Ukrainian troops are set to begin training in the United States this week, learning to operate Patriot missile defense systems in Oklahoma.
Pentagon spokesman U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder announced on Tuesday that around 100 Ukrainian troops would arrive at Fort Sill, Oklahoma to begin training to use the Patriot surface-to-air guided-missile defense system.
“The training will prepare approximately 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers to operate, maintain and sustain the defensive system over a training course expected to last several months,” Ryder said.
The plan to train these Ukrainian troops to use Patriot missile systems comes after Russia has been launching drone and missile attacks throughout Ukraine, destroying key infrastructure and degrading the energy supply throughout the country. As Zelensky visited the U.S. on Dec. 21, President Joe Biden’s administration announced that the U.S. would begin supplying Patriot missiles to help protect against attacks like the ones Ukraine has seen in recent months.
Ryder said the Patriot missiles “will contribute to Ukraine’s air defense capabilities and provide another capability to the Ukrainian people to defend themselves against Russia’s ongoing aerial assaults.”
The approximately 100 Ukrainian troops is about enough to man the single Patriot missile battery the U.S. has so far agreed to syppluy to Ukraine.
“A Patriot battery, by definition, takes about 90 folks to operate and maintain that system,” Ryder said. “So the numbers are commensurate with what one would expect, in terms of operating the Patriot battery that will be delivered to Ukraine.”
Fort Sill is the location of the headquarters of the U.S. Air Defense Artillery School. The school trains U.S. and allied forces to use air defense systems like the Patriot missile.
The Patriot missile system typically takes months to learn, but Ryder said the U.S. is hoping to expedite the training process for the Ukrainian forces.
“The longer those troops are off the line, they’re not actually engaged in combat. And so trying to work with the Ukrainians to see what we can do to accelerate the training timeline,” Ryder said. “In terms of what that training will look like, it will consist of training in the classrooms, it will consist of training on the Patriot systems, and then of course in a simulation lab, as well, before they actually deploy the capability on the battlefield.”
In addition to Patriot missile defense systems, the U.S. has also recently agreed to begin sending armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine, including 50 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles armed with with 500 TOW anti-tank missiles and 250,000 rounds of 25 millimeter ammunition.