Several large 12-wheeled military vehicles carrying mobile missile launchers rumbled across the southwest Oklahoma prairie on Tuesday as Ukrainian soldiers near the completion of weapons training.
Some 65 Ukrainian soldiers have been training at the Fort Sill Army Post since January on how to use the defensive missile system to track and shoot down enemy aircraft.
The Patriot missile system, which hasn’t yet been deployed in Ukraine, is usedl for defending population centres and critical infrastructure, said Brigadier General Shane Morgan, Fort Sill’s commanding general.
The Ukrainians are expected to leave Oklahoma in the next several days for additional training in Europe before they deploy to Ukraine with a Patriot missile battery that typically includes six mobile launchers, a mobile radar, a power generator and an engagement control centre.
Military officials did not provide an exact timeline for when the missile battery will deploy to Ukraine. But a Pentagon spokesman said it will be quicker than initially planned.
Colonel Martin O’Donnell, a US Army spokesman based in Germany, said the newly trained Ukrainian troops will “marry up with other Ukrainian air defenders” in Europe with donated Patriot equipment from the US, Netherlands and Germany before deploying to Ukraine.
Although Army officials acknowledge they faced initial challenges overcoming a language barrier, Morgan said the Ukrainian soldiers learned quickly and were handpicked because of their air defence experience.
The training of the Ukrainian soldiers is part of a larger international effort involving more than 50 countries who are providing security assistance to Ukraine, O’Donnell added.