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MIM-104 Patriot Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) System

The poor showing of the Patriot missile battery early in its career eventually led to the more refined form in use today.

 Updated: 6/16/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The MIM-104 "Patriot" air defense missile system became a household name when it appeared on the global stage during the 1991 Gulf War. It was used in defense of Israel and Saudi Arabia from incoming Iraqi SCUDS aimed at civilian quarters. Initial reports deemed an interception success rate nearing 100% which popularized the system as one of the most effective Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems anywhere in the world. However, it was later found that the missiles managed a success rate closer to 40% and lower which led to several major upgrades in the line. Today, the Patriot is regarded as a vastly improved SAM system and has been taken on by many U.S. allies including Israel, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

Design work on the missile that would become the Patriot began in the late 1960s at a time when the missile was still evolving as a viable air defense weapon system. Design work included names such as Raytheon, Hughes and RCA. In 1975, a missile successfully intercepted and unmanned drone over the storied White Sands Missile Range. Continually evolved from there, the weapon was named "Patriot" and adopted for U.S. Army service in the early 1980s under the designation of "MIM-104". Service began in 1981 with large-scale deployment beginning in 1984. By 1991 and the Gulf War, the system had been considerably updated, adding some missile-interception qualities which broadened its tactical value.

To date, the Patriot system has been produced in 1,280 launcher units with over 10,000 missiles in circulation. The United States Army stock alone totals some 1,100 Patriot launcher units.

The Patriot missile battery is a complete SAM system involving the missile, launcher component, carrier vehicle and accompanying fire control section. The launcher component is typically affixed to a wheeled trailer unit or 8x8 wheeled truck to supply the mobility required when stationing Patriots in and around key installations and areas. Patriots can therefore be deployed to defend all types of airspace - airports, cities, bases, bridges. Its launcher component supports four missiles in a two-by-two configuration and multiple missiles are typically launched at a target to ensure its destruction and improve the overall kill rate. The system is managed through an AN/MPQ-53/-65 series radar coupled to an OQ-349 Antenna Mast Group (AMG) and AN/MSQ-104 Engagement Control Station (ECS). A command station is used to link the missile battery to a main operational network.

The Patriot missile system line began with the original MIM-104A model which lacked the anti-missile engagement qualities of later marks. MIM-104B (PAC-1) was the first major upgrade to the line which improved the software side and MIM-104C (PAC-2) introduced the missile interception quality first witnessed during the Gulf War. MIM-104D (PAC-2/GEM) brought along additional software and missile upgrades into the 1990s to make it a more viable, potent SAM system while MIM-104F (PAC-3) has proven a recent major upgrade to the series with improvements to all facets of the design - software, missile, communications, etc.. Ballistic missile defense has also been improved with this mark. PAC-3 missiles are featured in four quad-launchers for a total of sixteen missiles, four launchers per launcher unit.

Despite its revealed poor showing during the Gulf War of 1991, the Patriot missile system has fared far better in recent struggles involving American and Israeli military forces as showcased in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas over the Gaza Strip. In the latter, Israeli Patriot missiles intercepted as least two Hamas-launched drones. Turkey has deployed Patriot missile batteries to protect its airspace form overflow fighting stemming from the Syrian Civil War (2011-Present).

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MIM-104 Patriot Technical Specifications

Service Year: 1981
Type: Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) System
National Origin: United States
Manufacturer(s): Raytheon - USA
Production: 1,280

Design (Crew Space, Dimensions, Weight, and Systems)

Operating Crew: 12

Nuclear / Biological / Chemical Protection: Not Applicable.
Nightvision Equipment: Not Applicable.

Installed Power and Standard Road Performance

Engine(s): Not Applicable.

Armament and Ammunition

4 x Patriot missile launcher unit. PAC-3 series features four missiles to a launcher for a total of sixteen missiles.

4 x Patriot missiles per launcher unit. A Patriot missile battery contains eight launchers totaling 64 missiles.

Global Operators / Customers

Bahrain; Egypt; Germany; Greece; Israel; Japan; Jordan; Kuwait; Netherlands; Saudi Arabia; South Korea; Spain; Taiwan; United Arab Emirates; United States

Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

MIM-104 "Patriot" - Base Series Designation
MIM-104A - Original production models of 1981
MIM-104B (PAC-1) - Improved production model with software upgrade.
MIM-104C (PAC-2) - Improved production model with anti-missile defense support.
MIM-104D (PAC-2/GEM) - Improved production model with updated missiles and software.
MIM-104F (PAC-3) - Modernized Patriot systems with improved software, missiles, and communications.
Patriot Advanced Affordable Capability 4 (PAAC-4) - Proposed modernization of the Patriot SAM system.