Ukrainian soldiers have arrived on Sunday in the US to get training on how to use the Patriot air defense system in hopes of protecting their country against Russian missile strikes.
Colonel Curtis King of the US Army Air Defense Artillery School at Fort Sill in the state of Oklahoma announced in a video posted on Twitter that the Ukrainian personnel arrived Sunday evening for training that will consist of operator and maintainer tasks and, according to DOD, is expected to take several months.
Though King did not reveal the number of Ukrainian troops that arrived for training in Oklahoma, the Pentagon said earlier this week that 90 to 100 would come to the United States to learn how to operate and maintain the Patriot system.
In a significant victory for Kyiv, which had repeatedly pushed the US and the other Western allies for the system as the war launched by Russia almost a year ago grinds on, Washington promised a Patriot battery to Ukraine late last year.
Pentagon hopes that the system that fires missiles to take out missiles will help Ukrainian troops counter relentless aerial attacks by Russian troops as they began systematically targeting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure in attacks that have disrupted electricity, water, and heat to millions of Ukrainians.
Kyiv’s air defenses have played a key role in protecting Ukraine from strikes and preventing Russian forces from gaining control of the skies although as Russia faced increasing setbacks on the ground.
Kyiv’s decision to take troops off the battlefield to train in the US has been seen as quite unusual though Ukrainian forces have previously been sent for short-term training for other complex systems Ukraine has received – such as on the longer-range High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HiMARS) – at European bases.
Meanwhile, in Europe, Germany has found itself under piling pressure from Western and Ukrainian officials to approve the transfer of heavy battle tanks to Ukraine, a move that, according to UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace, could unlock support from other nations ahead of a United States-hosted meeting to discuss further military aid to Kyiv later this week.
Berlin, on the other hand, insists that Kyiv would get its Leopard 2 tanks – regarded as among the West’s best- only if there is agreement among the main allies – which have so far resisted sending heavier weaponry amid concerns such moves could drag them more directly into the war with Russia – of Ukraine, that have so far primarily relied on Soviet-era T-72 tank variants.