The visit, during which Zelensky will visit Biden at the White House and speak at a joint session of Congress, comes as Russia mounts a relentless campaign of air strikes on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and power grids. , leaving much of the country in the dark.
Ukraine will receive a Patriot battery, with up to 8 launchers, each containing between 4 and 16 missiles, depending on the type of ammunition used. US forces will train Ukrainians to operate and maintain the system in a third country, possibly Germany. “This will take some time,” the official said, “but the Ukrainian military will do that training back to their home country to operate this battery.” The air defense system is unlikely to reach Ukraine before spring.
The new weapons package will bring the total amount of military assistance to Ukraine approved by the Biden administration to about $22 billion.
Zelensky had been searching for the Patriot system for months, as Russia carried out a series of deadly attacks far beyond military targets, assessed by the United States and Ukraine, and left much of the country without electricity. , heat and running water. After months of rejecting those pleas, in recent weeks, senior administration officials have recommended to Biden that the air defense system be sent to Kiev.
First used in combat during the Gulf War to destroy Iraqi Scud missiles, the Patriot system relies on a sophisticated radar to detect incoming threats, including cruise missiles and rockets. ballistic missiles, while also launching long-range missiles to intercept them. Usually deployed in the back of a truck, it requires a team of at least three soldiers to operate, with the extensive support needed to stay afloat.
The United States has about 90 troops assigned to a typical Patriot battery. The missiles launched by Patriot can fly to an altitude of 79,000 feet, with a range of up to 100 miles, depending on the type of ammunition.
A battery costs about $1 billion, and rockets can run several million dollars each. Raytheon-manufactured systems are in great demand and in short supply, currently in use in approximately 16 countries. Batteries supplied to Ukraine will likely be transferred from systems already deployed in Europe.
The Patriot system will join a host of other modern air defense systems that Ukraine has received from Western nations since the Russian invasion. The United States last month sent two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, and signed a $1.2 billion deal. agreement to build and deliver six more over the next two years.
Earlier in the war, the United States also brokered an agreement with Slovakia, a NATO ally, to send its sole S-300 air defense system to Ukraine. In return, NATO deployed Patriot units to Slovakia. The Pentagon has also sent surface-to-air missiles known as HAWKs, which stands for Homing All the Way Killer. These missiles are used for air defense and are fired from launchers provided by Spain to Ukraine.
Zelensky’s trip is designed to reinforce continued US support for Ukraine, especially during the difficult winter to come. “This week is extremely important for Ukraine – to get through this winter and next year,” Zelensky said Tuesday in his nightly address to the country.
“We will certainly endure,” he said. “We will definitely get the necessary support for Ukraine.”
The senior official said the administration expected bipartisanship to approve more than $40 billion in additional funding for Ukraine by 2023. Biden “will reinforce the underlying message on this trip, to President Zelensky.” , directly to the Ukrainian people, the American people, and the world openly, that the United States will stand with Ukraine for as long as it can,” the official said.
“This is not about sending a message to a specific political party,” the official said. “This is about sending a message to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and send a message to the world that America will be there for Ukraine for as long as necessary.”