Tests of new Patriot missile successful

by Sgt. David E. Gillespie

FORT BLISS, Texas (Army News Service, March 22, 1999) -- The militarys newest Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile successfully intercepted and destroyed an incoming tactical ballistic missile in a test high over New Mexico March 15.

The PAC-3, a hit-to-kill version of older anti-missile Patriots that gained popularity against Iraqi Scuds during the Gulf War, is being developed by defense contractors in cooperation with the U.S. Army and 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade soldiers at Fort Bliss. During Monday's tests, the PAC-3 intercepted a warhead from a Hera missile in the upper atmosphere over White Sands, N.M.

Preliminary data indicated that all test objectives were achieved according to Lockheed Martin Vought Systems, which conducted the seeker characterization flight.

"This test was a great achievement for the PAC-3 Missile industry team, and our Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and Army partners," said Mike Trotsky, vice president of air defense programs for Vought Systems in a press release. "We have overcome significant challenges preparing for the flight test program, and I couldnt be more pleased with the PAC-3 Missile team. We are all looking forward to fielding the PAC-3 system with our soldiers in the very near future."

Testing of the PAC-3 is being conducted in two stages: developmental tests and operational tests. The first two developmental missions were conducted using special intrumentation instead of the full PAC-3 seeker, according to a Defense Department release. The intent of those tests was to verify critical system and missile performance before conducting target intercept flights like Monday's test. The remaining missions will feature 16 PAC-3 missiles against several classes of targets.

The older Patriots, currently deployed throughout the world, use explosive proximity warheads to destroy targets. However, the new PAC-3 is designed to completely destroy an attacking warhead by direct, high-velocity impact.

The entire ADA community is extremely proud of the achievements this successful intercept represents, said Fort Bliss Commander, Maj. Gen. Dennis D. Cavin.

"Hit-to-kill technology is not only necessary, it is achievable," Cavin said. "My hat is off to the Patriot team. materiel developer, industry, requirements generator and ultimately the soldier walking point that we will protect better than ever before from air and missile threats."

The successful test is great for the morale of troops at Bliss, said Maj. Michael S. Maloney, executive officer of the 2nd Bn., 1st ADA. "Our soldiers have been working hard on the PAC-3 mission. This confirmed hit validates their training."

The mission for 2-1 soldiers is to test and approve the viability of the PAC-3 system they are helping field, Maloney added. Monday's direct hit confirms that PAC-3 is the most lethal air and missile defense system in the world, he said.

(Gillespie is with the 35th ADA Bde. Public Affairs Office at Fort Bliss, Texas.)