The Patriot system, formally known as the MIM-104 Patriot, is a ground-based, mobile surface-to-air missile defense system developed by Raytheon and primarily used by the U.S. and its allies. The main purpose of the Patriot missile system is to intercept incoming missiles.
The Patriot is considered to be one of the most advanced air defense systems currently in use by the United States Armed Forces. Patriot platforms for export are usually in short supply, which is why America's allies around the world regularly vie for limited export slots.
The fact that Ukraine will be receiving some Patriot platforms is a fulfillment of a demand from officials in Kyiv for its allies to provide it with more substantial air defense systems to thwart Russian strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure. (Related: Ukrainian drone strikes deep within Russia could spark a bigger war involving the US.)
The Department of Defense's plan to send Patriot missile platforms to Ukraine is still being finalized, according to officials who spoke with mainstream media outlets, and could be finalized by as early as Thursday, Dec. 15. Furthermore, these plans still need to be approved by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, after which it will be sent to President Joe Biden for his final approval.
It is not entirely clear how many missile launchers the U.S. will send, but a typical artillery battery made up of Patriot missile defense system includes up to eight launchers, each holding four ready-to-fire missiles. Furthermore, a Patriot battery also includes a radar set to detect and track targets, computers, power-generating equipment and an engagement control station.
Once the plans are finalized, the U.S. is expected to ship the Patriot platforms almost immediately to the U.S. Army Base in Grafenwoehr, Germany. This is where Ukrainian forces will be trained to use the Patriot equipment before it heads to Ukraine. Training could take several months.
"It's very, very significant," said retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who led the White House's Ukraine policy during the administration of former President Donald Trump. "These are going to be quite capable of dealing with a lot of different challenges the Ukrainians have, especially if the Russians bring in short-range ballistic missiles."
The Patriot system will add to the over $19.3 billion in military assistance the U.S. has already provided Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's special military operation.
It still isn't exactly clear how much American taxpayers will be spending to send a full Patriot battery to Ukraine, but each launcher costs about $10 million and loading it with four interceptor missiles can cost another $16 million. This suggests that American taxpayers are shelling out over $208 million, at a minimum, for a battery of fully-loaded Patriot missile defense systems for the launchers and one round of missiles alone.
This cost does not make using Patriot-fired missiles very cost-effective, which is why analysts believe they will only be used against more advanced threats including aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
The Patriot system will likely not be effective against far smaller and dramatically cheaper targets, including the Iranian-made drones and missiles that Russia has been purchasing in greater quantities for the conflict.
"Firing a million-dollar missile at a $50,000 drone is a losing proposition," warned retired Marine Corps reserves Col. Mark Cancian.
Learn the truth about the conflict in Ukraine at UkraineWitness.com.
Watch this episode of "The New Atlas" as host Brian Berletic discusses in detail the implications behind America sending Patriot missiles to Ukraine.