other Ukrainian soldiers who have been conducting similar training in Europe with a Patriot battery donated by Germany and the Netherlands, the officials said.

Once the operational problems are resolved, the two Ukrainian-operated Patriot batteries will deploy to the war zone, likely in April, according to authorities.

France and Italy

have declared that they will send air defense systems similar to the Patriot missile.

Where and how the Patriot systems will be deployed will depend on the Ukrainian government, according to officials.

Since Russian President

Vladimir Putin

ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow has unleashed a torrent of missile and air strikes against civilian and military targets.

Ukrainian leaders will likely use the Patriots to defend high-priority targets, such as key parts of the country's power grid and other civilian infrastructure.

High-speed Russian ballistic missiles have hit them particularly hard.

The Patriot system works most effectively as part of what the military calls a "layered defense" that includes other air defenses used to shoot down or thwart drones and warplanes, as well as a range of cruise and ballistic missiles, the officials said.

Air defense specialists cautioned against considering the Patriot a silver bullet against all threats.

"A single Patriot battery cannot turn the conflict around," Karako said.

"But in combination with the German and Dutch battery, it allows Ukraine to design

defenses in depth

. "

President Joe Biden

's decision

in December to send in the Patriot system was a powerful sign of America's growing military commitment to Ukraine.

The Pentagon's active duty Patriot units are frequently deployed for missions around the world, and experts say the United States does not have the kind of deep stockpiles of Patriot missiles available for transfer that it had with munitions such as artillery shells and rockets. .

The Patriot is one of the most coveted air defense systems on the US arms market, used by Saudi and Emirati forces in Yemen and across the NATO alliance in Europe.

The Patriot is also by far the

most expensive

weapons system the United States has supplied to Ukraine, with a total cost of about $1.1 billion: $400 million for the system and $690 million for the missiles.

A single interceptor missile costs about

$4 million,

according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Each launcher costs about 10 million dollars.

c.2023 The New York Times Company

look also

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Source: clarin

All news articles on 2023-03-22

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