The U.S. Army's Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile program has achieved significant progress on two key fronts, Army officials said Nov. 18.
The Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE), which aims to make several improvements to the PAC-3 missile, successfully completed its preliminary design review (PDR) the week of Nov. 8-12, said Col. John Vaughn, the Army's lower-tier air and missile defense project manager. There were "no major issues" during the PDR, which will be followed by one more review, the critical design review, in late summer 2005, Vaughn told The DAILY.
MSE, whose prime contractor is Lockheed Martin Corp., is designed to increase the missile's range and maneuverability and provide the ability to collect data on the missile's interactions with enemy missiles (DAILY, Dec. 11, 2003). The Army hopes to begin equipping units with MSE in fiscal 2011.
The Army also announced that it has successfully conducted the PAC-3 missile's most complex flight-test to date. A total of six missiles - four PAC-3s and two targets - were in the air at the same time, the most ever.
During the test, which occurred about 7:25 a.m. Mountain Standard Time at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., four PAC-3 missiles were fired at a modified older Patriot missile and a Storm target vehicle. The Patriot target emulated a short-range ballistic missile, while the Storm simulated a longer-range ballistic missile with a re-entry vehicle that separated from its booster.
Two PAC-3 missiles were launched at each target. Each target was shot down by the first PAC-3 missile fired at it.
The test was intended to demonstrate several new components designed to make the PAC-3 missile less expensive and easier to produce. Another goal was to demonstrate the system's ability to intercept two ballistic missile targets arriving in their intercept areas at nearly the same time.
"Preliminary test data indicate both targets were intercepted and mission objectives were achieved," the Army said.
Testers hosted observers from Germany and the Netherlands, both potential buyers of the PAC-3 missile.
The event also involved the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system's radar, which tracked the two targets, the Army said. THAAD is scheduled to resume flight-testing in the first quarter of 2005 after a hiatus of several years. Against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, THAAD targets threats at higher altitudes than the "lower tier" Patriot system.
The Army plans to conduct its next Patriot system test next summer.
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the PAC-3 missile, while Raytheon supplies the Patriot launcher and radar. The PAC-3 system was used in the 2003 Iraq war.