Technology Today

2012 Issue 2

Global Patriot

Combat-Proven Air and Missile Defense

The Patriot missile system is the world's premier air defense system, effective against low to high altitude air threats in defense of ground combat forces and critical assets. It can perform simultaneous engagements against attacking tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft. The key features of the Patriot system are its multifunction phased array radar, the Guidance Enhanced Missile-Tactical (GEM-T) missile variant with semi-active homing, the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile variant with active homing, Patriot's interoperability with other defense systems, and its automated operations with human override. Its design robustness allows it to be self-contained and mobile when required.

Since Patriot production began, more than 200 Patriot fire units have been delivered to 12 nations around the world, including the U.S. and five NATO nations. The growing list of partners includes the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Taiwan, Greece, Spain, Korea and the United Arab Emirates. An international industry team of more than 4,000 suppliers and subcontractors support the Patriot air and missile defense system.

Patriot Timeline

Scroll left and right to see the history of Patriot at Raytheon

Patriot began its development in the late 1960s timeframe to counter a potential massive raid against Europe by Soviet aircraft employing a wide variety of sophisticated electronic countermeasures. The radar has the capability to track a wide variety of targets under saturation raid conditions and can support the simultaneous operation of multiple Patriot missiles to defend against the threat. As the threat grew, Patriot's capability was enhanced to support, simultaneously, the operations of the evolutionary GEM-T missile and the new PAC-3 missile.

The main elements of a Patriot missile fire unit are shown in Figure 1. Operators within the Engagement Control Station (ECS) control the system, communicating with the radar, the launcher, other Patriot fire units and command headquarters. The multifunction phased array radar performs high- and low-altitude surveillance, target detection, discrimination and identification, target track, missile track and missile guidance. Automated operation provides firepower at high saturation levels, in addition to providing a multiple simultaneous engagement capability. The missiles, via communication from the radar, are guided to their desired locations just prior to their terminal homing phases. The GEM-T missile is semi-active, employs TVM (track-via-missile) during its homing phase and utilizes a fragmentation warhead to defeat threats. The PAC-3 missile employs an active seeker with a hit-to-kill design to defeat threats. Automated operation provides the desired missile types and number of interceptor missiles needed during high saturation conditions. Each launcher can support up to 4 GEM-T missiles or 16 PAC-3 missiles and is remotely controlled by a wireless or fiber optic data link from the ECS.

Figure 1

Patriot remains the most advanced combat-proven ground-based air and missile defense system fielded in the world. It is the backbone of Integrated Air and Missile Defense for the U.S. and its allies. It is designed to be interoperable with the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile system, the Hawk missile system and other systems employed by our coalition partners. Modernization through the incorporation of new technologies has enabled Raytheon to evolve and grow the capabilities of this fielded and widely deployed system to defeat advancing threats. As a result, the U.S. government commitment to Patriot has been extended to 2040.

Combat-proven during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Patriot has completed greater than 2,500 target search-and- track tests across the entire range of its performance envelope. In addition, more than 600 highly successful missile firings have demonstrated Patriot's performance against the full range of aircraft, tactical missile, ballistic missile and cruise missiles threats. Reliability of Patriot systems deployed worldwide (measured in "mean time between failure") remains more than twice the required system specification.

Patriot Modernization

A comprehensive development program to address parts obsolescence and to incorporate new technology upgrades was initiated in 2008 to support a new production build of Patriot fire units for an international partner. Although Patriot had received substantial performance upgrades to address evolving threats since its initial fielding, it had been more than 12 years since complete systems were produced. Modernization has refitted Patriot with an open, modular architecture. This includes significant upgrades to the command and control shelter, man stations, peripherals, Internet protocol (IP)-based communications and the radar data processor. In addition, more than 1,000 existing PAC-2 missiles have been upgraded to the current GEM-T configuration to add the desired increase in capabilities against advanced threats.

Part of Patriot's ECS, the Patriot Modern Man Station (MMS) operator-machine interface is used to identify and display airborne objects; track potential threats; and engage hostile targets, including aircraft, unmanned air vehicles, cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles.

This modernized system, with its color graphical user interface (GUI) and touch-screen display (Figure 2), gives the operator significantly enhanced visual cues for identification of targets and priority alerts, and it greatly improves battlefield situational awareness with best-in-class command and control decision-support tools. The new MMS and Radar Digital Processor (RDP) are key upgrades that facilitate Patriot's new capabilities while reducing total ownership cost.

Figure 2

The RDP processes commands from the ECS, controls radar system timing and processes data received from various radar subsystems. The RDP is a major upgrade to the radar set, replacing discrete analog and digital signal processing components with a ruggedized commercial off-the-shelf processor. The new RDP increases the reliability of the digital processing system and related analog components by 10 fold, resulting in a predicted 40 percent increase in overall radar reliability. More importantly, it enables future capabilities through software upgrades, including digital sidelobe cancelling, organic combat identification, improved target detection, multifunction surveillance and the full support of advanced PAC-3 missile enhancements.

The inventory of PAC-2 missiles is being refurbished and modernized to the GEM-T configuration. This provides the U.S. and its allies with an affordable, robust capability against ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft and remotely piloted vehicles.

The highly successsful Patriot flight test program includes all of the new equipment and uses both the new GEM-T missiles and the PAC-3 missile variant against a wide variety of threats. This modernization provides the foundation upon which to base new growth features.

Figure 3
Into the Future

During the long 45+ year history of Patriot, the modularity and flexibility inherent in its original design allowed the Patriot system to be upgraded and remain one or more steps ahead of the threats. Future modernization efforts will further expand Patriot's capability in the areas of target detection, engagement envelope and defended volume. Furthermore, improved warfighter effectiveness and reduced manning demands are enabled through automated decision aids and role-selectable command and control.

With a long history of successful deployments, evolutionary improvements, recent modernization and the support of its growing list of partner nations, Patriot is ready to provide protection from emerging threats to the U.S. and its allies through 2040 and beyond.


Approved for public release October 18, 2012, control no. 428-2012

Norm Cantin

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