US Senator Van Hollen Proposes Poland Give Patriot Air Defense to Ukraine in Exchange for Iron Dome

In a strategic proposal aimed at bolstering regional security dynamics in Eastern Europe, US Senator of Maryland, Van Hollen, is considering a three-way defense exchange. Under the proposed arrangement, Poland, a NATO ally that acquired Patriot missile defenses from the U.S. last year would receive America's advanced Iron Dome systems. In return, Poland would send some of its Patriot missile defenses to Ukraine.
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The Patriot is an American-made air defense missile system designed to intercept and destroy aerial threats. (Picture source U.S. DoD)

The details of this potential swap were discussed in a closed-door Pentagon briefing for Senate appropriators. The proposal underscores the strategic importance of strengthening defense ties among US allies and partners in the region, especially in light of the ongoing challenges faced by Ukraine.

Further elaborating on the specifics, the arrangement suggests that Poland may be able to deploy its Patriot systems to Ukraine, where the US has already positioned its Patriot systems. This kind of swap is deemed acceptable, as long as the two Patriot batteries that Poland would receive remain within the custody of the United States.

In 2018, Poland signed a significant defense contract with the United States for the acquisition of the US-made Patriot missile systems. This contract was part of the Wisla national missile defense system that Warsaw has been developing. The agreement entailed two phases, with Poland set to acquire 16 launchers, 208 missiles, and four radar stations. Additionally, a separate agreement was signed for the purchase of 138 launchers and over 1,000 missiles for the Narew short-range missile defense/air defense system. The primary objective of this system is to safeguard troops and facilities in combat zones and air bases, as well as to enhance the capabilities of the Wisla medium-range anti-aircraft and anti-missile firing systems at lower altitudes.

The Patriot air defense missile system was initially developed with the primary purpose of countering aircraft. However, over the years, its capabilities have been enhanced to intercept ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and advanced aircraft. One of the distinguishing features of the Patriot system is its longer range, allowing it to neutralize threats several kilometers away. This makes it suitable for defending larger areas and strategic assets against a variety of aerial threats.

The Iron Dome is renowned for its ability to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells. Specifically designed to counter threats from close range, the system has been instrumental in protecting urban areas in Israel from rocket attacks. Its rapid detection and response time are crucial for neutralizing threats that have a short flight duration. While it's highly effective against short-range threats, it's not designed to counter long-range ballistic missiles or advanced aircraft.

Donating its Patriot missile systems to Ukraine would have significant implications for Poland's air defense capabilities. The Patriot system, with its ability to counter a variety of long-range threats, plays a pivotal role in Poland's defense strategy. By parting with this system, Poland would be relying more heavily on other defense systems, like the potential acquisition of the Iron Dome, which is primarily designed for short-range threats.

While the Iron Dome would enhance Poland's capabilities against rockets and short-range missiles, there might be a gap in defense against long-range ballistic missiles and advanced aircraft. This could necessitate Poland to seek additional or alternative long-range air defense systems to maintain a comprehensive defense umbrella.

US Senator Van Hollen Proposes Poland Give Patriot Air Defense to Ukraine in Exchange for Iron Dome 925 002
The Iron Dome is a short-range air defense system able to intercept artillery shells and rockets. (Picture source U.S. DoD)

Defense News October 2023