Last week, U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin successfully carried out an interception test for its improved Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) missile defense system. On Thursday, a PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor “successfully detected, tracked and intercepted a tactical ballistic missile target,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement. The test took place on Thursday at White Sands Missile Range in the U.S. state of New Mexico.
“Today’s test verified missile software and hardware component upgrades that enable future performance of the PAC-3 MSE interceptor to keep pace against expanding threats of today and tomorrow,” Lockheed Martin added in a statement.
“We are continuously looking for ways to improve the PAC-3 missile, increase its capabilities and expand the missile’s ability to defend against the growing number of potential threats,” Brenda Davidson, vice president of PAC-3 Programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said. “Flight tests like this demonstrate Lockheed Martin’s commitment to increasing the performance of PAC-3.”
The PAC-3 serves as an endoatmospheric point defense system with a capability to intercept short-range tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and military aircraft. Unlike earlier Patriot missile defense systems, the PAC-3 interceptor relies on hit-to-kill technology whereby the interceptor uses kinetic energy to destroy its target on impact. Earlier Patriot systems relied on explosive blast fragmentation warheads to destroy their targets.
So far, apart from the United States, nine countries have concluded agreements to procure the PAC-3 MSE: Qatar, Japan, Romania, Poland, the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, South Korea, Bahrain and Germany.
The MSE variant improves the effective intercept range of the PAC-3 system by incorporating a dual-pulse solid rocket motor. Additionally, the new interceptor is said to be more mobile in flight through the use of improve thrust actuators and larger control fins.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Army granted Lockheed Martin a $6.07 billion contract for additional PAC-3 MSE interceptors and associated equipment. The contract will lead to deliveries of the systems over the next three U.S. fiscal years.
Demand for the PAC-3 by the United States and allied states has grown in recent years. In May 2020, Lockheed Martin announced that it was doubling its capacity to produce the PAC-3.
In Asia, South Korea and Japan are major PAC-3 MSE customers. Seoul is expected to received 64 PAC-3 MSE interceptors. Japan, meanwhile, finalized the deployment of PAC-3 MSE systems between March and June this year at four separate military facilities. Both countries have pursued the PAC-3 MSE amid growing concern about North Korean short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.