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Newest variant of Patriot missile integrates with US Army IBCS in latest test

Photo: Lockheed Martin

The Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missile has achieved further milestones in the most recent round of trials.

According to an announcement from Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the program, PAC-3 MSE was tested on November 4, demonstrating the first ever integration of the missile with the US Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS).

During the flight test series, two PAC-3 MSE missiles successfully engaged from IBCS and intercepted tactical ballistic missile (TBM) threats over White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

These marked the first field surveillance program (FSP) tests for PAC-3 MSE. FSP missions confirm the reliability and readiness of fielded PAC-3 missiles and normally occur annually.

“PAC-3 continues to build upon our rich history of reliable and innovative missile defense while also demonstrating our compatibility with one of the U.S. Army’s foremost modernization priorities to stay ahead of advanced threats,” said Brenda Davidson, vice president of PAC-3 Programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

An evolution of the PAC-3 CRI, the PAC-3 MSE boasts a dual-pulse solid rocket motor, providing increased performance in altitude and range to defend against incoming threats, including tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft.

First fielded in 2015, PAC-3 MSE upgrade consists of a hit-to-kill interceptor, the PAC-3 missile canisters (in four packs), a fire solution computer and an enhanced launcher electronics system.

The US Army first began receiving PAC-3 missiles combined with an overhaul to command and control systems and related software some 25 years ago, after the original MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) system achieved initial operational capability in 1984.

Upgrading again, the PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement, or MSE missiles, brought extended range and more maneuverability due to a more powerful rocket motor and larger fins. However, radar limitations prevented utilizing PAC-3 MSE missiles to their full capability.

Now Patriot units are undergoing a system-wide upgrade, to include radar improvements that will enable them to use the full capability of the PAC-3 MSE missile. An upgrade called Post-Deployment Build 8, or PDB8, is providing Patriot units with a more capable radar by transitioning from analog to digital processing.