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The Pentagon’s move to place Patriot interceptor missiles in Poland is both significant and impactful, recognizing of that DoD officials emphasize the weapons are being sent for purely defensive purposes.

Patriot Missiles

Made famous years ago with an ability to intercept Saddam Hussein’s Scud missile attacks during the Gulf War, the Patriot missile has been substantially modernized over the years and functioned as a foundational element of US ballistic missile defense.

Russia continues to use short and intermediate range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and other longer-range projectiles in what appear to be deliberate attacks on children and civilians. Therefore, if the US is providing Javelin anti-tank missiles and a range of other weapons in coordination with NATO allies, it seems Patriots could reinforce security on its Eastern flank.

As circumstances in Ukraine continue to intensify, and attacks strike closer to the Polish border, it makes strategic sense to place Patriot batteries in Poland given the weapon’s increased ability to track and intercept incoming ballistic missiles. Certainly the Russian use of medium range cruise missiles, rockets and short and intermediate range ballistic missiles place Poland within striking distance given that some of the weapons can travel hundreds of miles.

“I won't speak for Poland, and that government. But for our purposes, the military capabilities that we are adding to NATO's eastern flank are designed to protect and defend and deter against attacks on NATO territory that includes NATO airspace,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters, according to a Pentagon transcript.

The particular configuration of the Patriots sent to Poland may not be known, yet the most modern variants are greatly upgraded Patriot Advanced Capability - 3 kinetic energy hit-to-kill missiles. 

Years ago, the weapons were integrated with new guidance and targeting oriented software upgrades called MSE, for Missile Segment Enhancement. More recently, the Patriot radar has been increasingly networked as part of a meshed system of interconnected air defense nodes. These enhancements to the Patriot have been fortified by greatly improved tracking and targeting capability, to include an ability to destroy high-speed, maneuvering cruise missiles following a different trajectory than standard ballistic missiles which follow a parabola-like trajectory.

As far back as several years ago, Patriot interceptors hit and destroyed a maneuvering, high-speed cruise missile during a live-fire test.

“We had multiple Patriots, multiple targets and multiple interceptors. We executed the plan we structured to success. The plan we structured was executed to success,” Brigadier General Brian Gibson, Director, Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team, told reporters at the time in 2020.

The intercept, according to developers, took place at high speeds and was made possible by a new generation of networking technologies enabling multi-node target data transmission.

“Not only did we have multiple sensors and multiple shooters but also multiple echelons. We used a battalion in a way we normally wouldn’t, using multiple relays configured in a tactical formation. By adding those additional sensors to the network, we added several minutes to the decision cycle. Commanders can then actually know how many interceptors to launch at a target,” Gibson said.

US Patriots have been modernized in substantial ways with new software upgrades, guidance technology, radar systems networking and increased reliability. As part of the Patriot modernization process, the US Army conducted a successful live-fire test of a Patriot in 2020, successfully destroying a maneuver cruise missile. The guidance, threat sensing and target-data networking now possible with the Patriot missile arguably places the weapon in position to save lives in Ukraine.

Video Above: Russia Has Precision Weapons & Could Avoid Attacking Children & Civilians

F-35s

Also, given the large number of F-35s now positioned on NATO’s Eastern flank, it is quite relevant to point out that Patriot ground radar systems have actually been linked with F-35 technologies. Some of these multi-domain elements of Patriot targeting and missile defense integration are nascent to a certain extent or in the early phases of development, however the technology exists to operate a meshed networked of ballistic missile defense nodes including ground radar, command and control, sensor systems and otherwise disconnected missile defense interceptor systems.

Last year Warrior spoke with Darly Youngman, the deputy director of the Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command about the measurable progress with these kinds of innovations. Enhanced Patriot connectivity is an integral part of the Army’s fast-emerging Integrated Battle Command System, an air and cruise missile defense system which connects otherwise disparate targeting and sensor nodes across a wide operational envelope. 

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F-35 UK

F-35

For instance, Youngman explained this kind of synergy related to IBCS development and several recent live-fire tests and demonstrations. During a key developmental assessment, the IBCS system not only networked Patriot missile batteries to other ground nodes but connected them with F-35s as well.

Operating through the IBCS battle command network, threat tracking data was networked between a Patriot radar, Sentinel radar, Marine Corps AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar and an F-35 jet, Youngman explained. IBCS can track maneuvering targets and share that data with airborne F-35 jets and ground-based Active Electronically Scanned Array radars. The multi-domain functionality is designed to support the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control effort to synergize connectivity between the services.

Kalibur & Iskander Missiles

Multiple news reports have specified the kinds of long-range ground fire weapons being used by invading Russian forces, to include the precision-guided Kalibur missiles aimed at residential areas. A story by the Associated Press said the Russians were also firing Kalibr missiles at government buildings and military targets in Kharkiv.

As a precision-guided weapon, the Kalibr missile is entirely capable of striking targets without causing massive amounts of damage to civilians and residential areas. This technological fact which lends further evidence in support of the now widely recognized view that the Russian military is deliberately murdering children.

Russia Nuclear Weapons

Russia's Iskander missile system is currently being used in the conflict in Ukraine. It can launch both conventional missiles and battlefield nuclear weapons.

The Russians are also using a larger precision-guided weapon called Iskander, which has a larger conventional warhead than the Kalibr and travels as far as 300 miles. The Iskander can fire the much talked about and banned cluster munitions as well as high-explosive-fragmentation and earth-penetrating bunker busters, according to a write up on the weapon from Globalsecurity.org. The weapon is also reported to be nuclear capable.

A range of 300 miles of course enables the Iskander to target and attack urban areas at great standoff distances, something enabling Russian forces to bombard, shell and destroy residential areas from safer standoff distances hundreds of miles from the city of Kyiv.

These are precisely the kinds of weapons the Patriot missile has been developed and upgraded to intercept and destroy. Why not get them to Ukraine?

The particular configuration of the Patriots sent to Poland may not be known, yet the most modern variants are greatly upgraded Patriot Advanced Capability - 3 kinetic energy hit-to-kill missiles. Years ago, the weapons were integrated with new guidance and targeting oriented software upgrades called MSE, for Missile Segment Enhancement. More recently, the Patriot radar has been increasingly networked as part of a meshed system of interconnected air defense nodes. These enhancements to the Patriot have been fortified by greatly improved tracking and targeting capability, to include an ability to destroy high-speed, maneuvering cruise missiles following a different trajectory than standard ballistic missiles which follow a parabola-like trajectory.

As far back as several years ago, Patriot interceptors hit and destroyed a maneuvering, high-speed cruise missile during a live-fire test.

“We had multiple Patriots, multiple targets and multiple interceptors. We executed the plan we structured to success. The plan we structured was executed to success,” Brigadier General Brian Gibson, Director, Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team, told reporters at the time in 2020.

The intercept, according to developers, took place at high speeds and was made possible by a new generation of networking technologies enabling multi-node target data transmission.

“Not only did we have multiple sensors and multiple shooters but also multiple echelons. We used a battalion in a way we normally wouldn’t, using multiple relays configured in a tactical formation. By adding those additional sensors to the network, we added several minutes to the decision cycle. Commanders can then actually know how many interceptors to launch at a target,” Gibson said.

The Pentagon is already sending a wide range of ground weapons, and these interceptors could slow down, impair or in some cases completely stop long-range Russian missile attacks. This could save Ukrainians, and give their fighters more time to stall and derail a Russian advance. It could also slow down or minimize the Russian's war of attrition or and terror campaign against Ukrainians.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven - the Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization