[Defense in Brief] Full-scale production of enhanced Patriot Missile begins; robust sales expected

As the ballistic missile threat among great and regional powers grows, an enhanced version of the U.S.-made Patriot missile is beginning full-scale production, and analysts believe it will sell quickly and robustly to allied nations.

The PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) successfully interdicted a number of targets during recent testing at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. This variant was tested in addition to the Cost Reduction Initiative (CRI) Patriot variant that seeks to reduce the cost-per-shot of the legacy missile defense weapon.

The successful tests closed out the validation stage of the PAC-3 MSE, making it now ready for full-scale production. In January the Pentagon awarded a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the missile’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, to ramp up production for the U.S. Army and allied militaries.

“The PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) is an evolution of the battle-proven PAC-3 Missile. The hit-to-kill PAC-3 MSE provides performance enhancements that counter evolving threat advancements. The enhancements ensure the PAC-3 Missile Segment of the PATRIOT Air Defense System is capable of engaging new and evolving threats. The hit-to-kill PAC-3 Missile is the world’s most advanced, and capable theater air defense missile and defender against the entire threat to the PATRIOT Air Defense System: Tactical Ballistic Missiles (TBMs) carrying weapons of mass destruction, evolving cruise missiles and aircraft,” Lockheed said in a statement. [source]

(Analyst comment: The new upgrades and enhancements — exact specifications such as the system’s range and so forth are classified — appear capable enough of defeating a range of existing threats, though there wasn’t much said about the MSE’s ability to interdict sophisticated ICBMs equipped with decoys and other shield-defeating technologies. Also, the upgrades aren’t likely to make the system more capable of interdicting the emerging hypersonic missile threat. Still, Patriot’s reputation is good and the system remains a viable option for some theater missile defense, as long as no one expects it to be a 100-percent solution.)

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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