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Ukrainian service members fire a shell from a M777 Howitzer at a front line, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv Region, Ukraine July 21, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Biden Deepens Involvement – On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced that it would be sending up to one hundred Ukrainian troops to the United States to receive training on the Patriot missile defense system, further escalating the country’s involvement in the conflict.

According to Brigadier General Pat Ryder, a spokesman for the United States Department of Defense, the Ukrainians will arrive at Fort Sill, Oklahoma as early as next week to begin the months-long course to learn how to operate a Patriot battery, which can shoot down attack planes, cruise missiles, and some ballistic missiles before they hit their targets.

Kyiv has only allowed its forces to leave the battlefield for brief periods of time in the past in order to receive training on complex weapon systems at European bases from American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops. However, unlike the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) that was also sent to Ukraine, the Patriots need extensive, hands-on training outside of Europe.

Sending troops overseas for training that would normally take a year demonstrates both Ukraine’s military’s reliance on the Patriots in its fight against Russia and the Pentagon’s dedication to the conflict over the long haul.

About 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers will be trained over the course of several months to operate, maintain, and sustain the defensive system, Ryder told reporters at the Pentagon. When deployed, the Patriot will bolster Ukraine’s air defenses and give the Ukrainian people another tool in the fight against Russia’s persistent aerial attacks.

The surface-to-air guided missile defense system is comprised of eight launchers that can carry up to four interceptors each, ground radar, a control station, and a generator mounted on top of a truck. A single Patriot battery requires around a hundred soldiers to operate, which is roughly the number that will be traveling to Fort Sill.

During his December visit to the United States, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the United States’ commitment to ship a Patriot battery to Ukraine as part of a $1.85 billion military assistance package. Zelensky stated during his trip that once the initial Patriot system is fully functional, “we will send another signal to President Biden that we would like to get more Patriots.”

Fort Sill serves as the training ground for the United States Army’s 16 Patriot battalions. According to Ryder, “so (the Ukrainian trainees) will be falling in on an existing capability,” and beyond the initial 100, “but that will be part of an ongoing discussion with Ukraine.” It will take several months to train personnel, but the United States hopes to speed up the process so the system can be activated over Ukraine as soon as possible.

According to Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst at Washington’s nonpartisan Brookings Institution, “it is the sort of necessary, serious, rigorous, sustained training this system requires.” “This choice demonstrates our dedication.”

The Russian government is taking note. On Thursday, before the announcement was made, Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, told reporters that the United States was providing a Patriot battery, which she said would greatly increase the risk of a catastrophic escalation of the conflict. She warned that taking “such a step” would increase the risk of direct involvement of the American army in hostilities and further escalate the conflict.

Since the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when the system shot down Iraqi Scud missiles heading toward Israel, the United States military has deployed Patriot batteries to hotspots and war zones. Foreign sales to NATO allies, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and others have resulted from its success in shooting down missiles and aircraft from hundreds of miles away.

In the newest developments of the nearly 11-month war, Ukraine is facing a variety of artillery, missiles, and drones. Last week, Germany joined the United States in promising a Patriot battery to Ukraine to supplement the many other air defense systems already promised by foreign partners.

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