Patriot Missiles ‘Challenge’ F-35 Jets As The Most ‘In-Demand’ Military Equipment; Lockheed Wins Big

Stepping on the bandwagon, Switzerland has signed a contract to buy the most advanced version of the Lockheed Martin-made Patriot missile defense system.

The announcement was made by the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, who stopped short of specifying the number of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement weapons that Switzerland had signed up for. However, the US State Department had approved a few requests earlier.

Switzerland is already an operator of the Patriot missile defense system, which is believed to be one of the best in the world today. Earlier, this neutral European country was allowed to purchase up to 72 PAC-3 MSE missiles for roughly US$700 million, with the most recent approval in 2022.

According to a statement released by Switzerland’s military procurement agency Armasuisse on October 31, the contract, which was signed on October 30 as part of the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales process, calls for Switzerland to pay 300 million Swiss francs (about US$331 million) for the latest type of interceptor.

Lockheed Martin says that the PAC-3 MSE missile is a “high-velocity” interceptor capable of taking on “advanced threats,” aircraft, and tactical ballistic and cruise missiles. They have a lower range than the tactical model but can maneuver more precisely. Furthermore, the munition employs “hit-to-kill” technology, which depends on “body-to-body contact” to intercept threats using kinetic energy.

To confirm software updates for the PAC-3 MSE, the manufacturer successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile target in March this year. It is now working on integration to determine compatibility with the Aegis weapon system, which could eventually “deliver a proven, integrated air and missile defense capability” for navy operators.

As per information available on Lockheed’s website, PAC-3 has demonstrated integration with the THAAD Weapon System, the US Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS), and F-35, the most advanced node in the 21st-century warfare network-centric architecture.

Patriot missile defense systems came into the global limelight when they were sent to defend the Ukrainian airspace by the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands. These missile defense systems have since demonstrated a near-impeccable combat performance against hostile aerial assets deployed by Russia.

File Image: PAC-3 missile

There were claims made by the Ukrainian military that the system had intercepted the Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which has been projected as invincible by Russian President Vladimir Putin. These claims triggered a diplomatic storm, with Moscow refuting the claims as baseless. However, the episode helped the system score brownie points as the world watched the events unfold.

The PAC-3 MSE, which Lockheed Martin manufactures, is an upgraded version of Patriots that showcases exceedingly good combat performance across battlefields. This upgrade program makes the missiles more agile and extends their range by 50%, which explains the global interest in it.

As for Switzerland, the procurement, which will cost 300 million CHF (US$330 million), was initially authorized by the Swiss parliament under the Army Message 2023. This funding is part of the broader Air2030 modernization initiative, which is centered on updating air defense and air power capabilities.

An offset PAC-3 agreement was also signed with Lockheed Martin. The European country will become the 15th PAC-3 operator, the manufacturer announced in a corporate statement. 

Popularity Of Lockheed’s PAC-3 Missiles, F-35 Fighter Soaring

The purchase of cutting-edge PAC-3 munitions comes at a time when the popularity of the Patriot missile defense system is soaring against the backdrop of the Ukraine war. For instance, the US State Department approved the potential sale of an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System to Poland for an estimated cost of US$4 billion in September.

The Pentagon stated that Poland, an ally of NATO, had asked to purchase phase two of a two-phase program for the command system enabled PATRIOT Configuration-3+ with updated sensors and components as it updates its air defenses.

Besides purchases, the demand for deployment of the system for security has also seen an uptick recently. For instance, Jordan, a staunch ally of the United States, requested late last month that Washington provide Patriot air defense systems to support its border defense during increased regional tensions and fighting.

“We asked the American side to help bolster our defense system with Patriot air defense missile systems,” Brigadier General Mustafa Hiyari, Jordan’s army spokesperson, told state television. 

The burgeoning popularity and demand for the Patriot missile defense comes after the super success of the F-35 fighter jet manufactured by the US-based Lockheed Martin. 

File Image: F-35 Lightning II

The F-35 aircraft has witnessed a remarkable proliferation across European nations and, to a certain extent, in the Indo-Pacific region. The 5th-generation fighter F-35 is now in more significant demand by the US Air Force and American allies worldwide for its formidable combination of stealth, advanced sensors, and weapons systems.

The Czech Ministry of Defense announced on September 27 that it had finally approved a deal with the US government and Lockheed Martin to purchase 24 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. Just a few days before Prague’s announcement, Romania’s defense ministry formally sought parliamentary approval to acquire 32 F-35 fighter jets from the United States.

In addition, Germany also announced in December last year that it was buying 35 F-35 fighter jets from the United States in a package pegged at US$8.4 billion. Another big order was placed by a US ally in North America. In January this year, the Canadian government announced buying 88 F-35 stealth fighter jets in a US$14.2 billion deal.

The list of European F-35 customers also includes the following countries: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and the United Kingdom.

Greece is one of the European nations considering a purchase; the country plans to acquire at least 20 F-35s. Switzerland is an F-35 customer with the slated procurement of 36 Lockheed Martin F-35A fifth-generation fighter jets.

This essentially means that Lockheed Martin has been making billions of dollars with the sale of F-35 fighter jets. Now, with the demand for PAC-3 Patriot missile defense systems and advanced missiles compatible with these systems rising, the US-based manufacturer may be on its way to encash more money.