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US assesses potential damage to Patriot missile defense system after Russian attack near Kiev


(CNN) A US-made Patriot air defense system was likely damaged but not destroyed as a result of a Russian missile barrage in and around Kiev early Tuesday morning local time, a US official told CNN.

The US is still assessing the extent to which the system was damaged, the official said. That will determine whether the system should be withdrawn entirely or simply repaired on the spot by Ukrainian forces.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a post on Telegram on Tuesday that “a high-precision strike by the Kinzhal hypersonic missile system in the city of Kiev hit a US-made Patriot anti-aircraft missile system.”

A spokesman for the US National Security Council referred CNN to the Ukrainian government for comment.

Ukrainian officials said Tuesday they successfully intercepted all six hypersonic missiles fired by the Russians, but the Ukrainian military declined to comment on the Russians’ claim that a Patriot system was hit. “We cannot comment on this. We will refrain from commenting on Russian sources,” Ukrainian air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said.

Ukraine currently has two Patriot air defense systems in the country, one donated by the United States and the other jointly donated by Germany and the Netherlands. It’s unclear which of those systems was potentially damaged, but taking one out of service — even for a short period — could affect Ukraine’s ability to defend Kiev amid intensifying Russian missile attacks.

Russia has previously targeted the Patriot systems with hypersonic missiles, US officials told CNN last week, including once on May 4. That attack failed and Ukrainians intercepted the missile before it could hit the Patriot, the officials said.

After extensive lobbying by the Ukrainians to provide them with the sophisticated air defense system, the United States spent 10 weeks training Ukrainian troops on how to maintain and operate it. American and Western officials were pleasantly surprised by how quickly the Ukrainians learned to operate the Patriots, which arrived in Ukraine last month.

Another US official said it is possible the missile barrage hit one of the Patriot battery’s several components. A complete Patriot battery has six main components: generators, a radar set, a control station, antennas, a launch station and interceptor missiles. The components work together to launch a Patriot missile and successfully guide it to its target.

But extensive damage to one or more of the components could force Ukraine to take the system offline and out of the country for more extensive repairs.

The Patriot has a powerful radar to detect incoming targets at long range, making it a potent air defense platform capable of intercepting ballistic missiles and more. But the radar emission needed to spot threats at a distance also allows the enemy to detect the Patriot battery and learn its location.

US officials believe the Russian military has been able to pick up signals emitted by the Patriot, allowing them to target the system using the hypersonic missile, known as the Kinzhal or Killjoy. And unlike some short-range air defenses delivered to Ukraine, which are mobile and harder to target, the large Patriot battery is a larger and more stationary system, allowing Russian forces to reset their location over time.

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