Army Replaces Hundreds of Patriot Missiles
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 24, 2000, Mar. 24, 2000 The U.S. Army has finished replacing hundreds of Patriot missiles in Southwest Asia and Korea, officials announced March 23.
Lt. Gen. Paul Kern, military deputy to assistant secretary of the Army for research, development and acquisition, said the Army's testing program revealed problems with "hot" PAC-2 missiles -- those missiles powered up and ready to go at a moment's notice. He said the problems discovered probably would not have affected the missiles had crews had to fire them. At no time, he said, were Patriot technicians in danger.
Kern said regional commanders decide how long and how many missiles would be in a hot status. The missiles were warrantied for six months in the hot status but they could be kept that way for years.
He said the Army is working with Patriot builder Raytheon Inc. to find out why these problems are happening. One problem, he said, dealt with a radio frequency downlink black box. He said the Army can replace the black box and the missile will work well. But all involved really want to find the root cause of the problems.
Kern would not say how many missiles were replaced or estimate the cost of the entire process. He said parts for fixing the PAC-2 missiles would probably cost $80,000 to $100,000. This does not include labor. If a redesign is needed then this will cost more, he said.
The Army brings back 50 to 70 Patriot missiles per year for extended testing at Red River Army Depot, Texas, Kern said. It was there defects started appearing. "Keep in mind that the newest [PAC-2] missile is three years old and the rest up to 10," he said at a Pentagon news conference.
The Army secretly started replacing the missiles about March 13. On March 21, DoD notified allied countries that also field the missile system of the problems the Army uncovered. The countries are Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Israel.
Kern said all involved are in "a full-court press, just like we were during Operation Desert Storm" to find out what is wrong.
The PAC-2 will be replaced with the Patriot Configuration 3. The PAC-3 has entered limited production.
The Patriot anti-aircraft missile system gained fame during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 after the Army and Raytheon redesigned it to counter ballistic missiles. Patriot units protected allied troops and Saudi Arabian and Israeli population centers from Iraqi Scud missiles.