Firing of a patriot missile during a nato exercise in chania. Image: dod
But whether the patriot system really protects is the rough question – and is the russian s-400 missile defense system better?
The right-wing government in poland has made the largest arms purchase in the country’s history with the united states. For 4.75 billion us dollars, the polish ministry of defense bought patriot air defense systems with pac-3 missiles and the accompanying radar systems from the american defense companies lockheed and raytheon. On 28. March the treaty was signed in warsaw. In addition to defense minister mariusz błaszczak, polish president andrzej duda and head of government mateusz morawiecki were also present, which shows the importance attached to the u.S. Missile defense system. "We join the elite group of states with effective defense through possession of weapons that ensure security", the minister of defense said.
The polish president also expressed his enthusiasm. "It is a historic moment", duda told the polish people: "we are equipping the polish army with the most modern defense system in the world." the polish government panicked after russia stationed iskander missiles in kaliningrad in february (russia permanently stations iskander missiles in kaliningrad. These are short-range missiles with a range of up to 500 km, which can be armed with nuclear warheads.
However, this was only in response to poland allowing the pentagon to station the us missile defense system in poland with defensive missiles. The announcement of the abm agreement by george w. Bush’s decision to build a missile defense shield on the russian border was the decisive reason for the deterioration of relations between russia and nato. Duda did not address this and said: "it is a lot of money, but we know from our historical experience that security has no price."
First, two batteries of 16-launch systems and pac-3 missiles will be delivered to poland. They were later joined by another 6 systems with radar systems and the cheaper skyceptor interceptor missile. In addition, there is the controversial integrated air and missile defense battle command system (ibcs) from northrop grunman, which has not even been delivered to the u.S. Military because of flaws. "Sure" poland, however, will not be until 2024, when the first patriot system will be ready for use. That is still a long way off. Even the aegis missile defense system in poland, which was supposed to be operational this year, won’t be until 2020.
The most expensive arms purchase in polish history is also justified by the fact that it will enable "modern weapons" to poland, some of which were allowed to be produced in poland, which is called polonization ("polonization of the elements of this system"). Launching systems, transport vehicles and communication systems for patriot are manufactured in poland. This binds poland even closer to the usa, but is supposed to guarantee the connection to high-tech weapons.
The question, however, is how good the patriot defense system is in the first place. The immediate competitor is the russian s-400 missile defense system, which, for example, the nato member state turkey or china is acquiring and which, in addition to india, saudi arabia also wants to acquire, which otherwise has close military ties with the usa and already owns patriot systems (russian s-400 missile defense system: "our system is better"). The fact that saudi arabia, of all countries, wants to acquire russian s-400 systems in spite of all trump’s advances, even though russia in turn is linked to its arch-enemy iran, should give pause for thought.
Turkey’s akp media daily sabah is also devoted to reports that saudi arabia’s patriot system failed against missiles fired by the houthis (huthi) from yemen at saudi targets. Saudi arabia reported at the end of march, all seven, on 25. Marz fired houthi missiles had been shot down by the system. But this is doubted.
The image of the patriot system, which the bundeswehr also bought, stems from the first iraq war in 1991, when almost all scud missiles fired by iraq were allegedly shot down. But that has been downgraded by the pentagon itself. According to this list, a maximum of 10 percent of the rockets fired were shot down, and according to the israeli military, even less than 2 percent, which is why it is understandable that israel has developed its own rocket defense system.
In the case of the new missile attacks from yemen, video appears to show that a saudi patriot missile changed course in flight and crashed and exploded in a riyadh neighborhood. Another missile apparently exploded in midair shortly after being fired (more videos). As early as december 2017, it had been debated whether the saudi patriot system had fired a huthi scud missile flying toward riyadh. Probably not (us missile defense system probably could not shoot down huthi missile).
According to jeffrey lewis of the middlebury institute of international studies in monterey, california, it is not certain whether the saudi patriot systems on 25. March at all have shot down a huthi missile. Lewis asks if the patriot systems are performing at all. Vice report also confirms failure. Well-known critic of the u.S. Missile defense system theodore postol speaks of a "uninterrupted disaster sequence of this weapon system".
So were the poles taken for a ride or do they just believe that the good guys don’t cheat and have the better weapons? Geopolitics is about business, not really about security. The poles presumably want to use the patriot deal to buy the support of the u.S., which in turn wants to make other states dependent on it. Poland could have a rude awakening in case of emergency, but it is not yet clear how well the s-400 system will really work.
We live in a military-technical bubble that costs many billions and programs conflicts. It is time to get out of the arms race and start negotiations on arms reduction, starting with nuclear weapons.