Armed Forces

The U.S.: Patriot in trouble, again

  • Artystyczna wizja teleskopu rentgenowskiego ATHENA. Ilustracja:
    Artystyczna wizja teleskopu rentgenowskiego ATHENA. Ilustracja:

Americans have once again deemed the Patriot system as not achieving requirements and confirmed that until 2016 there will be no funding available for its thorough modernization, including above all the replacement of fire control radar.

The report with assessment of of the U.S. weapons systems (Operational Test and Evaluation) for Financial Year 2014 addresses critically the Patriot system capabilities. His author, who is at the same time aide to Security Department and directly to the U.S. Defense Secretary emphasizes clearly that: Patriot ground system reliability does not meet the threshold requirement because the radar performance was below threshold. It was additionally noticed that Patriot operators training remains inadequate to prepare them for real and complex engagements, that they can face in contemporary warfare.
In the document named „FY 2014 Annual Report” it was once again confirmed that there is no funding available at the moment to finance development of a new radar station, that would replace the currently operational fire control radar AN/MPQ-53/65 (and the document's wording uses the phrase "to replace" instead of "to modernize"). The radar will not be replaced or modernized before another round of operational testing and evaluation that were planned before the eighth consecutive Patriot modernization phase (so called „Post-Deployment Build-8"). The relevant trials will most likely not happen earlier than in 2016.
The recommendation to conduct trials prior to implementing fixes means that Americans were forced to accept the risks that it brings, and the goal of the testing will not be evaluation of the entire system but providing information to support the Full-Rate Production decision for the PAC-3 MSE (which were approved for low rate initial production in 2014). 
According to the document „FY 2014 Annual Report”, there's recommended to, e.g.:
- Conduct Patriot air and missile defense testing during joint and coalition exercises that include large numbers of different aircraft types, sensors, battle management elements, and weapons systems. Conduct Red Team penetration testing during these exercises to test Patriot cybersecurity
- Conduct a Patriot flight test against an anti-radiation missile target to validate models and simulations
Improve Patriot training to ensure that Patriot operators are prepared to use the system in modern combat
- Have Patriot participate with live missiles in Terminal High‑Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) flight testing to determine Patriot-to-THAAD interoperability and the capability for Patriot to intercept tactical ballistic missile targets that are not intercepted by THAAD
Collect reliability data on Patriot systems in the field, so that the Mean Time Between Critical Mission Failure can be calculated
- Obtain the data required to validate GEM interceptor (Guidance Enhanced Missile)
- Improve Patriot radar reliability 
As it comes out from the „FY 2014 Annual Report”, the U.S. Army has implemented 14 from 23 recommendations that were issued to improve the situation. While analyzing the report, it needs to be stressed that all the FY2014 report recommendations were also included in the "FY2013 Annual Report". That means that the U.S. Army was unable to implement any of the recommendations set a year ago.
In the "FY2013 Annual Report" only two recommendations were added (regarding the radar reliability and validation of the GEM), which means that seven recommendations remain not implemented for two years.
What is being delayed is among others the testing of the Patriot in realistic warfare conditions, with the use of anti-radiation missiles and with "cyber-attack". So far, hence, the battlefield experience of the system relates only to static and sector defense of a specified area. They do not include a scenario in which the enemy employs technologically advanced weapon systems, with counter-operations to disable the air defense systems.