The recent success of the American interceptor in neutralizing a Russian Su-35 Flanker fighter aircraft has drawn the attention of Ukrainian defense strategists. This interceptor, a key component of the American-made Patriot anti-aircraft system, has demonstrated its effectiveness in aerial engagements.

During discussions on April 23, Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the US, disclosed that Kyiv is exploring potential collaboration with Washington in the production of Patriot air defense systems. The primary objective is to bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities against Russian military threats, particularly in light of escalating attacks on civilian areas and critical infrastructure.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has articulated the need for at least 25 Patriot systems to fortify Ukraine’s defenses against Russian aggression. Foreign Minister N. Kuleba has underscored the urgency of deploying seven systems immediately to safeguard major urban centers from potential attacks.

The proposed partnership between the United States and Ukraine regarding Patriot production was a focal point during Zelensky’s recent visit to the US, according to Ambassador Markarova. This collaboration is not only strategically significant but also holds economic benefits for both nations while enhancing Ukraine’s military capabilities.

Beyond discussions on weaponry, Ukrainian and US delegates explored potential cooperation in industrial manufacturing. Markarova stressed the importance of domestic production in ensuring a steady supply of critical components and complete defense systems.

Ukraine has previously established defense production partnerships with various countries, including the US. A formal agreement for joint armament production was signed between Kyiv and Washington in December 2023, aiming to facilitate the development of production facilities within Ukraine dedicated to meeting military requirements for ammunition and air defense systems.

The Patriot air defense system supplied by the US has reportedly achieved notable success in intercepting Russian aircraft, particularly the Su-35 model, according to claims made by Ukraine. In a significant incident on April 3, 2022, Ukrainian forces downed a Russian Su-35S, with the pilot ejecting safely but subsequently being captured. The incident occurred near Izyum during engagement with Ukrainian air defenses.

Subsequent interceptions were reported by the Ukrainian Air Force command, with an interception near Kakhovka on July 19, 2022. Although photographic evidence was initially unavailable, confirmation came in early February 2023 with images of the crashed aircraft indicating it was indeed a Su-35S. Further successful interceptions occurred in May 2023, with a Ukrainian MIM-104 Patriot missile downing a Su-35 fighter over the Bryansk region on both the 14th and 22nd of the month.

In February 2024, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine announced the successful interception of two Su-35s, marking significant achievements in their air defense capabilities. This was described as a point of pride for Ukraine and represented the most substantial Russian jet interceptions since October 2022. Additionally, a record haul of ten Su-34s and one A-50 interception was claimed in the same month.

In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, numerous ‘red lines’ have been established by world leaders, although their effectiveness has been questioned as they are often breached without significant consequences. Despite diplomatic agreements such as the Minsk agreement, Ukraine continues to enhance its arms capabilities, endorsed by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The deployment of tanks and F-16 fighters, as well as the positioning of foreign troops and forces, have been cited as ‘red lines’ that may be breached again due to the evolving political landscape. This uncertainty makes outsourced production in Ukraine a potential future scenario, although the risks associated with such ventures must be carefully considered.

Analysts suggest that Washington will need to weigh the implications of such partnerships, not only in terms of potential diplomatic ramifications with Russia but also due to the risks posed to substantial investments. The agreement with Rheinmetall to construct ammunition production units in Ukraine, along with the potential deployment of Patriot interceptors, could leave these assets highly exposed to Russian missile attacks.

The production of the highly regarded Patriot interceptor missiles extends beyond the borders of the United States, showcasing a collaborative effort with allied nations. In the Netherlands, for instance, Thales, a prominent European enterprise, undertakes the fabrication of these advanced missile systems, demonstrating transatlantic cooperation.

Similarly, Germany plays a vital role in Patriot missile production through MBDA, a renowned conglomerate specializing in missile systems. This partnership exemplifies the close ties between the US and its NATO allies, ensuring a diversified production base for these critical defense assets.

Further south, Greece also participates in Patriot interceptor missile production, with Hellenic Defense Systems, a key player in the Greek defense industry, entrusted with this responsibility. This highlights the spread of production capabilities across NATO member states.

Additionally, Japan contributes to the manufacturing of Patriot projectiles, with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a leading Japanese multinational, taking on this task. This collaboration underscores the global reach of Patriot production, with Japan serving as a key partner in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Patriot anti-aircraft system relies on two main types of interceptors: the PAC-2 and the PAC-3. The Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) serves as the primary interceptor, designed to detonate near incoming threats using a blast-fragmentation warhead, making it effective against aircraft and ballistic missiles.

However, the PAC-2’s effectiveness diminishes against more agile and compact targets like tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. In response, the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) offers enhanced capabilities. The PAC-3 interceptor is faster, more agile, and utilizes hit-to-kill technology, directly impacting and destroying the target rather than relying on proximity detonation.

The PAC-3 also features advanced radar and guidance systems, enabling it to track and engage incoming threats with greater precision, making it a more versatile and effective interceptor compared to the PAC-2. This evolution in interceptor technology ensures comprehensive defense against a wide range of airborne threats.