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Patriot Missile Defense System
The Patriot Missile Defense System

Quick Facts
Mobility Ground-based, mobile
Targets UAV, Cruise Missiles, Short-range Ballistic Missiles
Role 15km (PAC-3), 22km, interceptor
Status Interceptor sites all over the globe. System has been around since the 1980's with upgrades, and in cooperative nations in Europe and the Middle East.
Producer Lockheed Martin

The Patriot missile defense system is the result of possibly one of the most prolific missile defense projects in global history. Developed by the United States, the Patriot, like the H.A.W.K., was originally supposed to target aircraft like its other SAM contemporaries. Also like the H.A.W.K., it has been subjected to upgrades continuously since th e 1980s. The developments to the original MIM-104 Patriot have bee n dubbed PAC-1, PAC-2, and PAC-3 respectively. The PAC-1 received an upgrade to enable it to target short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs).  Since its initial fielding to the U.S. Army in 1984, 11 nations have purchased Raytheon’s Patriot missile system. Partners now include the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Taiwan, Greece, Spain, Korea and, most recently, the United Arab Emirates.

PAC-2: Upgrade
The PAC-2 was the first combat tested version of the Patriot missile. It succeeded and in doing so entered a category that would come to include the likes of the Iron Dome in Israel.
Iraq fired 88 modified ‘Scuds’ into Saudi Arabian and Israeli territory. Fifty-three were in Patriot defended areas. The PAC-2 intercepted a total of 51 SRBMs, and fired 157 interceptors.

PAC-3 Upgrade


  • A land-based element built upon the proven Patriot air and missile defense infrastructure.
  • PAC-3 was deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom where it intercepted ballistic missiles with a combination of GEM and PAC-3 missiles. The GEM missile uses a blast fragmentation warhead while the PAC-3 missile employs hit-to-kill technology to kill ballistic missiles.
  • The Army is responsible for production and further development of the PAC-3 and the Medium Extended Air Defense System; the Missile Defense Agency remains responsible for the BMDS and PAC-3 interoperability and integration efforts. 

Contributions to the Ballistic Missile Defense System

  • Provides simultaneous air and missile defense capabilities as the Lower Tier element in defense of U.S. deployed forces and allies.
  • Works with THAAD to provide an integrated, overlapping defense against missile threats in the terminal phase of flight. Jointly, these systems engage the threat by forming a multi-tier theater defense against adversary missile threats using peer-to-peer engagement coordination, early warning track data, and battle management situational awareness.
  • Contributes to the entire system’s situational awareness by transmitting precision cueing data to other theater elements while simultaneously protecting system assets against short-range ballistic missiles, large-caliber rockets, and air-breathing threats.
  • For homeland defense, Patriot provides detection, track, and engagement of short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. These engagements are further enhanced by networked remote sensors that supply early warning data to increase the probability of success.
  • Patriot has added Upper-Tier Debris Mitigation capability to mitigate the excessive radar load and potential missile waste caused by debris from upper-tier intercepts.

PAC-3 MSE Improvement
  • Performance enhancements where made in flight software, flight testing, modification and qualification of subsystems, production planning and tooling, and support for full Patriot system integration. 
The PAC-3 MSE incorporates a larger, more powerful motor into the missile for added thrust, along with larger fins and other structural modifications for more agility. The larger fins, which will collapse to allow the missile to fit into the current PAC-3 launcher, will give the interceptor more maneuverability against faster and more sophisticated ballistic and cruise missiles.

The flight test program includes one controlled test flight and two guided intercept tests against threat representative tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs). All testing will be conducted at White Sands Missile Range, NM.

These enhancements are the natural, pre-planned evolution of a system that was baselined in 1994. The MSE is a true spiral development that will enable a very capable interceptor to grow to the requirements of defeating new and evolving threats. These enhancements will assure that the PAC-3 Missile Segment of the Patriot Air Defense System will be capable of defeating these threats far into the future.


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