About 100 Ukrainian troops will head to Oklahoma’s Fort Sill to begin training on the Patriot missile defence system as soon as next week, the Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday.
“The training will prepare approximately 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers to operate, maintain and sustain the defensive system over a training course expected to last several months,” Pentagon press secretary Brig Gen Pat Ryder said.
“Once fielded, the Patriot will … contribute to Ukraine's air defence capabilities and provide another capability to Ukrainian people to defend themselves against Russia's continuing aerial assaults.”
Ukraine has long sought the Patriot surface-to-air guided missile system because it can be used against aircraft, cruise missiles and shorter-range ballistic missiles.
During his late December visit to the US, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the battery would make a significant difference in Kyiv’s defences against Russia’s invasion.
"The Patriot will add to the air defence capabilities of Ukraine," Brig Gen Ryder said.
"As we've seen over the last number of months in particular, Russia has really intensified its aerial bombardment of Ukraine, really across the country."
The number of Ukrainians coming to Fort Sill is about the number it takes to operate one battery.
Kyiv’s decision to take troops off the battlefield to train across the Atlantic in the US is unusual, although it has sent forces for short-term training at European bases for other more complex systems it has received.
The US pledged one Patriot battery in December as part of one of several large military assistance packages it has given Ukraine in recent weeks. Last week Germany pledged an additional Patriot battery.
Each battery consists of a vehicle-mounted launching system with eight launchers that can hold up to four missile interceptors each, a ground radar, a control station and a generator.
The US Army said it has 16 Patriot battalions.
The Patriot batteries will complement a variety of air defence systems that the US and Nato partners have pledged to Ukraine.
The country is facing a growing barrage of missiles and drones against its civilian population and infrastructure in the 11-month conflict.
They will be delivered to Ukraine after the training.
In the past few months, Germany has pledged four Iris-T air-defence systems.
The US has pledged eight mid-range National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems and Avenger air defence systems.
Associated Press contributed to this report