Russia destroys Ukrainian Patriot air defense missile launchers
By Cassie B. // Mar 14, 2024

Aerial footage being shared online shows the dramatic moment when a pair of American-made quad-launchers for Patriot missile batteries were obliterated in a costly blow to Ukraine's war efforts.

The truck-mounted quad launchers for the Patriot surface-to-air missile systems were destroyed in a Russian missile strike that was followed by an explosion that likely killed their crews as well. Each of the systems costs approximately $400 million overall, while the missiles can cost as much as $6 million apiece.

The Patriot system was reportedly being moved closer to the front line without any apparent air cover in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. Experts believe that a Russian military drone spotted the system being moved and relayed the data to facilitate a swift response. A Russian Iskander hypersonic surface-to-surface missile crew managed to respond quickly and score a direct hit on the convoy from what may have been hundreds of miles away.

Until now, the system has played a major role in defending top Ukrainian cities from incoming strikes, in addition to serving as an offensive weapon against Russian warplanes.

The devastating hit came after several weeks of Ukraine reportedly deploying Patriot batteries to down Russian warplanes. Over a dozen Russian Air Force fighter bombers have reportedly been hit, allowing Ukraine to chip away at Moscow's aerial advantage.

It is not known why Ukraine's Patriot crews were not moving with air defense cover. Some experts suggest that the country's air force is simply stretched too thin as it tries to keep ground troops and cities protected.

Although it has yet to be officially confirmed, this strike represents a major blow to Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

Ukraine received its Patriots last April, and their skill in targeting cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles and aircraft gave their efforts against Russia a boost at the time. The country only had five of the systems before the strike, which they received from the Netherlands, Germany and the United States.

Most reports indicate that two of them were hit, although the Russian state news agency TASS maintains that they hit and destroyed three launchers.

Taking out these launchers could make the air over the eastern part of Ukraine much safer for Russia, giving it a significant advantage as the conflict enters its third year. Ukraine could well have lost as much as 13 percent of its Patriot launchers in the incident, which are considered some of the most crucial components of their best air defenses.

Replacing them could take months or even years and would cost millions of dollars. Most of the Patriot batteries and missiles they already possess were received as donations, but it is unlikely the U.S. would approve providing them with more as Congress has currently blocked further American aid to Ukraine.

Russia also recently struck a Ukrainian army High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System launcher with another Iskander.

Ukraine appears to be fighting a losing battle

Ukraine’s vulnerability has been on full display recently, with a series of Russian advances exposing their shortcomings on the front line. Troops have reportedly been rationing ammunition and aren’t sure how much longer they can stand up to the mounting pressure from Russia.

Moreover, the Ukrainian military’s new commander, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, has scolded subordinate officers for their poor performance, citing “shortcomings” and “miscalculations” and even replacing officers who he said “directly endanger[ed] the lives and health of [their] subordinates.”

He replaced Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, who was said to have a tense relationship with President Volodymyr Zelensky, inheriting a complicated situation with highly pessimistic soldiers.

“We can feel [Russian] superiority in personnel, artillery and armored vehicles," said one frontline officer. "They move forward little by little. We have not many options here. Fall back, or just wait till we are… No matter how sad it may sound, till we are all killed. Without weapons… it’s not a war you can fight with a sword.”

Sources for this article include:

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