Fort Sill, Oklahoma (CNN) — US military officials said Tuesday that Patriot missile defense systems are set to be deployed to Ukraine faster than originally planned, and a group of 65 Ukrainian soldiers will complete training on the systems at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In the coming days.
The officials told reporters at Fort Sill that the troops will then move to Europe for additional training on two Patriot systems — one American and one built by the Germans and Dutch — that will be deployed to Ukraine in the coming weeks.
Officials said that the American instructors at Fort Sill, where 65 Ukrainians have been training since January 15, were able to significantly speed up the course schedule because of the Ukrainians’ basic knowledge of air defense systems.
The acceleration of Patriot deployments comes on the same day that the US was reported to speed up the time it takes to ship Abrams tanks to Ukraine by sending the older M1-A1 model of the US main battle tank instead of the more modern version of the tank, according to two US officials.
The decision to speed up deliveries of the tanks and Patriot missiles comes as Ukraine prepares to launch an offensive in the spring against Russian forces, largely dependent on the more powerful and more advanced systems Western countries have agreed to send, including tanks and other armored vehicles.
On Tuesday morning, John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council, said the United States was working to speed up the delivery of tanks to Ukraine.
“We’re working on that. There are some changes you can make to the process, to kind of speed that up,” Kirby told MSNBC. “The Pentagon is working as fast as it can, and they’ll have more to say about the adjustments they make.”
The US had previously announced that it would field the more modern M1-A2 version of the MBT, but that would have required either building new tanks or upgrading existing ones, and then training the Ukrainian crews on the more advanced system.
The M1-A2 tanks have a newer digital targeting system that makes them a more capable tank, but also requires more training for Ukrainian forces to operate the more complex tank and maintain the system.
The United States still intends to send 31 M1-A1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, the same number previously announced and the size of an entire Ukrainian tank battalion.
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