The Ukrainian military shot down a hypersonic Russian missile over Kyiv using the newly acquired Patriot missile defense system, an air force commander confirmed on Saturday. It’s the first time Ukraine has been known to intercept one of Moscow’s most sophisticated weapons, after receiving the long-sought, American-made defense batteries from the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands “Yes, we shot down the ‘unique’ Kinzhal,” Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk said on Telegram, referring to a Kh-47 missile, which flies at 10 times the speed of sound. “It happened during the night time attack on May 4 in the skies of the Kyiv region.”
Ukraine confirmed that two Patriot batteries were operational last month, following training on the system from the U.S. and Germany, according to the Kyiv Independent. The interception of the hypersonic missile also represents a major success for the Patriot technology, in use on the battlefield after 20 years of upgrades.
Kyiv had initially denied that it had shot down the Kinzhal missile.
Ukraine first asked Washington for Patriot systems in 2021, well before Russia’s current war of aggression began in February 2022. The U.S. and Germany have each sent at least one Patriot battery to Ukraine; and the Netherlands said it has provided two.
Comment: So Mykola Oleshchuk, commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, admitted somewhat reluctantly that his Patriots shot down a Kinzhal hypersonic missile. His message admitting this on his official Telegram channel basically said yes we did it now STFU. This was as a reaction to all the hype flying around based on Ukraine’s “Defense Express” publishing the news along with some dodgy photos. According to Tom Cooper, an Austrian who writes prolifically on the air war in Ukraine, it is the MIM-104F version of the Patriot system in Ukraine with the PAC-3 missile. This version of the Patriot and the PAC-3 missile is far more advanced than the ones used in Saudi Arabia back in Desert Shield/Desert Storm. That performance was mediocre at best.
The Russians have long claimed their hypersonic missiles were invincible. They repeatedly boasted they could strike European capitals and there is nothing the West could do to prevent it. Apparently the Kinzhal is not invincible. Maybe this particular Kinzhal didn’t perform up to snuff. Maybe the Patriot launcher was deployed in just the right position along the flight path. Maybe it was a lucky shot. Still, another myth of a weapon’s invincibility has been burst.
In the medium to long term, I see Ukraine getting several Patriot battalions. Poland, Romania and Sweden will probably plus up their current inventories of systems and missiles. I also would not be surprised to see another Aegis Ashore installation in Finland or Sweden. This will form the basis for a formidable air defense shield for Eastern Europe and NATO when integrated with other AD systems like NASAMS, IRIS-T, Gepard and more. Russia will have the same based on their S-400 and S-500 systems. So be it. As Robert Frost said, good fences make good neighbors.