MILAN — Ukraine’s requests for more long-range air defense systems to repel Russian attacks highlight a weak spot in the production capabilities of Kyiv’s allies, according to analysts.

As Russian forces have ramped up attacks on Ukrainian energy and civilian infrastructure in recent weeks, calls for defense systems have grown increasingly desperate, leading Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to tell Western leaders, in a late-March interview with Politico: “Give us the damn Patriots.”

He was referring to the suite of sensors, launchers and interceptors, made by Raytheon-RTX of the United States, that has formed the backbone of U.S. and allied air-defense architectures for decades.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy doubled down on the request shortly thereafter, articulating a concrete need. “I can say that to cover Ukraine completely in the future, it is preferable to have 25 Patriot systems, with 6-8 batteries each,” Zelenskyy was quoted as saying by the Ukrainian online new website Kyiv Independent.

The figure caught some defense experts by surprise.

“This is a huge number – the United States only has 15 Patriot battalions. There is no way that Ukraine will have 25,” Mark F. Cancian, senior adviser at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Defense News.

In a recent interview with Defense News, Tom Laliberty, Raytheon’s president of land and air defense systems said that the company is currently able to produce 12 Patriot fire units per year.

That pace means it would take years to cover Ukrainian demands alone, and that’s not counting the manufacturer’s commitments to make systems for the rest of the global Patriot customer base.

Still, there may be some slack in diverting new production hardware or, in the case of Germany, cobbling together an additional system from parts in the maintenance cycle.

Berlin announced on April 13 that the government would donate one fire unit in addition to two previously delivered.

Other Patriot users, like the Netherlands, believe they have already reached the bottom of the barrel, saying that giving away any more would leave them exposed and break troops’ training cycles on the equipment.

According to analyst Cancian, Patriot systems ordered by Switzerland could be in play for Ukraine.

The U.S. State Department approved the sale of five fire units and related equipment to the Alpine nations for an estimated cost of $2.2 billion. According to Laliberty, Raytheon is in the process of producing the equipment.

“There are mechanisms by which the U.S. can give some contracts priority over others – thus, it would be possible for Ukraine to get in line in front of Switzerland and in the current circumstances there is a high likelihood of that happening,” Cancian said.

Still, approvals would be needed from all sides, he added.

For the Swiss, the question of giving priority to Ukraine is academic, according to a spokesman for Armasuisse, the country’s defense-acquisition agency.

“There have been no such requests, and we do not comment on hypothetical questions,” the spokesman said in response to a Defense News query. “Armasuisse has concluded an agreement with the U.S. government on the acquisition of Patriot systems. The delivery is planned from 2027 onwards.”

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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