The United States decided to deploy to Ukraine in the next two weeks sooner than expected Patriot missile defense systems and Abrams tanks, US defense officials said Tuesday. A group of 65 Ukrainian soldiers will complete their training on Patriot systems at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, over the next few days.
They will then travel to Poland for further training on the two Patriot systems, one American and one German-Dutch built, which will be deployed to Ukraine over the next few weeks, the officials told reporters at Fort Sill, quoted by CNN.
The announcement to speed up Patriot deployments came shortly after reports that Washington will advance shipments to Ukraine of M1-A1 Abrams, the older models of the US main battle tank rather than the most modern version of the tank. two US officials added.
The decision to speed up the delivery of tanks and Patriot comes as Ukraine prepares to launch the spring offensive against Russian forces, largely based on the most powerful and advanced systems Western countries have agreed to send, including tanks and other vehicles. armored
The American trainers at Fort Sill, where the 65 Ukrainians have been training since January 15, were able to significantly speed up the course schedule due to the Ukrainians’ basic knowledge of air defense systems.
“Our assessment is that the Ukrainian soldiers are impressive and absolutely fast,” said General Shane Morgan, commander of Fort Sill. “Because of their extensive knowledge of air defense and experience in a combat zone, it was easier for them to understand the concepts of operations and maintenance of the Patriot system.”
It typically takes about a year for U.S. soldiers to complete training on the Patriot, though Pentagon spokesman Gen. Patrick Ryder said in January that the accelerated training schedule for Ukrainian troops would take “several months.”
During a press conference on Tuesday Ryder declined to elaborate on the new timeline, saying only that the United States is confident that “we will be able to get the Patriots there on an accelerated timeline.”
The Ukrainian troops training are men and women between the ages of 19 and 67. They arrived in mid-January and are ready to complete training over the next few days. The schedule was “aggressive,” a Fort Sill official said, with the Ukrainians training daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The announcement in late 2022 that Washington would provide a Patriot battery was welcomed by Ukraine, which had repeatedly requested the air defense capability. But experts warned that the system would not be a game changer overnight due to the significant training and logistical requirements that come with it, as well as its scope limitations.
“These systems don’t pick up or move across the battlefield,” retired General Mark Hertling, a former commander in Europe, told CNN in December. “You place them somewhere that defends your most strategic objective, say in a city like kyiv. If anyone thinks this is going to be a system that stretches across a 500-mile border between Ukraine and Russia, they just don’t know how it works.”