The US has high confidence in the accuracy of Ukraine’s claim that it used an American-made Patriot air defense system to intercept a Russian hypersonic missile, according to a source familiar with the matter.
While the Patriot system has been successful in countering ballistic missiles, its ability to stop air-launched hypersonic missiles was purely theoretical before last week. Ukraine’s intercept has now provided a real-world demonstration of that capability — something that has been viewed within the Pentagon as a major development, the source said.
Ukraine’s intercept claim created buzz within the Pentagon late last week, the source added, noting it is significant for several reasons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly touted the capabilities of Russia’s hypersonic weapons and cast them as capable of overcoming all existing air defense systems.
Production of hypersonic ballistic missiles has always been challenging for Russia and sanctions have only made it more difficult.
But prior to last week, Russia’s calculus was that if it did use a hypersonic ballistic missile, whatever it was shooting at would assuredly get hit, the source said. This intercept has called that calculation into question, they added.
The fact that this intercept was conducted by a Ukrainian crew that was trained in Oklahoma, but had no US advisers on the battlefield, is even more of a feather in the cap for the Pentagon, the source added, calling it a major return on investment.
The intercept also has likely caused a severe amount of uncertainty for Russia, raising the question of whether Ukraine is in possession of a sustainable countermeasure against hypersonic ballistic missiles, the source added.