Fort Sill, Oklahoma CNN — The Ukrainian soldiers waved and honked their horns as they drove along a dirt road at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, moving their vehicles into position to defend against a hypothetical Russian missile barrage. These were not ordinary trucks, however. The Ukrainians were manning a US Patriot air defense system, which 65 Ukrainian soldiers have been training on intensively for 10 weeks, instructed by US Army trainers at the base. CNN was invited to witness the training on Tuesday, just days ahead of the Ukrainians’ expected graduation from the expedited course. The training at Fort Sill is the only location on US soil where the US is instructing the Ukrainians on US weapons systems. But video and photographs of the training were prohibited, to protect the identities of the Ukrainians who will be heading home to defend their country against Russian forces within the next month.
The Ukrainians have excelled, officials said. They learned the basics of the Patriot system so quickly that they were given extra, intensive training rarely afforded to their American counterparts completing the same course, the officials added. “Our assessment is that the Ukrainian soldiers are impressive, and absolutely a quick study due to their extensive air defense knowledge and experience in a combat zone,” said Brig. Gen. Shane Morgan, acting Fort Sill and Fires Center of Excellence commanding general. “It was easier, though never easy, for them to grasp the pace and maintenance,” he said. “They are the best of the best in what they do in air defense for Ukraine.”
The system is now set to be deployed in Ukraine in the coming weeks – much sooner than anticipated – giving the country some extra protection against Russian missiles that has been requested since the outset of the war just over a year ago.
On Tuesday, US officials also said Abrams tanks would be deployed quicker than expected, though Ukrainian officials say much more sophisticated weaponry, and lots of it, is needed to force back Russia’s offensive in a meaningful way.
And the US and its allies know that the two Patriot systems going to Ukraine – one provided by the US, the other jointly by Germany and the Netherlands – will not be enough to defend whole Ukrainian cities from complex Russian missile attacks. “A Patriot is not going to be able to defend the entire city” of Kyiv, for example, one senior defense official said. But it will be better than the air defense systems that the Ukrainians are currently using, which can’t defend against Russian ballistic missile attacks.
Comment: Quick studies, these Ukrainian boys. Of course, when you’re fighting for the very existence of your country, it tends to concentrate the mind. This does expose a certain Western conceit, that no one other than us can master our sophisticated weaponry. Horse shit! A few years in Special Forces disabuses one of that silly notion. A couple of Ukrainian pilots recently demonstrated that it won’t take long for Ukrainian pilots to fly and employ the F-16. I also read today that France is now training Ukrainian pilots on the Mirage-2000.
In another article on the Ukrainians at Fort Sill, Ben Fenwick does a magnificent job of getting to the heart of the Ukrainian soldiers. I like Fenwick’s style and I like his focus.