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More money for more Patriot missiles

The Patriot missile was designed way back in 1969 by Raytheon and Hughes and launched a decade later as, what was thought at the time, the ultimate Defense-and-Defeat weapon.

Alas, for years the program was surrounded by controversies and plagued by mishaps, basically meaning it did not perform as it said it would on the label.

The first model, the MIM-104 Patriot, was quickly upgraded with Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-1) technology and followed by the MIM-104B and later models up to – as in 2020 – the MIM-104F (PAC-3).

Patriot MIM-104 (PAC-3) missile
Patriot MIM-104 (PAC-3) missile. Img Lockheed Martin

Since it went into service in 1981, more than than 10,000 Patriot missiles have been manufactured. Most of them are in service with the United States but some 170 – of 1,278 – missile launchers and hundreds of missiles have been exported to at least 14 countries.

Hit and miss

At a cost of anything between $1 million and $6 million per unit, it would be ideal if this weapon performed flawlessly but it has had less than a stellar success rate, too often missing a target. As Professor Jeffrey Lewis wrote in Foreign Policy, “Patriot missiles are made in America and fail everywhere.”

The problem with the Patriot seemed to have been a range gate miscalculation; a software problem, much of which has since been fixed with MSE (Missile Segment Enhancement) programs. Much, but not all.

To be fair, there is as yet no perfect smart missile on earth (or in space), particularly Hit-to-Kill missile. Even the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) and Russian S-300 had their share of failures. But the Patriot is more combat proven.

It will never be easy to hit a target going at Mach 4 or more. The Patriot reaches Mach 4.3, the A-135 Mach 7, BrahMos II Mach 7, THAAD Mach 8.2 and the S-400 Mach 14. ICBMs (Intercontinental ballistic missiles) and SLBMs (Submarine-launched ballistic missiles) travel at more than Mach 20. Russia’s Avangard reaches Mach 27 (that is, 27 times the speed of sound or 20,716.3 mph or 33,339.6 km/h).

There is progress across all fronts, all the time. An attack missile is made better thus a better deterrent is needed. More money is forever needed to meet the challenge. And so it is with the Patriot missile.

Patriot missile launcher with four x four tubes
Patriot missile launcher with four x four tubes

More money for more Patriot missiles

In 2018, Raytheon received $2,3 billion for engineering and software development for the Patriot program and $1.8 billion was allocated to Lockheed Martin for production and delivery of more Patriot missiles.

In 2020, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $6.07 billion contract for the production of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptors and associated equipment. Some of the funds are made available out of the MDA (Missile Defense Agency) $20 billion budget but some are from other agencies. [The United States Department of Defense budget is approximately $700 billion.]

Considering the seemingly unending conflicts in the Middle East and rising tensions in the South China Sea there is no doubt that there is haste to enhance the capabilities of the Patriot program.

Patriot PAC-3 launch

Patriot MIM-104 (PAC-3)

Weight: 1,500 lb (700 kg)
Length: 19 ft 0 in (5.8 m)
Diameter: 16 in (410 mm)
Wingspan: 3 ft (920 mm)
Warhead weight: 200 lb (90 kg)
Propellant: Solid-fuel rocket
Range PAC-3: 12.4 mi (20 km)
Range PAC-3 MSE: 22 mi (35 km)
Flight altitude 79,500 feet (24,200 m)
Maximum speed: Mach 4.1
Launch platform: Mobile four x four-round semi-trailer

01/05/2020. Category: Military. Topic: , .

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