Ukrainian troops are set to begin training on the Patriot missile system in the United States as soon as next week, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday.
The training program will take place at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where the US conducts its own training on operating and maintaining the advanced air defense system. Fort Sill is one of the Army’s four basic training locations and home to the service’s field artillery school, which has been training service members for more than a century.
During the war the US has trained Ukrainian troops in Europe, but the decision to conduct patriot training on American soil could increase tensions with Moscow further as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has constantly warned western nations against further involvement in the war.
The training process and eventual deployment of the defensive weapons system, which had long been requested by Kyiv, will take months and won’t impact the course of the war in the short-term though once it’s completed it should provide better protection against Russian missile attacks that have devastated the country’s infrastructure.
On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters that 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers would be arriving in Oklahoma for the Patriot training as soon as next week. He was unable to give an exact time frame for how long the training would take – typically it takes up to a year for US soldiers to be trained on it – saying only that it would last “several months.”
“Once fielded, the Patriot… will contribute to Ukraine’s air defense capabilities, and provide another capability to the Ukrainian people to defend themselves against Russia’s ongoing aerial assaults,” Ryder said at Tuesday’s press briefing.
Last week, he said the US was looking at a variety of options where to conduct the Patriot missile training “to include potential training here in the US, overseas, or a combination of both.” Politico reported in December that any US-based training would likely occur at Fort Sill.