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Ukraine Successfully Intercepts Russian Hypersonic Missile Using American Patriot Defense Systems

Ukraine has claimed to have intercepted a Russian hypersonic missile over the capital city of Kyiv using American Patriot defense systems, marking the first known time that Ukraine has been able to successfully intercept one of Russia's most advanced missiles.

In a Telegram post on Saturday, Air Force commander Mykola Oleshchuk said that the Kinzhal-type ballistic missile had been intercepted in an overnight attack earlier in the week, and that it was also the first time Ukraine is known to have used the Patriot defense systems. "Yes, we shot down the 'unique' Kinzhal," Oleshchuk wrote. "It happened during the night-time attack on May 4 in the skies of the Kyiv region."

Mykola Oleshchuk

The Kinzhal is one of Russia's latest and most advanced weapons. The Russian military claims that the air-launched ballistic missile has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles) and flies at 10 times the speed of sound, making it difficult to intercept. A combination of hypersonic speed and a heavy warhead allows the Kinzhal to destroy heavily fortified targets, such as underground bunkers or mountain tunnels.

The successful interception of the Kinzhal marks a significant milestone for Ukraine, which has previously admitted lacking assets to intercept such missiles. Ukraine took delivery of the Patriot missiles in late April, with the systems provided by the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands. While Ukraine has not specified how many of the systems it has or where they have been deployed, Germany and the U.S. have each acknowledged sending at least one battery, and the Netherlands has said it has provided two launchers.

Ukrainian troops have received extensive training to effectively locate targets with the systems, lock on with radar, and fire. Each battery requires up to 90 personnel to operate and maintain.

Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has described possessing the Patriot system as "a dream," but he was told during a visit to the U.S. in August 2021, months before Russia's full-scale invasion, that it was impossible. The Patriot was first deployed by the U.S. in the 1980s and costs approximately $4 million per missile, with launchers costing about $10 million each, according to analysts.

In addition to intercepting the Kinzhal missile, Ukraine has been preparing for a counteroffensive against Russia, which many anticipate could occur this spring. In an interview with Foreign Affairs magazine this week, U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that with NATO assistance to help train and equip nine brigades' worth of combined arms, armor, and mechanized infantry, "the Ukrainians right now have the capability to attack." He also noted that their capability to defend was "significantly enhanced from what they were just a year ago."

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