Production of the US Army's Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) tactical ballistic missile interceptor is being ramped up. Lockheed Martin has received a $341 million contract for 88 missiles, up from the 72 planned for fiscal year 2003, and an add-on contract for 12 is expected shortly. Raytheon Patriot units upgraded with PAC-3 missiles are being deployed to the Gulf.

The US Department of Defense decided late last year to boost PAC-3 production over the next two years to 208 missiles to accelerate fielding of the hit-to-kill weapon, which increases the capability of fielded Patriot battalions to destroy theatre ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. A total of 100 missiles will be purchased in FY03 and 108 in FY04.

Lockheed Martin had delivered around 50 missiles by the end of last year. Accelerated deliveries begin this month, according to the US Missile Defence Agency (MDA), which runs the PAC-3 programme on behalf of the US Army. But a decision of full-rate production has been delayed until 2004 because of problems in operational testing.

The problems have been overcome, says the MDA, but additional operational test firings are planned, one in the second quarter and two more early next year.

Source: Flight International