Ukraine Situation Report: U.S. Patriot Missile Battery Has Been Delivered

The main focus of U.S. and allied aid to Ukraine will not be Western fighter jets, but ground-based air defenses like the Patriots.

byHoward Altman|
Ukrainians wrap up Patriot training in U.S.
Lockheed Martin


The U.S.-promised Patriot air defense battery is now in Ukraine, Army Maj. Charlie Dietz, a Pentagon spokesman, told The War Zone Friday.

He declined to elaborate on when it was delivered, but on Wednesday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov thanked the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands for providing the Patriots, which are all U.S.-made. On Tuesday, we wrote about Germany announcing the delivery of its system - a combined effort with the Netherlands - to Ukraine. You can read more about that in our story here.

On Friday, Ukrainian Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Mykola Oleschuk posed in front of one of the Patriot batteries set up and operational somewhere in Ukraine.

“Checked the combat positions of the ‘Patriot’ air defense system on one of the directions!” he said, according to Ukraine’s General Staff Telegram channel.

He thanked “our anti-aircraft fighters who completed their training much earlier than planned! Thanks to partners and everyone who contributed!”

“Although in small numbers, in fact we already have modern Western anti-aircraft missile systems: [National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles Systems, or] NASAMS, IRIS-T, Patriot, SAMP/T, Crotale, Gepard and others,” said Oleschuk.

Oleschuk did not address a concern, raised by leaked documents, that Ukraine could be running out of munitions for its air defense systems, which you can read more about here.

But he did mention a frequently repeated request by Ukraine for F-16s and other Western fighter jets.

“In order for the puzzle of a promising Ukrainian air defense system to finally take shape, the Air Force needs F-16!” he said. “Let's hold the sky and wait for good news from Ramstein.”

Oleshuck was referring to the 11th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG) meeting at the air base there.

But the news from Ramstein did not fulfill his desire. Speaking after the conference wrapped up, both U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley reiterated the U.S. position that advanced fourth-generation fighter jets, like the U.S.-made F-16s, are still not on the table for Ukraine. You can read more about how long it would really take to train Ukrainian pilots to fly them in our story here.

Providing Ukraine with sufficient ground-based air defense capabilities is more important than fighter jets, they said.

"So on the F-16 or any other fourth-generation aircraft from any other country, first of all, those are policy questions that'll be made by political leaders, but from a military perspective, the task is to control the airspace," Milley said. 

F-16s are still off the table for Ukraine, both Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said Friday. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Tatro/Released)

"How you control that airspace can be done in many, many different ways. The most cost-effective, efficient way to do that right now for Ukraine and the fastest way to do that for Ukraine is through air defense. They've been doing it for over a year now."

Ukraine, said Milley, has "been denying the airspace to effective Russian use. The Russians have been flying some sorties in Ukraine but limited amounts of sorties over Russian-occupied Ukraine. The Russians have not done battlefield air interdiction deep into Ukraine territory, except through missiles and rockets that have been fired from over Russian territory." 

The reason, said Milley, is because "the Ukrainians are shooting Russian aircraft down. So the Russians are cautious to come into Ukraine because of the effective use of the Ukrainian air defense system. That is the most critical thing right now, is that air defense system, to make sure that it is robust, it's rigorous, it's deep, and it's layered from high altitude to mid-altitude to low altitude and from short range, mid-range to long range. And the front line forces — the Ukrainian front line forces need to be protected." 

That, said Milley, is "the most important, critical military task right now. That was the theme of this entire day, was air defense, air defense, air defense, to make sure that Ukraine can defend its airspace."

You can read our piece on what could happen if Ukraine's air defenses begin to erode here.

As for the fighter jets, "there's a long lead time for training of pilots, et cetera, and the Russians have a significant amount of air power. And to take the Ukrainian Air Force from where it is today and to build it up to match the Russian Air Force, that's a significant level of effort by lots of countries, and those policy choices may or may not be made down the road and we'll see where that goes. But right now, the immediate need is air defense."

Before we get into today’s latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up with our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

The U.S. will deliver Abrams tanks to Germany in the coming weeks to begin training Ukrainian troops, Austin and Milley said during Friday's post-UDCG meeting press conference.

"We've also expedited our M1 Abrams timelines to supply Ukraine with more armored capability in the coming months, and the M1s that the Ukrainians will use for training will arrive here in Germany in the next few weeks," said Austin. "And all of this is huge progress, and I am confident that this equipment and the training that accompanied it — it will put Ukraine's forces in a position to continue to succeed on the battlefield." 

"So on the M1 tank, you know, I'm biased, but I think the M1 tank's the best tank in the world," said Milley. "There are other tanks that are quite good. Leopards, for example, are being provided, as well. But I do think the M1 tank, when it is delivered, will make a difference."

You can read more about what the Abrams tanks can do for Ukraine in our deep dive here.

The M1 tanks will make a difference for Ukraine when they are delivered and operational, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley said. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Warren W. Wright Jr., 21st TSC Public Affairs) US Army / Staff Sgt. Warren W. Wright Jr. / 21st TSC Public Affairs

Milley said that "in a couple of weeks you're going to get training tanks — those aren't quite combat-capable — and they'll be used to train the crews on how to shoot, maneuver and maintain these tanks, and that'll be part of the sustainment package to get them trained up as the other tanks are being refurbished in order to accelerate their delivery. But when they do get here and those crews are trained and they're used in a combined-arms maneuver tactic in combination with mech infantry, the Bradleys, they'll be very effective."

On Tuesday, we were the first to report that the initial tranche of 113 Bradleys arrived in Ukraine. You can read more about what the Bradleys will bring to the fight in our deep dive here.

Combining the Abrams tanks with the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, seen here in Ukrainian digital camouflage, will give Ukraine an advantage on the battlefield, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said Friday. (Ukrainian Defense Ministry photo) via Ukrainian Ministry of Defense/Twitter

The Abrams, he said, will not be a silver bullet for Ukraine, but will make a difference on the battlefield.

"But I would also caution, there's no silver bullet in war. It's a war. The outcomes of battles and wars are the function of many, many variables. And in this case, you would have to make sure that your tanks are used in combined arms with mechanized infantry, artillery, all of that is synchronized with dismounted forces, et cetera. So there is no silver bullet in this case, but I do think the M1 tank, when it's delivered and it reaches its operational capability, that it will be very effective on the battlefield."

All told, the U.S. and allies have provided enough armor for nine armor brigades, Austin said.

"Our collective efforts have made a huge difference on the battlefield, and now, in just a few short months, the Contact Group has delivered more than 230 tanks, more than 1,550 armored vehicles and other equipment and munitions to support more than nine new armored brigades," he said. 

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On the battlefield, Russia’s most combat-ready troops “have been destroyed,” rendering Moscow unable to launch future major offensives, a spokesman for GUR said on national television Thursday.

"We can already see that the hyped ‘big’ winter offensive, which was announced for a long time, is long behind us, since the enemy's next tasks have been failed," Andriy Yusov said.

The Russians can plan and try to implement tactical operations, but in general, are moving to a defensive posture, said Yusov.

While Russia does not currently have the strength to repeat the offensive it launched in February 2022, it still represents a dangerous threat, Yusov said.

"This does not mean that the enemy is defeated or does not pose a danger to Ukraine,” he said. “There is a large amount of manpower, mobilization potential, a significant amount of equipment, even if it is often outdated. But the most combat-ready part of the Russian army was destroyed in Ukraine. Putin himself destroyed her, sending her to the meat grinder."

"Intense fighting in and around Bakhmut continues and has for several months," Milley said Friday in Germany. "Russia is expending significant manpower for very little gain. Russia is intensifying indiscriminate shelling in Avdiivka and other cities and urban areas. And Russia continues to pay severely for its war of choice." 

Unlike "the Ukrainian forces who are highly motivated to fight for their country, to fight for their freedom, their democracy and their way of life, the Russians lack in leadership, they lack will, the morale is poor, and their discipline is eroding," said Milley. "Russia has resorted to tightening conscription laws as they indiscriminately feed their citizens into the chaos of war, and so far, they've been quite ineffective in their coordination or direction of combined arms maneuver on the battlefield." 

"Over the past year, Russia's temporary territorial gains have come with enormous losses.  Hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled their country, in addition to the casualties. They are trying to avoid fighting in Putin's war." 

As Ukraine works toward a counteroffensive, training has been a big factor.

"About 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers conducting are training right now in Germany," said Milley. "Another 8,800, almost 9,000 have completed training and have returned to Ukraine. And there are 65 Ukrainians that completed training on Patriot missile systems just recently."

The U.K. MoD on Friday shared a BBC video interview with one of the Ukrainian troops being trained in England

The GUR developed plans to conduct secret attacks on Russian forces in Syria using clandestine Kurdish help, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing a leaked U.S. intelligence document.

The supposed plan was designed to draw Russian troops and mercenary forces out of Ukraine by forcing them to deal with attacks from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the military arm of Syria’s Kurdish-controlled autonomous northeast, according to the Post.

The plan was to have the SDF strike Russian targets and conduct “unspecified ‘direct action’ activities along with UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] attacks,” according to the document.

“As planning occurred last fall, the SDF sought training, air defense systems and a guarantee that its role would be kept secret in exchange for supporting Ukrainian operations,” the Post reported. “The leadership of the SDF also forbade strikes on Russian positions in Kurdish areas, the document says.”

Leaked classified documents disclosed plans to have Syrian Democratic Forces attack Russians in Syria, according to The Washington Post. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

But the plan never came to fruition.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky directed a halt to the planning in December, according to the Post.

In a statement to the Post, the SDF denied the plan.

“The documents that you are talking about regarding our forces are not real; our forces have never been a side in the Russian-Ukrainian War,” said Farhad Shami, an SDF spokesperson.

Budanov declined to comment to the Post and to The War Zone.

The newspaper obtained the document, which has not been previously reported, “from a trove of intelligence material allegedly leaked to a Discord chatroom by Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.”

We must stress that the accuracy of some of these documents remains in question.

Most of the Cold War weapons and munitions on the battlefield are from old Soviet stockpiles. But the U.S. is also providing Ukraine with lethal aid from the era.

The Pentagon’s most recent package of weapons for Ukraine "includes relics from the Cold War to help blunt Russian advances and limit their ability to maneuver during an expected spring offensive," The New York Times reported on Friday.

The M21 anti-tank land mines have been in service with the Defense Department since at least the early 1960s, the Times reported. An undisclosed number of them will be sent to Ukraine as part of a $325 million package of aid from U.S. military stockpiles that was announced this week, the 36th such transfer of lethal matériel to Kyiv since August 2021.

"M21 mines — large metal-bodied weapons that are usually buried and explode when a vehicle drives over them — contain a specialized warhead built to punch through inches of armor plating," the newspaper reported.

Though they are often flying Soviet-era helicopters older than they are, Ukraine's rotary-wing pilots have been making good use of these legacy platforms.

The Wall Street Journal did a deep dive, spending time with crews that have flown dangerous missions in aircraft that have no radar or secure communications.

“The Russians have a huge advantage—modern equipment, radar,” Capt. Andriy Vinnitskiy told the newspaper. Still, he said, his recent mission into Avdiivka was a success. “We hit the command post,” he said, and evaded the Russian jets.

"Justin Bronk, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London who studies air power and technology, said the most important role Ukraine’s helicopters play is shuttling personnel and equipment—including commanders and air-defense systems—quickly across a front line that stretches hundreds of miles."

Denmark and the Netherlands are going Dutch on a plan to purchase 14 Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks from German industry, refurbish them and then send them to Ukraine, according to the Netherlands NOS news agency.

The two nations will split the $181 million cost and likely deliver the tanks next year, NOS reported.

The Dutch are also helping train Ukrainian troops, as you can see in this video of the Royal Dutch Marines teaching Ukrainians how to operate a Viking BvS10 tracked armored vehicle.

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Israel is developing an early warning system to detect incoming aerial threats that will be stationed in Kyiv next month, according to The Times of Israel.

"However, unlike in Israel, the system set for deployment in Ukraine will feature alerts only, without interception capabilities," the newspaper reported. "Ukraine had urged Jerusalem to supply it with missile interceptor capabilities, but Jerusalem has so far refused, as Israeli leaders seek to avoid overly antagonizing Russia."

Video has emerged of Ukrainian troops firing a round from an M58 MICLIC (Mine Clearing Line Charge), a system that shoots a 350-foot long containing 5 pounds per linear foot of C-4 explosives. It is primarily used by Ukraine both to clear mines, which it appears to be doing in this video below, as well as a strike weapon, including in urban areas, to devastating effect.

The pro-Russian Telegram channel claims that Russian volunteers are developing unmanned ground (UGV) vehicles that can be used for one-way attacks on Ukrainian forces.

"Our AV 04.2 (Kamikaze) was the first to go into the series," the Avtobot Zov Telegram channel claimed of a small, four-wheeled UGV. "Decepticons get ready."

Ukraine is using UGVs as well.

Ukraine's military showed off its "Shablya" or Sabre automated remote-controlled fire complex designed for stationary installation on stationary objects or special vehicles.

The Sabre is operated via a control panel, a camera and a monitor, which allows troops to fight at a distance of up to 500 meters from the installation, "thereby saving the life of the operator," according to the AFU StratCom Telegram channel.

"The combat platform can be installed both stationary at checkpoints and at the border and other areas, including for shooting down low-flying enemy drones. Any light anti-personnel or anti-tank weapon, such as a Kalashnikov machine gun, can be installed on the platform."

The Sabre automated remote-controlled fire complex. (AFU StratCom Telegram)

The Russians lost another M-35M helicopter, this time in a non-combat situation, the Russian Helicopterpilot Telegram channel reported.

"The hardest thing is to worry about a non-combat loss. It’s like we all understand what time we fly and when guys die from an enemy missile, this is one thing. When the causes of the catastrophe are different, then everything is experienced differently. This is the technique, this is the weather, this is the pilot's error. There can be many reasons. The profession of a pilot is always a risk. To the guys of eternal flight …"

A Russian soldier barely survived after his position was hit by a Ukrainian drone-dropped munition.

Ukraine's 59th Brigade destroyed a Russian T-72B tank with an anti-tank guided missile, the Ukraine Weapons Tracker OSINT group said in a video it posted.

But Ukrainian armor has been hit hard as well, as you can see in this video taken in Bakhmut.

We told you about how Ukrainian tank trainees in Poland managed to pop the turret off a tank. In Russia, it appears the crew of the 5P85SE2 Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) managed to flip it over on a highway near Tula.

And finally, American pizza delivery companies have nothing on the folks who delivered the pie seen here being devoured by a Ukrainian soldier on a destroyed Russian tank.

That's it for now. We'll update this story when we have more news to report about Ukraine.

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