Gourley, Scott R., Army
The PAC-3 missile is a high velocity, hit-to-kill missile and is the newest addition to the Patriot family of missiles. In recent firing tests at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., the PAC-3 demonstrated its latest capabilities against advanced tactical ballistic missiles (TBM) and other increasingly sophisticated air threats.
The Patriot PAC-3 program is managed by the U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space and executed by the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Project Office in Huntsville, AIa. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Dallas, Texas, is the prime contractor responsible for the PAC-3 missile segment. Raytheon Systems Company, the Patriot system prime contractor, is the system integrator for the PAC-3 missile segment.
"The most prominent feature of the PAC-3 missile segment is the interceptor," explains Richard McDaniel, director of the PAC-3 missile program at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, "but it also includes parts of the ground equipment-multi-missile launcher electronics that interface into the Patriot system-and the canister in which the missile comes."
The most obvious difference between the PAC-3 missile and earlier Patriot designs is in the kill chain, with PAC-3 featuring a hit-to-kill design versus the blast/fragmentation warhead device in earlier models.
"After our experience with the earlier Patriot missile in Operation Desert Storm it was evident that our adversaries were willing to use short-range terminal ballistic missiles much more than, perhaps, we had faced in the past," McDaniel said.
"And it was clear that a blast/frag type of kill chain against that weapon wasn't going to be as effective as it needed to be, especially if that weapon was carrying a weapon of mass destruction."
"So one of the incentives for going with a hit-to-kill weapon in PAC-3 was really the Desert Storm conflict," he added. "That experience resulted in a long development program that was wildly successful, especially when you look back and see the system had 19 or 22 flight test successes and was operationally combat proven in Operation Iraqi Freedom [OIF]."
One of the critical OIF combat engagements occurred in March 2003, when an Iraqi Ababil-100 missile was reportedly fired at the Combined Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) headquarters.
A PAC-3 missile, launched by 2nd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery, made a direct hit to destroy that incoming threat.
Development and refinement of the PAC-3 missile continued. One test of the latest design was demonstrated during the August 2006 shot at White Sands. The firing, which featured a two-missile ripple engagement against a modified Patriot target representing a short-range TBM, repeated a test mission that was originally undertaken in November 2005.
"That mission was not as successful as we would have liked," McDaniel acknowledged, adding that one of the reasons behind this repeat test "was improvements to the system and the interceptor to deal with the advancing threat."
"The August show was tremendously successful," he continued, "and it ironed out any of the remaining issues that we had discovered back in November. Obviously we had cleaned those up, based on our results, and had a great day at the range."
"The test shot demonstrated functionality not only in the interceptor, but in the system as well, to deal with some of these advancing threats," McDaniel said. "And standard doctrine against any tactical based missile, whether they are advanced or not, is a shoot-shoot doctrine. There's just not enough time to shoot, look to see if you hit it and then shoot again. So against these targets we shoot two missiles in ripple."
He added, "Interestingly enough, in this firing we intercepted the target with the first shot, as planned. …