Different generations of surface-to-air missiles tackle new threats

The multiple layers of the Israeli air defence system yesterday proved one of its capabilities.

While the Iron Dome system continues to intercept rockets launched from Gaza, a Patriot surface-to-air missile shot down an unmanned air system (UAS) operated by the Hamas terror organisation.

The threat of hostile UAS has increased since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when Lebanese terror group Hezbollah sent an Ababil UAS into Israel.

Approximately a year ago, IAF fighter jets intercepted a UAS over northern Israel after it infiltrated Israeli territory from the Lebanese border, while in October 2012 the IAF intercepted a UAS that breached Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip.

The nation’s Patriot batteries were upgraded in 2012, and now serve to protect Israel from hostile aircraft and as back-up for the Israeli Arrow ballistic missile interceptor.

When the Patriot was developed in the 1980s, the system’s main mission was to shoot down hostile aircraft. With the proliferation of ballistic missiles, however, the system has been upgraded to give it an appropriate interception capability.

The Patriot PAC-3 is the latest version of this upgraded system, but it still has growth potential.

Last year Patriot developer Raytheon and Israeli company Rafael began to seek funding for a fourth-generation Patriot system – the Patriot Advanced Affordable Capability-4. The plan is to integrate the Stunner interceptor from the jointly-funded “David’s Sling” programme with the Patriot PAC-3′s radar, launcher and engagement control stations.

Slowly but surely, all types of surface-to-air missiles will take on the role of protecting civilians and armies from aerial threats, including armed UAS and cruise missiles.

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