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NATO debates increased air defense support as Russia hits Ukraine with more rocket strikes

DW, 25 Nov 2022
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak has asked the German government to deliver US Patriot missiles destined for Poland to Ukraine instead. "I have asked Germany to have the proposed Polish Patriot batteries transferred to Ukraine and deployed at the western border," wrote Blaszczak on Twitter Wednesday. But Berlin insisted the missiles are only to be deployed within NATO.

Germany had offered Poland, a neighbor and NATO partner, the US-made surface-to-air missile (SAM) defense system after a stray rocket struck a Polish village 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the Ukrainian border last week, killing two people. Following Blaszczak's tweet, Berlin said the missiles are strictly intended for Poland, with German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht emphasizing, "Patriots are part of NATO's integrated air defense, meaning they are intended to be deployed on NATO territory." "Any use outside NATO territory," said Lambrecht, "would require prior discussions with NATO and the allies." Germany, which owns 12 batteries of Patriots, has two units deployed to Slovakia and offered Warsaw another in an effort to step up air-protection there. Ukraine, though it aspires to join NATO, is currently not a member of the military alliance.

The Patriot system is made by US arms manufacturer Raytheon, which says it will continue to update the nearly 40-year-old system until at least 2048.

The system is based on a collection of radars, command-and-control units, and various missile interceptors, covering a large area. Its radar can track up to 50 targets, and engage five of them at once. Depending on the version in use, the interceptor missiles can reach an altitude of more than two kilometers and hit targets up to 160 kilometers away.

Each unit requires about 90 troops to operate, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a US think tank. Patriots can defend against tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, drones, aircraft and "other threats" according to Raytheon.

Russia, however, has increasingly made use of cheap Iranian drones that are much more difficult for the Patriot to detect and intercept.

On Monday, German Defense Minister Lambrecht said Berlin wants to lend Warsaw the system because, "Poland is our friend, our ally, and, as a neighbor of Ukraine, especially exposed."

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