Is the Patriot Air Defense System Outdated?

After Israel's switch from the U.S.-made Patriot to its Arrow-3 system, questions have arisen about whether the Patriot is now outdated.
  • Defensemirror.com bureau
  • Thursday, May 9, 2024 @ 08:55 AM
  • 2441
Is the Patriot Air Defense System Outdated?

Patriot air defense system @U.S. DoD

After Israel revealed its decision to decommission its U.S.-made Patriot air defense system and replace with its own Arrow-3 system, questions have arisen as to whether the much-praised Patriot is outdated in its current form.

In February, the Israel Air Force (IAF) announced plans to retire several Patriot batteries, with personnel transitioning to operate the Iron Dome system and Arrow-3 instead.

The Patriot systems were initially employed during the 1991 Gulf War to intercept Scud missiles launched from Iraq towards Israel. Over the subsequent decade the system intercepted about 10 targets, including Syrian fighter jets that breached Israeli airspace in 2014 and 2018. Nonetheless, the system faced challenges, notably failing to intercept various targets during the Gulf War.

During the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip, the Patriot was used sparingly, primarily due to instances of false identifications prompting interceptor launches which could be one of the reasons to retire them permanently.

In 2023, Germany, of the major operators of the Patriot system in Europe, announced plans to buy the Arrow-3 system as also the United States. In September of the same year, Israeli and German officials signed a deal to move forward with the nearly $4 billion purchase.

The Arrow weapon system, which includes the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 interceptors, was jointly developed by Israel and the US to intercept long-range ballistic missiles. The system operated very successfully against the Iranian missile attack on April 14, 2024, according the Israeli Ministry of Defense

Patriot Operators

Currently, the German Air Force operates 11 systems with 88 launchers, with an additional 4 systems and 32 launchers on order. The Royal Jordanian Air Force utilizes three or four Patriot missile batteries acquired from Germany. Kuwait procured PAC-2 and PAC-3 missiles alongside radars and launchers. Similarly, Poland invested significantly in Patriot systems, with a $4.75 billion deal in 2023 covering two Configuration 3+ batteries, incorporating advanced radar and missile components. Qatar, Romania, and the United Arab Emirates also embraced Patriot systems. Of late, Sweden opted for the Patriot over other competitors, procuring four units with 12 launchers. Ukraine has received donations of Patriot batteries and launchers from several allied nations.

Is the Patriot Air Defense System Outdated?
Arrow 3 air defense system @Israel MoD

Patriot Missile System Deployments in Various Regions

Turkey (2013-2015): In 2013, the United States deployed Patriot missile batteries to Turkey as part of NATO's commitment to enhance Turkey's air defense capabilities amid the Syrian Civil War.

Saudi Arabia (2015): In response to increased missile threats from Yemen-based Houthi rebels, Saudi Arabia deployed Patriot missile systems in 2015 to protect key sites and population centers from ballistic missile attacks.

The limitations of the Patriot systems were exposed during the missile and drone attack against Saudi Arabian refinery in 2019 when they failed to detect the incoming projectiles launched by the Houtis of Yemen causing major damage to the oil storage facilities.

South Korea (2015): South Korea maintained Patriot missile deployments near the border with North Korea to defend against potential missile provocations and threats from North Korea.

Germany (2015): Germany has deployed Patriot missile systems across Europe in response to security concerns related to Russia's actions in Ukraine. United Arab Emirates (UAE) (2015): The UAE deployed Patriot missile systems in 2015 to safeguard critical infrastructure from missile attacks.

Israel–Gaza Conflict (2014): During Operation Protective Edge in August 2014, Israeli forces utilized the Patriot system to intercept Hamas UAVs.

Syrian Civil War (2014): In September 2014, Israeli forces used the Patriot system to shoot down a Syrian Air Force Sukhoi Su-24 that had entered the airspace of the Golan Heights, demonstrating its effectiveness in countering potential airspace violations.

Is the Patriot Air Defense System Outdated?
Patriot PAC-2 launcher @Israel Air Force

Yemeni Civil War (2015–present): Since 2015, Saudi and Emirati forces have relied on the Patriot system to defend against Houthi missile attacks in Yemen.

Patriot vs S-500 & Arrow

The Patriot system is recognized for its mobility and flexibility, capable of engaging various threats such as aircraft, drones, and tactical ballistic missiles. Its operational range typically extends up to around 160 kilometers. The system utilizes a variety of interceptor missiles, including the PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability-3) missile, designed to intercept and destroy incoming ballistic missiles and aircraft.

In contrast to other systems like the Russian S-500 and Arrow 3, the Patriot system is optimized for medium-range engagements and provides a vital layer of defense within broader air defense architectures. It operates as part of integrated air defense networks, complementing other systems like THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) for extended coverage against a range of aerial threats.

The S-500 air defense system developed by Russia is engineered to counter a wide array of threats, including hypersonic targets. It features high speed and a range that extends beyond 400 kilometers, made possible by advanced radars and computational systems facilitating real-time data processing and accurate missile guidance. The system's missile arsenal includes the 40N6 for aerodynamic targets and the 77N6 for engaging ballistic missiles in near space. The S-500 can be swiftly deployed via military transport aircraft and operates alongside existing air defense systems like the S-400 and S-300 to provide comprehensive coverage against airborne and aerospace threats.

On the other hand, the Arrow 3 interceptor, part of Israel's Arrow Weapon System (AWS), is specifically designed to intercept longer-range ballistic missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction. It boasts high speed and exo-atmospheric operational capabilities, engaging threats in upper-tier defense scenarios. The Arrow 3 utilizes a two-stage interceptor with a hit-to-kill warhead design and advanced sensors for long-range target acquisition, contributing to its effectiveness in defending against distant and high-speed threats. Its very short reaction time allows for quick response to incoming ballistic missiles.

“If you have Arrow 3, you cover a territory within a radius of 100 km around its positions. The same Patriot covers only 20-25 km. It's better to choose the first one; it's more expensive but more modern, and it requires fewer personnel for maintenance. Compared to the Patriot, which requires a staff of 80-90 people for one battery,” defense expert Valeriy Romanenko, as stated in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

Comparison of the Arrow, Patriot, and S-500 anti-aircraft systems:

System

Range (km)

Maximum Altitude (km)

Targets Engaged Simultaneously

Interception Speed (km/h)

Deployment Time

Arrow

>100

>100

Classified

Classified

Rapid

Patriot

~30

Classified

36 (PAC-3)

8 (PAC-3)

~30 minutes

S-500

Classified

Classified

72

17

Classified

Is the Patriot Air Defense System Outdated?
Arrow-3 Anti Tactical Ballistic Missile @IAI
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