By intercepting Russian missile strikes on the night of May 16, the Patriot surface-to-air missile systems proved that they can shoot down ballistic missiles in real-world war conditions. Moreover, it proved the overall effectiveness of the U.S. missile defense deployed all over the world to be used in case of a nuclear conflict. It is important because the Patriot PAC-3 hadn’t been used under the conditions of a full-scale war before.
Can the Patriot be used against nuclear missiles, and has the deployment of the systems impacted the nuclear threat for Kyiv and Ukraine? asked Oleh Katkov, editor-in-chief of the Defence Express website, for an explanation.
Has the Patriot reduced the nuclear threat to Kyiv?
No, the nuclear threat to Kyiv isn’t gone, and even more so to Ukraine.
The Patriot is designed to intercept theater ballistic missiles.
As for intermediate-range ballistic missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles, the United States has other types of missile defense systems to intercept them. These are THAAD systems and missile defense systems with SM-3 missiles, which represent higher-level specialized missile defense systems.
In any case, the Patriot operates within a relatively short range of 60 km.
Has the nuclear threat disappeared? Absolutely not, not in the least.
Can the Patriot shoot down a nuclear missile over Kyiv?
Theoretically speaking, yes, but only a short-range missile. Hypothetically, should the Iskander nuclear-armed missile be used, the Patriot surface-to-air missile system will be able to intercept it.
Based on all the available data on how the Patriot works, including the fact that not only the Kinzhals, but other ballistic missiles were intercepted on the night of May 16, we can conclude that the anti-ballistic missile of this system is perfectly effective, which means it hits the warhead of a missile directly.
The problem is, Russian fascists have missiles that the Patriot wasn’t designed to intercept. The RT-2PM2 Topol-M or RS-24 Yars, to name a few, are intercontinental missiles, but the Russians occasionally hold exercises to launch them at an intermediate range of up to 3,500 km.
As for defending the whole Ukrainian territory, we need to understand that it requires much more Patriot systems (closing the Ukrainian sky completely from all types of ballistic missiles would require dozens of such systems — ).
Will there be a nuclear explosion if a nuclear missile is shot down?
The main feature of the anti-ballistic missiles used by the Patriot system is that they hit ballistic missiles. It’s a kinetic energy interceptor. Because of its enormous speed and immense energy produced by the impact of a ballistic missile and a Patriot anti-ballistic missile, the warhead is destroyed.
This has to eliminate the possibility for the nuclear charge to detonate. However, nobody has ever intercepted nuclear-armed ballistic missiles using the Patriot system.
In the hypothetical WWIII scenario, should an Iskander nuclear-armed missile be shot down, there will be no nuclear explosion.
However, fragments of the warhead would fall on the ground and cause radioactive contamination — not on the scale of Chornobyl, obviously, but deactivation would still be needed.
What has the use of the patriot in Ukraine demonstrated?
The Patriot systems, namely the PAC-3 upgrade currently used in Ukraine, have never been used before under conditions of a real full-scale war and, moreover, a war with Russia.
The fact that Ukraine shot down the Kinzhal missile and some other ballistic missiles (possibly the Iskander) means that the concept of missile defense based on the Patriot is effective.
This also means that all the nuclear weapons in the possession of the Russian Federation aren't really that dreadful.
The West wasn’t sure that the layered missile defense it created would work in a real war. Now, this system has certainly proven to be effective.
The Russian nuclear deterrence system began to crumble
One of the scenarios developed in the United States for a nuclear conflict with Russia relies on striking Russia with conventional weapons with no or minimal use of nuclear weapons.
The strike is to target Russia’s nuclear capabilities, and what remains of them should be intercepted by missile defense systems. The question was, will it work as planned?
As the positive answer has now been confirmed, the Kremlin understands that their concept of nuclear deterrence has started to crumble.
The Patriot system can as well intercept nuclear armed Kinzhal or Iskander missiles. When a Kinzhal missile flies towards Kyiv, our air defense forces cannot know what kind of warhead it has. The same is true with the Iskander theater ballistic missiles. They can have either a conventional or a nuclear warhead.
When the Russians launch cruise missiles, we cannot determine the type of their warheads as they fly. This may be a conventional high-explosive fragmentation warhead, a mock nuclear warhead, or a real nuclear armed Kh-55 missile.
The Patriot is able to intercept the nuclear warhead of the Iskander or similar missiles. To intercept missiles such as Topol, namely their warheads, you need missile defense of a different type, which, objectively, only the United States can afford.
To make it clear, the Iskander theater missile system has a range of up to 500 km, the Topol and Yars systems — 11,000 to 12,000 km, and intermediate-range missiles — 5,500 km. The Iskanders are to be shot down by the Patriot, while the THAAD intercepts intermediate-range missiles, and the SM-3 — intercontinental ballistic missiles. This is the missile defense system deployed in the United States.
Why a nuclear strike is a step towards the end of humankind
In any case, when we talk about nuclear weapons, we need to understand that once Russia uses them, it causes a series of events that, after some time — 5, 10, or 15 years — may lead to the extermination of humankind.
This opens up two scenarios:
First. The West immediately, as it has said earlier, starts to inflict catastrophic damage on Russia, and this may cause WWIII because they have nuclear weapons.
Second. The use of nuclear weapons goes unanswered, which leads to the following results:
- the countries that are able to develop nuclear weapons but refrain from doing so to comply with the world order start developing them because this is the only way to guarantee their security;
- the countries already willing to develop nuclear weapons step up their efforts;
- the countries that already have nuclear weapons start blackmailing others and doing whatever they want, knowing there will be no retaliation.
"Again, this all would lead to the end of humankind. As long as everyone has nuclear weapons, once someone uses them, it’s the end."