Did Ukraine shoot down a Russian Khinzhal missile with an American Patriot battery, or did a Russian missile destroy the battery? Both. Ukraine fired 30 Patriot missiles in a near-simultaneous barrage last week. The partially hypersonic Khinzhal is vulnerable only in its last second-and-a-half of flight as it homes in on its target, and the Patriot battery fired everything it had to stop it. At $4 million a pop, the barrage might have cost $30 million, and seriously depleted Ukraine’s supply of missiles, European military sources report. Patriot is a top US export item, and the destruction of a Patriot battery by a Russian weapon would ruin the foreign market for the Raytheon defense system.
A retired high-ranking US military intelligence officer who now tracks the Ukraine war notes that the Russians inflicted some damage on the American system, which consists of several dispersed components. “Before Kyiv shut down all blogging on the subject, enough popped out to suggest that the real damage was to the generator van (which would certainly offer a nice heat signature if one of the missiles had an infrared seeker), and to some associated electronic support gear.”