Patriot missiles are quite a common name in the Middle East; having first been deployed in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (1990-1991) to counter the late Saddam Hussein's arsenal of Scuds; they were hailed by the public as the weapons that helped liberate Kuwait, whilst military experts raised some concerns over their effectiveness.
Since then, Patriot missile systems were tried in combat once again during operation Iraqi Freedom and underwent several upgrades and enhancements.
At the acclaimed International Defence Expo (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi, Al Arabiya caught up with Tim R. Glaeser, Vice president for Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), Patriot Programs, Integrated Defense Systems (IDS).
Asked about rising regional threats, Glaeser spoke with confidence that Patriot Systems are capable of intercepting all tactical ballistic missile threats in the region, and has an improved radar system that increases its effectiveness by up to 50 percent, he said.
The following is the full transcript of the interview:
Q: What can you tell us about the development of the Patriot missiles over the past few years?
The Patriot was introduced into the U.S. Army inventory force in the early 80s, and was initially deployed into Germany, and at that time we knew exactly who the threat was, where they were located, and what their strategies were to get into and defeat NATO lines, behind enemy lines. And then, as Patriot evolved, i would say over 10 years of its existence, there were a lot of folks that used innovative ideas to question whether Patriot which was originally deployed as a system that would kill air-breathing threats, fixed-wing aircrafts, rotary wing aircraft and question whether we can use the Patriot weapon system to actually negate a ballistic missile threat. And it was the great understanding and foresight of those engineers that actually tackled the most challenging problem and said yes, we can evolve Patriot to become a tactical ballistic missile killer.
And the first successes of that innovation was deployed in the operation desert shield, desert storm, where Patriot successfully engaged in-coming tactical ballistic missiles targeted to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other critical assets within the Middle East area of operation.
Q: Some military experts say that perhaps older generations such as the ones used in 1991 of Patriot missiles weren't as effective. What developments have you made and introduced into the newer generation of Patriot missiles deployed today?
I think one of the important things to recognize with the Patriot weapons system is that from the very first day we deployed Patriot, we set up on a very good growth path to make future improvements. This is done two ways: The first is a very successful what we call Engineering Services Program, a fare share program where each nation that owns the Patriot weapons system contributes ideas and funding into what improvements the weapons system should have as threats evolve. And this is been very successful. For example, about every two to three years we have major software build in the Patriot Weapon System. It is called Post Deployment Build (PDB) and we are up now to Post Deployment Build 7, soon to be Post Deployment Build 8 working in conjunction with the United States Army and the global Patriot partners we meet on an annual basis and we decide what software improvement we need to make to the weapons systems.
Similarly, there are hardware improvements that have been made to the Patriot weapons system over its lifetime. Most recently, we signed our contract with the United Arab Emirates in December of 2008. The UAE helped us by contributing up to $400 million of non-reoccurring engineering to make additional improvements to the Patriot Weapons system. And with that contribution and that decision we were able to eliminate all the known obsolescence in the weapons system and insert new and mature technologies into every major end item of equipment. So the Patriot weapons system that's been fielded in the United Arab Emirates today is clearly the latest and greatest state of the art technology around the globe. And because this is now proven technology, each other Patriot partner nation can make the decision to upgrade to configuration 3+ as well. The Patriot weapons system is very versatile and we still have the capability to engage all known air-breathing threats , whether they are fixed wings, rotary wing aircrafts or some of the stressing cruise missiles that were now seen emerging as well as tactical ballistic missiles that pose threats to the region.
We have two types of interceptors the GEM T effector is a blast fragmentation warhead capability that we make at the Raytheon Company and the PAC 3 interceptor [that] uses hit-to-kill technology to actually engage a bullet with a bullet in terms of negating ballistic missile threats.
Q: We previously talked a bit about improvements in your radar systems, what can you tell us about that?
Absolutely, we are very proud of the fact that as we make improvements to every major end item of equipment and when you look at the censor or the Patriot radar itself the latest improvement includes what we call the "Radar Digital Processor (RDP)." And we actually take the radar from analogue to digital and the importance of that is that we can now make future improvement to the Patriot censor via software improvements vs. hardware improvements.
What this RDP does is that it goes in the back of the radar shelter and actually eliminates about 19 racks of electronics and equipment. So we improve the reliability, the maintainability and the availability of the Patriot censor between 20 to 30 percent. We are able to see targets further out, at lower radar cross section; detection rangers and the improvements are significant in contributing to the overall effectiveness of the Patriot weapon system.
Q: How do you compare the Patriot, the new generation of Patriot missiles to the highly-acclaimed Iron Dome deployed recently in Israel in terms of effectiveness?
I do not want to get in a comparison of weapons systems and Iron Dome as I understand it counters a lot of the rockets, artillery and mortar threats. But Patriot clearly has a very versatile capability to negate all known air-breathing and tactical ballistic missiles threats.
Q: Obviously, regional threats in this part of the world are growing and changing rapidly. How confident are you that people using your line of products are safe and secure against these kind of regional threats?
I am very confident because everything we do working with the U.S. Army and our Patriot partners looks at improvements that are needed to ensure we stay ahead of any emerging threats that we are aware of. And to kind of share with you, the U.S. Army shares this confidence because they have officially announced that Patriot will be part of U.S. Army formations to the year 2040 and beyond. So we have another two to three decades of opportunity to improve the Patriot weapons systems even to the next generation.
Q: Of course Patriot missiles have been in the news recently, and there has been a recent shipment that has been deployed to Turkey in the recent months given the escalation in the situation with Syria. What can you tell us about that shipment?
There are Patriot units from three nations participating under a NATO deployment order in Turkey. The governments of the Netherlands, Germany and the U.S. are contributing to that architecture right now. Patriot clearly has a capability to negate Scud class threats that may be fired in that part of the world.