Air Defense: October 3, 2004

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The U.S. Army has run successful live fire tests with new Patriot surface-to-air missiles that use lower-cost parts. Lockheed would like to get the cost of a Patriot missile below $2 million dollars in order to to attract more international customers. The U.S. Army would be happier with a cheaper missile. Current versions of the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC) -3 cost $3 million dollars per round and are designed to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles, as well as cruise missiles and aircraft. During Operation Iraq Freedom, the army fired 22 PAC-3s; and is in the process of buying replacement stocks plus additional missiles. 

In tests, two PAC-3 missiles hit a short-range ballistic missile target an earlier version Patriot converted into a target - and a cruise missile target. A third test is scheduled this fall testing the reworked PAC-3 against a more capable (i.e. difficult to hit) maneuvering ballistic missile target. The firings tested new, less expensive parts incorporated into the PAC-3 including a data link and simplified inertial guidance unit. Interestingly, the Army is reluctant to test the PAC-3 against a Scud because of the Soviet-designed missiles unpredictability on a test range. It is in the process of analyzing existing Scud flight data before it commits to launching one of its few Scuds in a live-fire test.

The PAC-3 missile has no warhead but is a hit-to-kill device, striking the target directly upon interception to destroy it. PAC-3 has a range of over 70 kilometers and a total of 16 missiles are loaded on a Patriot launcher. So far, the Netherlands has committed to buy the PAC-3 Patriot, and Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are in negotiations to buy the system. 

PAC-3 is also the interceptor missile to be used in NATOs Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), a surface-to-air missile system designed to replace portions of fielded Patriot systems and the older Hawk missile system. MEADS is designed to intercept ballistic missiles and to be more transportable than Patriot and other high-performance SAM systems. Doug Mohney

 


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