Patriots Building Patriots
Veterans Who Work on the Patriot System Recount How it Saved Lives
For Tim Higgins, Patriot is personal.
Higgins was at Camp Doha in Kuwait in 2003, on a day when word spread that there were Scud missiles on the way. Higgins, one of a dozen Raytheon field engineers supporting a Patriot anti-missile defense battery in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, remembers walking to the back of a supply truck, pulling on his protective hazmat suit and mask, and waiting for the worst.
But the worst never came. “Two Patriot missiles fired and intercepted the Scuds,” said Higgins. “We don’t know where those Scuds would have hit, but everyone was glad Patriot was there.”
Nearly 17 percent of Raytheon’s 63,000 employees are military veterans, Higgins included. He spent nine years in the Army before joining Raytheon, and like many veterans, he carries a gut-level appreciation for how Patriot and the company’s other defense systems protect lives. Today, he works as a team leader for testing the latest Patriot radars.
“Over the years, I’ve talked to a lot of soldiers,” Higgins said. “When I tell them I work on Patriot, they all know what it is, especially those in the infantry. It gives our team a huge sense of pride, and we know the quality of these systems has to be perfect.”
Steve Trant is another vet with a proud career in both the military and at Raytheon. He served in the Marine Corps in the first Gulf War, maintaining the Hawk missile system after a year of specialized radar training. Now he’s the operations manager for the Patriot test facility in southern New Hampshire.
Trant travels with every Patriot system that leaves Raytheon, overseeing the hand-off to the customer and running diagnostics to ensure the software performs correctly at system turn-on. The visas in his passport are a checklist of most of Patriot’s 12 international customers.
“When you have seen these systems operating in the field, you realize how important they are,” he said. “I think about that every time we ship a radar.”
Trant and other senior engineers run test sequences on the latest Patriot radars in a corrugated metal hut at the test facility in New Hampshire. Around one side, three generations of radars sit on platforms and bounce signals off a tower on an open hillside several hundred meters away.
Each radar face is a honeycomb of antenna elements. The test protocol evaluates the response on each lobe, or section of the radar face. The hardware design and advanced software on the latest Patriot configuration can pick out and test the response from each individual antenna element.
“With different antennas connected to the same receiver, we can compare the performance of each configuration,” says Trant. “Nothing leaves here until we prove the quality is at the level it needs to be.”
Several miles away at Raytheon’s Andover, Mass. manufacturing facility, employees share the commitment to quality and to those who operate Raytheon systems. Etched into dozens of wooden plaques, the names of military units show the history of Patriot and Hawk deployments.
In a meeting room near the production floor, Torrey Cady and his team strategize on expanding global manufacturing operations for Patriot. This is critical to the company’s increasing emphasis on co-producing and co-developing Patriot with new industrial partnerships around the world.
A retired Army Major, Cady has a deep-rooted sense of mission. He served in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He keeps photos of former military colleagues in his office as a reminder of who he and his teammates are working for.
“I spent 24 years on active duty, serving in combat several times under the protection of Patriot coverage," Cady said.
“I know what the end users of our equipment experience and the challenges they face,” he said. “When people ask me about my work, I tell them I know from experience the true meaning of systems that do not fail.”
Last Updated: 03/01/2016