Ukraine Credits Downing to US Patriot Missile

Putin has billed the hypersonic missile as unstoppable
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2023 3:55 PM CDT
Ukraine Credits Downing to US Patriot Missile
Patriot missile launchers acquired from the US last year are seen deployed in Warsaw in February.   (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk, File)

Ukraine said Saturday it used a US-made Patriot missile to bring down one of Russia's most dangerous weapons for the first time—a hypersonic Kinzhal missile. Several US officials confirmed the downing over Kyiv on Thursday night, the New York Times reports, which would indicate that the missile Russian President Vladimir Putin has portrayed as invincible can be defeated by existing Western defense systems. The commander of the Ukrainian air force announced the success as "a historic event" on Telegram. "Yes, we have shot down the 'unparalleled' 'Kinzhal,'" Lt. Gen. Mykola Oleshchuk's statement said.

The Kinzhal—"Dagger" in Russian—moves at a lower elevation that other ballistic missiles at five times the speed of sound, too fast for Ukraine's air defenses to respond. Several have hit targets in Ukraine since Russia began the war last year, per the Washington Post. The Patriot is easily the most expensive single weapon system that Ukraine has received from the US. The system, which arrived last month, cost about $400 million and the missiles $690 million. The Netherlands also agreed to send Ukraine a Patriot system. Ukrainian soldiers traveled for training on the system to Oklahoma.

The Patriot could change the dynamics of the air battle, though Western analysts had been skeptical of the Kinzhal all along. "It is invincible against all existing and prospective missile defense and counter-air defense systems," Putin said in 2018. Some analysts said it was just a modified version of conventional munitions—"new wine in old bottles." Michael Kofman, an expert based in the US, tweeted in March: "Don't understand the interest in Russian use of Kinzhal. There’s nothing special or particularly exciting about this system." (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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