Watch CBS News

U.S. fast tracks air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine ahead of other countries

NATO chief meeting with top U.S. officials
NATO chief meeting with U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Ukraine 03:13

The U.S. is moving Ukraine to the top of the list to receive air defense interceptors to defend its cities against the onslaught of Russian missile attacks. The policy decision applies to interceptors the Patriot and other air defense systems use to shoot down incoming missiles and drones. 

"We're going to reprioritize the deliveries of these exports, so that those missiles rolling off the production line will now be provided to Ukraine," White House National Security Communications adviser John Kirby told reporters on Thursday. "This will ensure that we'll be able to provide Ukraine with the missiles they need to maintain their stockpiles at a key moment in the war." 

The first shipments of the missiles to Ukraine will happen over the coming weeks, according to Kirby, and Ukraine will see the initial deliveries before the end of the summer. He called the reprioritization a "difficult but necessary decision." 

The countries who have placed orders for the same missiles will still receive them but on a delayed timeline. Kirby said that the focus on Ukraine's inventory will last for roughly  the next 16 months, and then after that, other countries will start receiving the missiles they ordered. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visit to a military training area
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy poses with soldiers during his visit to a military training area to find out about the training of Ukrainian soldiers on the "Patriot" anti-aircraft missile system, at an undisclosed location, in Germany, June 11, 2024.  Jens Buttner/Pool via REUTERS

In Italy at the G7 summit earlier this month, President Biden in a press conference with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said, "Everything we have is going to go to Ukraine until their needs are met. And then we will make good on the commitments we made to other countries." 

Taiwan is exempt because of its urgent need to also acquire similar capabilities in the face of threats from China. 

The U.S. gave a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine last year after training a small group of Ukrainians at Fort Sill in Oklahoma on how to operate it. The U.S. has also committed several National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile systems and other older air defense systems. 

Patriot systems can intercept both cruise and ballistic missiles and have a larger range, up to 100 miles, than the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile system which has a range of 80 miles and can shoot down cruise missiles and drones. 

Zelenskyy has publicly asked the U.S. and allies to give seven more patriot systems. In Italy last week, he said, "urgently we need seven Patriot systems — yes, to save our cities." 

Russia in its war against Ukraine has targeted civil infrastructure with the apparent goal of depriving Ukrainian citizens of water, heat, and electricity, especially during the winter. 

The U.S. is not alone in providing Ukraine with air defense capabilities. Members of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a coalition of about 50 countries that meet monthly to discuss how to support Ukraine, have also pledged to help with air defense. After the most recent meeting last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Netherlands is leading an effort to assemble different parts that make up a Patriot system and asking other countries to contribute as well. 

The policy decision to fast track the missiles to Ukraine comes the same week that President Putin of Russia made a visit to North Korea to sign a defense pact as he looks for more support for Russia's side of the war.  

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.