‘Phenomenal’ Patriot AD Missiles Score Big In Europe; To Manufacture Its Own SAMs In A Boost To Sky Shield Program

The last of the aid packages to Ukraine has been given, and the US coffers have run dry. As the war on its doorstep threatens to rage on for the third year, European nations are bulwarking their sky shield against Russian missiles.

A coalition of European countries has decided to produce missiles for the ground-based Patriot Air Defense system itself under a new NATO contract.

The extra Patriot missile delivery will help replenish stockpiles that have been sent to Ukraine and may eventually help release further batches for that nation to receive. Additionally, it expands Patriot production into Europe, which might be advantageous to both the United States and the Patriot program as a whole.

The European countries have entered a contract with the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) wherein COMLOG – a Joint Venture of American Raytheon and French MBDA, to procure up to 1,000 Guidance Enhanced Missiles under a €5.1 billion ($5.6 billion) deal.

Under the agreement, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Romania will jointly procure up to 1,000 Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missiles-T (GEM-T).

“The contract strengthens industrial and military capabilities in Europe. The order volume will enable MBDA to set up a production facility for Patriot missiles in Germany as well as major subcomponent production,” Thomas Gottschild, managing director at MBDA Germany, said in a news release.

The contract includes the qualification of updated components, the addition of new suppliers, test equipment, and spares to support future sustainment. “The new production capacity for GEM-T missiles in Europe enhances security of supply and will contribute to the replenishment of Patriot missile stockpile inventories,” a statement from NSPA said.

COMLOG GmbH is a 50/50 percent joint venture between MBDA Germany and Raytheon, founded in 1987. COMLOG’s primary field of activity is the logistic support of Patriot PAC-2 missiles to maintain operational capability.

Since its founding, the company has performed maintenance for more than 5,000 PAC-2 missiles at the Patriot Missile Facility 3 (PMF-3), located in Schrobenhausen, Germany, COMLOG’s main customer is the NSPA, which operates on behalf of the European Patriot user countries and the US Army.

Seventeen European countries have come together to develop the European Sky Shield Initiative. Under Germany’s leadership, the initiative aims to bolster European air and missile defense through the joint acquisition of air defense equipment and missiles by European nations.

This will strengthen NATO’s integrated air and missile defense. Poland is conspicuously absent from the list of 15 northern and eastern European nations that signed up.

The demand for Patriot has surged amongst European countries as Russia has turned to long-range missiles as its weapon of choice. The US, Germany, and the Netherlands have donated five Patriot missile batteries to Ukraine.

The system has been credited with taking out numerous Russian missiles, including a variant that Russia claimed was ‘unstoppable’ like Kinzhal. It is believed to have brought down many Russian warplanes.

Patriot is the principal long-range surface-to-air missile system of the US. It is an abbreviation for Phased Array Tracking Radar for Interception. A typical Patriot Battery comprises an AN/MPQ-65 multifunction phased array radar, necessary fire control, communications, other support components, and up to eight trailer-mounted launchers. The whole line of Patriot missiles, including the PAC-3 interceptors, can be launched using the most recent version of the Patriot system.

Russia Baiting Ukraine To Exhaust Patriots

There have been media reports that Russia, fighting a war of attrition, has been baiting Ukraine to exhaust all its Patriot missiles and leave itself vulnerable as the US Congress turns off the tap to give military assistance to Ukraine.

White House National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby told reporters there was no more money to send military aid to Kyiv.

Depleting Patriot and other missile supplies is “certainly part of” Russia’s agenda, according to Dr. Jade McGlynn, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and specialist on Russian politics. Russian barrage of missiles is carried out to pinpoint the location of the Patriot batteries launching the missiles as replacing them would be far more difficult.

In 2023, President Joe Biden requested a US $ 106 billion supplemental spending package to be split between Ukraine and Israel. The US Congress did not pass it. In the election year, President Biden would not be able to come to Ukraine’s aid without Congress’s approval.

Patriot missile system
File Image: Patriot missile system

In response to Russia’s methods, European countries have given Ukraine access to a vast array of air and missile defense systems. However, the war has also forced them to assess their own missile and air defense systems. In the face of the paucity of funding for European defense (especially elite operations) since the end of the Cold War and the emergence of new threats like robotic personal assistants and high-velocity missiles, its air defense is in shambles.

European countries are seriously lacking in advanced emerging threat defense and short-, medium-, and long-range GBAD systems.

Patriots are often described as purely ‘hit-to-kill’ weapons. The upgraded version PAC-3 has an explosive charge that creates a cloud of metal fragments around the missile’s body called ‘cycloids.’

A 1996 unclassified report by Army and Lockheed Martin released on the PAC-3’s affordable integration approach reveals that the PAC-3 has improved range, accuracy, and lethality necessary to effectively defend against tactical missiles with nuclear, conventional high explosive, biological, and chemical warheads.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at) mail.com
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