Patriot Defense System Looks To The Future
Late last month Raytheon announced that it had received contracts worth $71.7 million to continue upgrading its Patriot air and missile defense system for the U.S. Army. The latest contracts, which add a modernized radar digital processor (RDP) and modern man station (MMS), highlight the continuous development that is being applied to the Patriot to keep it at the forefront of the air defense arena. The Patriot system has now conducted 2,500 search and track tests, and around 1,000 flight tests. The latest of these was a live-fire exercise undertaken last month in South Korea to demonstrate operational capability.
MMS introduces color LCD displays, touch screens and soft keys. The heightened situational awareness afforded by the MMS compared with the old interface results in quicker decision-making in terms of identifying and assessing threats. Under the RDP upgrade, 19 racks are replaced by a single unit, and the number of component modules has been reduced from 432 to just 12. This has a significant effect on reliability in the field, with an improvement of around 40 percent. At the same time, acquisition cost is reduced, while maintenance requirements and operating costs are also cut.
Both RDP and MMS are fully compatible with the Post Deployment Build-7 software that Raytheon began delivering in June this year. This software release is part of an ongoing capability enhancement that caters to new technological developments, as well as advances in threats and their countermeasures in the dynamic air defense environment. Overall, PDB-7 makes the system more robust and software-defined. As well as RDP and MMS, PDB-7 supports a new modern adjunct processor (MAP) that greatly increases the computing power of the command and control system. The increase in capacity allows the integration of new technologies as they are developed.
PAC-3 MSE Compatible
Also included in PDB-7 is compatibility with the PAC-3 MSE (Patriot Advanced Capability 3, Missile Segment Enhancement) interceptor that was also selected for the MEADS system. This weapon is yet to enter production, although a decision is expected shortly. Developed by Lockheed Martin, PAC-3 and MSE missiles use hit-to-kill interception rather than the proximity fuzing of the Raytheon PAC-2 weapons such as the current GEM-T (guidance enhanced missile).
In June this year the PAC-3 MSE undertook its seventh test, and the first involving a multi-target engagement. Upgrading a Patriot launcher to fire PAC-3 missiles as well as PAC-2s is easily undertaken. In the international arena Saudi Arabia is upgrading its Patriot systems to PAC-3+ status, while the UAE is procuring them new. Taiwan is receiving both new-build systems and upgrading existing units.
Development of PDB-7 was made possible by recent sales to the United Arab Emirates, and its introduction highlights the application of the Patriot International Engineering Services Program (IESP) that drives the development of the system. All 12 Patriot customers are members of the IESP and share development costs, their individual contributions being based on the number of fire-units in their inventories. New developments, such as the PDB-8 software load that is already under way, are jointly defined by IESP members for application across the global Patriot fleet. However, customers also have the ability to define and fund their own particular capabilities if required.
As the Patriot has become more “internationalized,” so Raytheon’s supplier chain has broadened. In around 10 years the amount of the company’s in-house work has decreased from 70 percent to roughly 30 percent, with several suppliers outside of the U. S. Some of this is a result of offset agreements associated with international sales. There is a possibility of UAE-based companies being involved in the program in the future.
In U.S. Army service the Patriot system is scheduled to serve until at least 2048, and in April this year the service approved a second recertification of the PAC-2 GEM-T missile to extend its life to 45 years. The recertification program is less than 10 percent of the cost of new acquisition, and involves the replacement of some shelf-life items and a rigorous test and inspection process to ensure that there are no other faulty items.
Despite NATO Patriot batteries being sent to Turkey earlier this year after Ankara requested assistance in the face of the troubles in Syria, the Turkish government controversially announced last month that it had selected the Chinese FD-2000 system instead of NATO-compatible equipment. While this came as an unexpected blow, the decision may yet be reversed. In the meantime, Raytheon (Stand 1954) is seeking to add Qatar to the list of Patriot users, and also hopes for further business from Kuwait.