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In a first, US deploys Patriot SAM to Croatia for exercise Astral Knight 21

Patriot system in Croatia
Photo: Croatian defense ministry

The US Army has deployed the Patriot air and missile defense system to Croatia for the first time ever as part of the large scale exercise Astral Knight 21.

It is unclear when and how the Patriot system arrived in Croatia, but a British sealift vessel delivered US military equipment to Croatia earlier this month for the broader Defender Europe 21 series of US Army-led exercises which will see 30,000 soldiers from 27 nations train in over 30 training areas in a dozen countries over the three months.

The system will be showcased at Croatian Air Base “Lieutenant Colonel Mirko Vukusic” in Zemunik by the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command (10th AAMDC) on May 19.

The Patriot is a modular ground-to-air and missile defense system in use by several NATO countries. It consists of radars, command-and-control technology and multiple types of interceptors.

Astral Knight is a US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa-led event involving US airmen, soldiers and sailors working with service members from Albania, Croatia, Greece, Italy and Slovenia.

“[Astral Knight 2021] is USAFE’S exercise for integrated missile defense,” said US Air Force Maj. Richard Greer, 31st Fighter Wing AK21 exercise planner. “The exercise participants are linking all of their command and control nodes together to be able to show a combined radar picture.”

This integrated air and missile defense exercise will focus on defending key terrain, and scheduled training will involve a combination of flight operations and computer-assisted scenarios.

A US airman conducts a pre-flight check during Astral Knight 2021 at Aviano Air Base, Italy, May 13, 2021. Photo: US Air Force

There are approximately 1200 airmen from the US Air Force, 250 soldiers from the US Army, 300 sailors from the US Navy, 150 airmen from the Italian air force, and 30 service members from Croatia participating in this exercise.

Participating aircraft includes the US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, HH-60 Pave Hawk and C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, Italian air force F-35 Lightning II aircraft, Hellenic Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon and Emb-145 Erieye aircraft, and Croatian MiG-21 BisD/UMD aircraft.