Let’s Tyr to Make Some Sense About the Strike on Patriot ADS in Kiev

I see many people then hearing about Patriot air-defense systems (ADS) being struck, assume the whole system (by some accounts worth up to $1B) was destroyed. No. It is called system precisely because it consists of many individual and distributed elements. (Another usage of the term “system” in Russian air-defense lingo is a name for ADS division, containing ADS “complices”, i.e. batteries.) So, in order to destroy a system, all of its many individual components need to be destroyed. In order to “engage” (as Russians reported it) the system, any one component needs to be targeted. Each component has its own value and importance to the overall performance of the entire battery.

As far as we know, UA was supplied up until now with two Patriot batteries, one from USA and one from Germany. Each battery consists of one or more multifunctional (search and targeting radars), a number of missile launchers, command and control, communications, generators, maintenance, etc. individual installments. Only by incapacitating the fire-control radar(s) available to the battery, the whole battery can be incapacitated. Only by destroying all of the launchers, the battery can be incapacitated. Etc., etc.

The most critical element of ADS with one (or few) central radars which provide missile targeting, is those radars. The radars are usually engaged by anti-radiation missiles, which (if successful) are able to either incapacitate it physically, or force the operators to shut it down in order to prevent the anti-radiation missile from homing on it and hitting it.

The most potent Russian (Soviet) anti-radiation missile, the Kh-31P, have a reported range of about 130 km (more or less similar to the US HARM missile max range, if I remember correctly). Which means that unlike long-range cruise and ballistic missiles, the fighter jet carrying it must approach the target to 130 kilometers at high altitude. Since UA still possess long and middle range air-defence capabilities in and around Kiev, as well as fighters, the use of such missiles is highly unlikely.

This only leaves non anti-radiation missiles to be used against systems like the Patriot. Since those are mobile and should be well camouflaged, determining their exact location is problematic. The general location of the radars could be determined by the use of electronic support measures, or simply put by triangulating their proximate location by detecting the direction their electro-magnetic radiation, using a few different ESM platforms, and then corelating this information. The next step would be to use a reconnaissance satellite to pinpoint the location of the battery and its elements. After that the precise coordinates could be loaded into the navigation computer of the long-range missiles. The problem with this approach is that after each activation of the radar, it can be relocated to a new position in relatively short time.

Another possibility is to receive exact location from agents on the ground.

In any case, what I could see from the now famous footage from Patriot’s 30-missiles barrage in Kiev, is that there were two (?) explosions in the general proximity (+/- few hundred meters or few kilometers) of the launchers. Assuming each one of those hits destroyed on element of the Patriot battery, at the very best two radars were hit. They may have been other hits which were not recorder on this footage, or maybe the rest of the missiles targeting the area were intercepted by the ADS missiles (I assume at least some of those 30 Patriot missiles hit something). It is possible that all of those 30 Patriot missiles were targeting the Kinzhals, but still let two of them (I don’t know from how many) to get through.

At any case, it is safe to assume that most of the Patriot battery elements have survived. At the very best, as I’ve already said, the battery’s radar was destroyed. Yet the info coming from the Pentagon suggest that it is not the case. If indeed the radar(s) survived unharmed, or suffered only a small damage that could be repaired easily, then the talks about $1B Patriot system destroyed are entirely wrong. If, on the other hand, one or more of the Patriot radars were significantly damaged, then it is a success for Russian military. Firstly because those are expensive, and secondly because those are hard to replace.

The idea of at least two Kinzhals used in the latest (2023-5-16) DEAD (destruction of air-defense) mission in Kiev by the Russian military may shed a new light on the recent Ukrainian claims of first ever intercept of Kinzhal by the Patriot (or any other ADS). If true, that my suggest the first attack on Patriot ADS using one Khinzhal has failed, and this time more Kinzhals were used. At least two got through, it seems.

If so, that may collaborate the claims of the Kinzhal intercept. Which is a big deal, since Russian statements about it being uninterceptable, have been disproven. On the other hand it seems 30 or so Patriot missiles cannot intercept a few (at least two, at most 6) Kinzhals without some of them getting through. In my opinion it reflects poorly on both sides — Russian claimes were erroneous, while Western ground-based ADS are obviously inadequate against Kinzhal (which is not even a real hypersonic missile as I’ve explained in the past).


Then the first information of Patriot supplies to UA appeared, I assumed those will be armed only with cheaper and more available PAC-2 missile variants, just to provide some air-defense against Russian aviation. But it seems the US is interested in field-testing its latest PAC-3 variant against Russian long-range missiles. Naturally they are taking some risks here, firstly because it is now clear to all who is watching closely that PAC-3 is inadequate defence against “quasi-ballistic” or “aero-ballistic” missiles such as Kinzhal and Iskander (and some later, non-Russian missiles), and secondly because using a much more expensive and less abundant missiles may invite criticism from military and economic point of view. In the time US is trying to avoid default, UA spends many tens of millions USD worth of missiles in under a minute.

What is interesting to me, is would US will now resupply the PAC-3 missiles to UA? They got their field-testing results, and they are now in danger of the criticism for wasting money on UA. Since each supply package cost is calculated and reported, adding another ~$100M or so to the “support UA” weapon transfers each time Russian fire a few Kinzhals at Patriots, seems risky. So it is entirely possible the financial burden of buying replacement PAC-3 missiles for UA will fall on Germany, or UA could remain without PAC-3 missiles at all, after all that hype about Patriot ADS they created.


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