Research, Technology

Patriot SAM: Tracks targets via satellites and has other advanced capabilities

In any modern military conflict,The most important task of the military forces is to protect troops and facilities from aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles of the enemy. Moreover, as attack air means of attack develop and improve, the requirements for anti-missile and air defense become more and more stringent. Therefore, the American anti-aircraft missile system Patriot (MIM-104), which since the beginning of the 80s has been the basis of the US air defense forces, has also been repeatedly improved and modernized. Currently, it is often compared with the Soviet S-300 and S-400 systems. But what are the similarities between these systems and what are the features of the American missile defense system in general?

American anti-aircraft missile system "Patriot"


  • 1 The history of the creation of Patriot complexes
  • 2 Which countries are armed with Patriot air defense systems
  • 3 Technical characteristics of the Patriot air defense system
  • 4 Missiles for Patriot air defense systems
  • 5 Patriot air defense systems against S-300 and S-400
  • 6 Combat use of the Patriot air defense system

The history of the creation of Patriot complexes

Work on the creation of air defense capable of destroyingballistic missiles began to be conducted since the late 50s. But the history of the Patriot air defense system, in fact, began in 1964, when the SAM-D anti-aircraft missile system project was launched in the United States. True, its tactical and technical requirements were fuzzy, and changes were made to them many times. However, one requirement has always remained unchanged - the complex must provide protection against short-range ballistic missiles.

In the spring of 1967, Raytheon was appointedgeneral contractor for the SAM-D project. The first missile tests began in the autumn of 1969. However, five years later, that is, in 1974, major changes were once again made to the tactical and technical requirements.

The development of the Patriot complexes began in the 60s of the last century.

According to the new requirements, a radio signal thatsent by a ground-based radar and reflected from the target, the head of a flying anti-aircraft missile was supposed to receive, and then broadcast to a ground control point. Thus, the computer could generate commands and send back to the rocket in order to more accurately target the target.

That is, the calculation of the flight trajectory took place onearth with a computer, which made it possible to reduce the cost of the equipment that the rockets are equipped with. But, since the missile is much closer to the target than the ground-based radar, it receives the signal better, which increases the accuracy and ability to ignore decoys. That is, the new requirement significantly increased the effectiveness of the air defense system, but at the same time greatly affected the development and production time.

Tests of air defense systems continued until the 80s

As a result, the designers introduced SAM-D only inearly 1976. The project was renamed XMIM-104A, and then in the same year the SAM-D was renamed "Patriot". The name of the complex is an abbreviation of the phrase "Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept On Target".

Testing of the complex continued until the early 80syears. In the fall of 1980, the first contract for the production of the MIM-104A Patriot was signed. However, the complex was adopted by the US Army only in 1984.

Which countries are armed with Patriot air defense systems

Patriot air defense systems are currently being producedseveral American enterprises led by the military-industrial company Raytheon. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in 2018, the US Army was armed with 50 batteries of Patriot air defense systems with a total of 1,200 missiles. In total, Raytheon has produced over 240 Patriot systems.

SAM Patriot is in service with many European countries

These air defense systems are also in service with the armies of manyother countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Taiwan, Greece, Spain, South Korea, UAE, Qatar, Romania, Sweden, Poland and Bahrain. That is, the air defense system has become widespread in the world, and even participated in several military conflicts, but we'll talk about this later.

According to the Center for Strategic andinternational research (CSIS), the cost of one battery is 600 million dollars, while the cost of each missile is, according to various sources, from 3 to 4 million US dollars. Therefore, it is not advisable to use missiles against simple and inexpensive targets, such as, for example, kamikaze drones. By the way, the cost of a missile for the S-300 is up to 500 thousand dollars.

Specifications SAM Patriot

The Patriot complex is equipped with missiles with a rangeactions up to 80 km. Launchers are used only as part of batteries, which are the minimum firing unit. The battery includes 4-8 launchers. But most often, batteries are used as part of divisions, which significantly increases the capabilities of missile defense. That is, the complexes are not used alone.

Each launcher contains four anti-aircraft missiles

Patriot air defense missiles can shoot down targets at heightup to 24 km. The minimum target height that the complex can shoot down is 60 meters, and the minimum range is 3 km. The launcher can carry up to sixteen missiles - four missiles are placed in each launch container. However, at the same time, the complex can fire no more than 8 targets. True, MIM-104 missiles of various types and GEM-T can be installed in an amount of no more than 4 pieces in one launcher. The probability of hitting targets is from 0.6 to 0.8.

According to experts, one Patriot batterycapable of hitting targets at a great distance, but the radius of coverage of the territory that it can protect is small. For example, a Patriot battery can provide effective protection for a small military base, but it is no longer enough to protect a large city.

I must say that Patriot is not onlylauncher. In addition to them and missiles, the complex also includes a radar station, a command post, a generator and a number of other auxiliary equipment. However, deploying an SAM battery takes less than an hour. However, up to 90 military personnel are required to use and maintain a Patriot battery.

Missiles for the Patriot air defense system

ERINT missiles are used for the Patriot PAC-3 model.Their length is almost 5 meters, the diameter is 0.254 meters, while the weight is 316 kilograms. Of these, 24 kilograms falls on the head with a kinetic interceptor. The launcher can accommodate up to 16 of these missiles.

Anti-aircraft missile for Patriot PAC-3 SAM model

For the Patriot PAC-2 model, more powerfulMIM-104 missiles, which are 5.53 meters long and 0.41 meters in diameter. The mass of the missiles is 912 kilograms, and the weight of the high-explosive fragmentation warhead is 91 kilograms. The speed of this rocket reaches 1700 m/s. As mentioned above, only one such missile is placed in each container of the launcher.

The S-300 and S-400 air defense systems have several advantages over the American Patriot

SAM Patriot against S-300 and S-400

The S-300 complex began to be produced in 1975.And despite the fact that the Patriot has been repeatedly upgraded, and the C-300 air defense system has been improved to the C-400, these two types of air defense systems are most often compared with each other. First of all, we note that the Patriot is a missile defense system, and the S-300 is an air defense system. That is, American weapons are more narrowly focused - they are designed to deal specifically with missiles, and not all air targets.

S-300 and its improved version S-400mainly focused on combating aircraft and cruise missiles. The Patriot is also effective against ballistic missiles, which is one of its main advantages. But the S-300 systems have their advantages - the maximum range of missiles reaches 150 km. The maximum height of the defeat is 27 km.

The most important thing, perhaps, is that the Patriot does not seetargets flying below 30 meters, unlike the S-300, which is capable of destroying even low-flying missiles, aircraft and UAVs. In addition, the S-400 locator “sees” targets at a distance of up to 600 km, the Patriot is also much inferior to the Soviet development in this regard, since the locator is limited to a range of 180 km. That is, the American air defense system, at first glance, loses the Soviet one in terms of key indicators.

The S-400 complex sees targets at a distance of up to 600 km

But, as we said above, the Patriot complexeshave undergone many upgrades. In particular, the latest upgrade is integrated with a satellite tracking system. That is, the missile defense system can track targets from any distance. Moreover, satellites not only detect the launch of a ballistic missile, but also allow the control system to pre-calculate the missile's flight path.

Thus, it is difficult to draw firm conclusionswhich set is better. Obviously, the S-500 systems can really surpass the Patriot in their capabilities. However, not so many S-500 Prometheus complexes were produced, since they have just begun to enter service.

Combat use of the Patriot air defense system

Another important advantage of the Patriot air defense systemlies in the fact that it was repeatedly used in the course of real hostilities. The system was first used during the Gulf War in 1991. Then the Patriot complexes defended Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Israel. They were also actively used during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

SAM Patriot repeatedly participated in real hostilities

According to Raytheon Technologies, whichmanufactured by Patriot, since 2015 alone, these systems have been used during 150 ballistic missile interceptions. But despite all this, many experts question the success of American complexes.

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According to the report of the US Accounting Office for1992, it was not possible to find real evidence that the effectiveness of complexes against Scud missiles in the Persian Gulf is 70%. In 2018, the Houthis fired rockets at Saudi Arabia. At the same time, videos began to arrive from Yemen, which recorded the failures of the Patriot. But, it should be borne in mind that not a single air defense system is capable of providing 100% protection against air targets.