Air Defense: UAE Buying A Whole Lot of Patriot


December 7, 2007: The (UAE) United Arab Emirates wants to buy nine U.S. Patriot air defense batteries, plus 288 PAC-3 anti-missile missiles [PHOTO], and 216 PAC-2 anti-aircraft/anti-missile missiles. All this will cost the UAE about $9 billion.

The Patriot PAC 2 missiles cost about $3.3 million each and have a range of 70 kilometers. The Patriot launchers also fire the smaller (in diameter) PAC 3 anti-missile missiles. A Patriot launcher can hold sixteen PAC 3 missiles, versus four PAC 2s. A PAC 2 missile weighs about a ton, a PAC 3 weighs about a third of that. The PAC 3 has a shorter range, of about 20 kilometers.

Each Patriot battalion has 12-24 launchers (3-6 batteries). The PAC 3 was used for the first time during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Iraqis fired eleven long range missiles at American targets (usually headquarters) and PAC 3 missiles took down eight of them. During the 1991 Gulf War, the larger, anti-aircraft version (PAC 2)of the Patriot missile, modified for use against missiles, knocked down about 70 percent of the missiles the Iraqis fired. There is still some dispute over this, largely because the Iraqis had modified their SCUD missiles to give them longer range. This involved installing larger fuel tanks, resulting in longer missiles. This change in the shape and internal strength of the missiles, caused many to come apart as they plunged earthward. That is, the warhead section broke apart from the fuselage. This reduced the accuracy of the missile, but also provided interceptor missiles with two or more incoming targets. The Patriot missiles would often hit something, but it was difficult to tell if the target hit was the warhead or fuselage. That's one reason why two PAC 3s are fired at each target. In any event, the longer range SCUDs are so inaccurate that, unless they are being fired at a large target (like a city) they are unlikely to hit anything valuable. The Iraqis made the increased range modification during their 1980s war with Iran, when the missiles were fired at the Iranian capital, Tehran. It's still unclear if the Iraqis even knew of the "breaking up on re-entry" problem, not that it mattered. As long as their missile hit somewhere inside Tehran, it was a success.

At the time, Iran did not modify its missiles, because their main target, Baghdad, was close to the Iranian border. But Iran has longer range ballistic missiles now, and some of the less sophisticated ones may suffer from "breaking up on re-entry" problem. The UAE wants the Patriot mainly for protection from Iranian aircraft and missiles. Patriot has also shot down several aircraft, most of them in friendly fire incidents (brought about by electronic hardware problems, usually in the aircraft). However, the Patriot is considered very effective against aircraft.




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