Entered Army Service: 1985
The PATRIOT (Phased Array Tracking Intercept of Target) is the U.S. Army's most advanced air defense system. Capable of defeating both high performance aircraft and tactical ballistic missiles, it is the only operational air defense system that can shoot down attacking missiles. A PATRIOT battery (i.e., the basic firing unit) consists of a phased array radar, an engagement control station, computers, power generating equipment, and up to eight launchers, each of which holds four ready-to-fire missiles. There are about 90 soldiers assigned to a battery, but three soldiers in the engagement control station are the only personnel required to operate the battery in combat. The first combat use of PATRIOT occurred in Saudi Arabia and Israel during Operation Desert Storm.
Raytheon Company Missile Systems Division is the prime contractor for the PATRIOT system. The Martin Marietta Corporation is a principal subcontractor and assembles the missiles in Orlando, Florida. In addition to U.S. units, the PATRIOT is deployed with the military forces of Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.
The combat element of the PATRIOT missile system is the fire unit, which consists of a phased array radar set (RS), and engagement control station (ECS), an electric power plant, an antenna mast group (AMG), a communications relay group (CRG), and up to eight launching stations (LS).
The RS provides all tactical functions of airspace surveillance, target detection, identification, classification, and tracking, and missile guidance and engagement support. The ECS provides the human interface for command and control of operations. Each LS contains four ready-to-fire PAC-2, guidance enhanced missiles (GEM, GEM+) sealed in canisters that serve dual purposes as shipping containers and launch tubes.
The Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) upgrade program incorporates significant upgrades to the RS and ECS, and adds the new PAC-3 missile, which utilizes hit-to-kill technology for greater lethality against TBMs armed with weapons of mass destruction. Additionally, up to 16 PAC-3 missiles can be loaded per launcher, increasing firepower and missile defense capabilities.