Defense makes the grade
In peace or war, Patriot is constantly tested and enhanced
There’s nothing like a concept car, a glittering show vehicle that displays the technology dreams of automakers. Glittering, futuristic, they look great under spotlights on a rotating platform.
But you don’t want to drive one down the highway until it’s been through rigorous testing.
The same goes for the sophisticated Patriot Integrated Air and Missile Defense System. Lives depend on it, and Raytheon is constantly upgrading the system to make sure it uses the very latest technology – and testing, testing, testing every aspect of its operation.
“We’ve conducted more than 3,200 tests and 1,500 live fires for Patriot to date and I’m happy to say there will be countless more,” said Brian MacDonald, director of testing for Patriot at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. “Each and every time we test or live-fire a Patriot, we uncover new ways we might improve or perfect Patriot in order to stay ahead of the constantly evolving threats.”
That was the approach Raytheon took with Patriot Post-Deployment Build 8. Each post-deployment build is an upgrade to the currently fielded version of Patriot.
There's always room for improvement. Testing identified a number of improvement opportunities for PDB-7, some of which were outlined in a 2016 report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Those items were addressed with PDB-8, which Raytheon developed, rigorously tested in the New Mexico desert and then turned over the U.S. Army for operational testing.
“Staged demonstrations are well and good, but unless you’ve got soldiers rigorously testing, evaluating and using your system in an operationally realistic environment, you’ll never know how it might perform when lives are on the line,” said Joe DeAntona, vice president and business development executive at Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business, and retired Army air defender.
A report about Patriot testing, released in early 2018 by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Operational Test and Evaluation directorate, stated that in almost all cases, PDB-8 worked like it was supposed to. The report also pointed out that soldiers discovered some areas where PDB-8 could be improved. Raytheon engineers welcomed this feedback.
“We were able to address everything almost immediately, and make Patriot a better system because of what we learned from that testing,” said MacDonald. “Feedback in this, and prior DOT&E reports have shaped our test plans and helped make Patriot more capable.”
Testing for Patriot won’t end when the PDB-8 tests conclude. Sixteen nations depend on Patriot as the cornerstone of their Air and Missile Defense. They need the system to stay ahead of threats that are constantly evolving and improving, so Raytheon engineers are hard at work on the next upgrade to Patriot – PDB-8.1.
“Working closely with the governments of Patriot partner nations, Raytheon will keep testing Patriot, stressing it, and doing everything we can to find and address improvement opportunities with the system,’ said Tom Laliberty, Raytheon’s vice president of Integrated Air and Missile Defense.
High-consequence environments like expressways and battlefields have a way of driving home the importance of the proverbial test track. This is not a point that is lost on DeAntona, who commanded a Patriot battalion during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I wouldn’t be here today if Patriot didn’t work as advertised, and there’s a whole lot of peace-time testing and refinement to thank for that,” said DeAntona. “I’m a living testament to the value of these tests.”