Germany steps up to cover Ukraine

The escalation in the middle east will knock the US national security team into action

Shankar Narayan
7 min readApr 14, 2024

Yesterday, Germany announced that it would send one Patriot fire unit to Ukraine. German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorious made the following announcement:

“Russian terror against Ukrainian cities and the country’s infrastructure is causing untold suffering. It endangers people’s energy supplies and destroys the industrial facilities that are important for the operational readiness of the Ukrainian armed forces.

We are therefore supporting Ukraine with another PATRIOT fire unit. With our support for Ukraine, we are going as far as we can in view of our own operational readiness. Even before this decision was made, I was committed to procuring a new one as quickly as possible and we are working hard on the replacement.”

What is a Patriot fire unit?

A fire unit in the Patriot defense system is the smallest operational element within a Patriot battery. It is not the entire Patriot battery, but contains the bare minimum components required to perform its air-defense function.

One of the biggest advantages of the fire unit is that it sacrifices size for increased mobility. Smaller size results in better mobility in the field.

The reason, in my opinion, Defense Minister Boris Pistorious used the term “fire unit” in his public announcement is to make it clear to everyone reading his statement that the Patriot system will be shipped immediately. Transporting the fire unit is a far simpler process than shipping the entire battery.

Germany intends to send the Patriot fire unit as early as possible.

But why one fire unit?

Ukraine had requested seven Patriot systems to protect its skies. However, a few days ago, the EU Parliament refused to approve its budget, demanding that seven systems be sent to Ukraine.

Instead of complying with this demand, Germany, which leads the air-defense coalition supporting Ukraine, has announced it will send one fire unit.


Germany is the nation sending one fire unit to Ukraine. Undoubtedly, they would have exerted pressure on other European nations with Patriot systems, such as Greece with 6 units, Romania with 4 units, Sweden with 4 units, Spain with 3 units, the Netherlands with 3 units, and Poland with 2 units.

Knowing how Germans operate, they would have ensured that there is at least one matching order from the rest of the European nations. These countries still rely, to some extent, on France and Germany for long-term support. This dynamic is likely to persist in Europe for some time. When either Germany or France takes the lead, they tend to pull the entire bloc forward.

I am fairly confident that before making the announcement, Germany had clarity on at least one more system ready to be packed for Ukraine. So, that would make it two systems in total.

Atleast two.

It makes no sense whatsoever to make everything the allies do in support of Ukraine public. It would be better if we do not know for months how many Patriot systems are being supplied to Ukraine. And it would be even better if none of us have any clue about the number of air-defense missiles being shipped to Ukraine.

These are details that Russian spies will be working hard to identify. Therefore, there are some things that must be left out of the public details table.

Will two Patriot systems fix Ukraine’s problems?

When it comes to air defense, nothing will ever be enough. Until this war is over, both Ukraine and Russia will continue to suffer from inadequacy in air defense. That is the nature of the battlefield, and there is very little that can be done to fully alter this balance.

My biggest fear, or the number one concern, was Ukraine losing valuable components of its four Patriot air-defense batteries to Russian missiles. This scenario could occur if they run out of air-defense missiles. They wouldn’t have to deplete all interceptors for this to happen; just a decrease in the response rate to Russian missile barrages would be more than enough.

Imagine the following scenario:

If Russia fires its biggest salvo a few weeks from now, with 90 missiles and 60 drones, and suddenly finds that more than half the missiles are not intercepted, they are likely to respond with two more barrages of the same size. However, in the subsequent barrage, they may direct a significant number of missiles towards the Patriot system, aiming to overwhelm it and exploit any perceived weaknesses.

Once they destroy one Patriot system, they will immediately redirect their attention towards the next one. While the Russians may not be fully aware of the exact locations of all four Patriot systems protecting Ukrainian skies, they are certainly aware of the sectors in which they are deployed.

The threat of Ukraine losing some or most of their Patriot components increased every day. Every additional interceptor used up in blocking Russian missiles brought them closer to that threat. If Ukraine lost its most valuable air-defense assets, it would set them back to January 2023, allowing Russia to gain full control of the battlefield by summer.

It would been an unholy mess.

So, if someone had asked me to choose only one out of the two options — sending 500 interceptors or two Patriot air-defense units to Ukraine — I would have obviously picked the first one.

We do not have details on how many interceptors are being supplied to Ukraine. However, there is no way Germany’s Defense Minister, Boris Pistorious, would have prioritized the second option while neglecting the first. He has always put his best foot forward in supporting Europe’s efforts against Putin’s aggression.

I do not have any details to share with you regarding the number of Patriot interceptors headed towards Ukraine. If I come across any information, I will report back. However, I sincerely hope I never come across that data. Such sensitive information should not be available to us.

We need to arrive at that conclusion by observing the interception rate of Russian missiles on the battlefield. That is the method we should use to determine the effectiveness of Ukraine’s air defense systems.

What next for Ukraine?

One or two Patriot fire units for immediate delivery, along with Patriot interceptors, alleviate some of the stress Ukraine is facing in its air defense.

Ukraine should not halt their efforts to acquire more Patriot air-defense systems. Their decision to request a high single-digit supply is a wise one. Having ten systems on the battlefield would enable Ukraine to safeguard its cities, civilian infrastructure, and effectively counter Russian fighter jets dropping glide bombs along the frontline.

The current production capacity of Patriot Systems in the United States is 1 system per month and slightly more than 40 interceptors per month. Europe needs to fully utilize this production capacity. Ukraine can acquire the existing systems already standing guard in Europe. The nations that send them to Ukraine can place a direct order and have their systems backfilled. They can either do it independently or the EU can pool funds to facilitate the order. There are options available to address this situation.

However, the plan to send the existing systems and replace them with new units at a later date has not yet been implemented. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba is currently in Europe sourcing the Patriot systems. He should not leave Europe until the order for an additional seven systems for Europe is placed with RTX (Raytheon).

We cannot overlook what is happening in the Middle east

The way the United States, United Kingdom, and Jordan responded to thwart Iran’s first-ever direct missile attack on Israel was heartening.

The United States, United Kingdom, Israel, and Jordan began intercepting drones and missiles outside of Israeli airspace between 1700 and 1800 ET, according to Israeli media and several unspecified sources speaking to Israeli media. IDF spokesperson Hagari said in a press briefing that Iran launched over 200 drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.

We are stronger when we stand together.

A lack of coherent response by the allies would have sent a clear signal to Iran that they have the option to escalate further. However, that did not happen because Iran is now aware that it will not only be fighting against Israel’s air-defense systems, but it will also have to overpower the entire air-defense strength that the allies have accumulated in the region.

It also sends a clear message to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government that they cannot handle everything on their own. They need the help of their allies. Those who receive assistance must be prepared to offer help to others in need.

That includes making every effort possible to protect the defenseless.

The level of stress on the Western air-defense arsenal over the next two months is going to be intense. President Biden should immediately invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) and order RTX(Raytheon) to ramp up production of Patriot interceptors.

The United Kingdom, France and Germany should follow suit. These four nations should lead the way in strengthening their respective air-defense stockpile.

The United States must manufacture air-defense missiles at wartime speed. It only needs a stroke of a pen.
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Shankar Narayan

He didn't care what he had or what he had left, he cared only about what he must do.