(The Hill) — The Pentagon plans to bring Ukrainian troops to Oklahoma to train them on the Patriot missile defense systems starting as soon as next week, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.
The training, first reported by CNN, will happen at Fort Sill, Defense Department press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters.
The U.S. military “will prepare approximately 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers to operate, maintain, and sustain the defensive system over a training course expected to last several months,” Ryder said.
Once fielded, the Patriot will “contribute to Ukraine’s air defense capabilities and provide another capability to the Ukrainian people to defend themselves against Russia’s ongoing aerial assaults,” he added.
Fort Sill — one of the Army’s four basic training locations, located 90 miles southwest of Oklahoma City — already teaches troops the operation and maintenance of the Patriot system and is also the location of the Army’s field artillery school.
Patriot training typically takes up to a year, but Ryder said the Pentagon is looking at how it can speed up the timeline for the Ukrainian forces.
“We recognize . . . that the longer those troops are off the line, they’re not actually engaged in combat, and so [we’re] trying to work with the Ukrainians to see what we can do to accelerate the training timeline,” he said.
He added that training will consist of classroom instruction, training on the Patriot systems themselves, and work in a simulation lab before Kyiv can use the system on the battlefield.
Prior to revealing the training plan, defense officials had said they expect that instructing Ukrainians on how to use the advanced air defense system will take “several months,” Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, told reporters last week.
“We will start training for Patriot later this month,” Cooper said at a Jan. 6 Pentagon briefing. “I’m not going to be able to give you a specific time frame for the completion of training. It will take several months. So, again, Patriot is not an immediate-term capability. But we will start that training very soon.”
And Ryder on Jan. 5 told reporters the Defense Department was exploring a variety of options on where to hold Patriot training “to include potential training here in the U.S., overseas, or a combination of both.”
Asked whether there will be further groups of Ukrainian troops brought to the United States for such training, Ryder said the current focus is on this initial class but the two countries will keep an open dialogue.
“I’m not aware of any additional forces, but again, that will be an ongoing discussion based on the needs of Ukraine,” he said.
President Joe Biden late last month approved the shipment of a Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine to help defend the embattled country from an onslaught of Russian missile strikes.
Germany last week also committed to sending a Patriot battery from its own inventory to the embattled former Soviet state.