The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that the US will begin training 100 Ukrainian soldiers how to use Patriot missile defense systems as soon as next week on US soil at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Patriots are considered the most advanced US-made air defense system. Maintaining and operating one battery requires about 90 soldiers, and military experts say training takes about six months.
The Ukrainians are set to receive an expedited version of the training, but US military officials say it will still take “several months.” The US pledged to give Ukraine one Patriot system as part of a $1.85 Billion weapons package announced in December. Germany has also announced that it will be sending Ukraine a Patriot missile battery.
POLITICO first reported in December that the US military was considering training Ukrainian forces on the Patriots inside the US, a plan that will deepen Washington’s involvement in the war. The US has been training thousands of Ukrainians how to use US-provided weapons at its bases in Germany and elsewhere in Europe but hasn’t had similar training inside the US since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Russia strongly warned the US against providing the Patriots to Kyiv, saying the systems would become a target for Russia’s armed forces. But like most Russian warnings, it was ignored, and the US continues to escalate military aid, most recently by pledging Bradley Fighting Vehicles for the first time as part of an arms package worth over $3 billion.