As Nato leaders travel to Washington for the Nato summit, the German Government has pre-empted a major topic of discussion on Ukraine’s firepower needs by announcing their donation of a Patriot air and missile defence system to the country in their latest package of support on 9 July 2024.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence welcomed Germany’s “unwavering support” in a post on the social media platform, X. Besides the system itself and accompanying missiles, the German government also offered 55,000 155-millimetre artillery rounds, drones, jammers, protected vehicles, ammunition, radars and rifles among other forms of military equipment.

Ukraine’s Air Force Command announced that the third German Patriot system has already arrived in the country, adding that “Patriot systems save lives and protect infrastructure from Russian terror.”

German air defence support for Ukraine

Prior to this, Germany provided two other Patriot systems and many missiles to the warring nation on the periphery of Europe.

The Patriot system is a long-range, all-altitude, all-weather air defence system to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft. The latest PAC-3 missiles are equipped with a track-via-missile guidance system. Midcourse correction commands are transmitted to the guidance system from the mobile engagement control centre.

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The third German patriot system arrived in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Air Force Command stated. Credit: X.

Other air defence capabilities include four units of the popular IRIS-T SLM, used as part of the European Sky Shield Initative. This German-made system has 360-degree protection and simultaneous engagement of multiple targets. It operates at short to medium-ranges (distances of 40km) within extremely brief reaction times (reaching Mach 3).

As part of a joint effort with the US just after Russia’s Kharkiv offensive began, Germany announced it would provide Ukraine with three more HIMARS – a highly mobile artillery rocket system offering the firepower of multiple launch rocket systems on a wheeled chassis. Although slightly misleading, this show of support was a replacement of one system that was destroyed and two units that were severely damaged, according to open source intelligence.

Nato to expand Ukraine’s firepower

News of the tragic deaths of 38 people in an indiscrimate Russian strike against a children’s hospital in Kyiv on 8 July will bring the topic of Ukraine’s interception capabilities to the forefront of discussions in Washington over the next three days.

Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato Secretary General, condemned the “horrendous missile attacks against Ukrainian cities, killing innocent civilians including children,” after which he indicated that the alliance must make decisions to further strengthen their support to Ukraine.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd J. Austin (left) greets Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (right) in Washington ahead of the Nato summit taking place between 9-11 July 2024. Credit: Nato.

According to a Nato poll taken before the Russian attack on the Kyiv hospital, favourability among member states toward Russia was already low at 62%. While around two thirds of allied respondents consider Russia’s war against Ukraine to have affected the safety and security of their country (63%). 

There is added political pressure for US President Joe Biden to deliver as much support for Ukraine as possible, and to make efforts to ‘Trump-proof’ any further support beyond his term should the controversial Republican nominee win the US election in November.