As the U.S. Army prepares to field its first battery of new air-defense
missiles—the PAC-3—service officials are hard-pressed
to figure out what to do about a $500 million funding shortfall
in the program and to decide how to proceed with proposed upgrades
to its current system, the PAC-2.
Patriot Advanced Capability-2 is a corps-level air-defense system
that has been used for nearly two decades to protect troops against
enemy aircraft and tactical ballistic missiles.
The PAC-3 comes with an entirely new missile, which is much smaller
than PAC-2’s and relies on hit-to-kill technology to defeat
targets. PAC-3 currently is in low-rate production. The Army plans
to buy 1,130 missiles at a unit cost of about $2 million.
The installation of the first battery of 16 missiles will be a
morale boost for the Army, given the delays and budget overruns
experienced in the program in recent years. The Ballistic Missile
Defense Organization has been responsible for PAC-3 development
so far, but the plan now is to turn over the program to the Army,
because the technology is mature. BMDO allocated $784 million for
PAC-3 in fiscal 2002. The Army will get 72 missiles in 2002.
The service, however, is not convinced that it has enough money
to buy back the program from BMDO, said Lt. Gen. Joseph M. Cosumano
Jr., head of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command. “We
have 10 Patriot battalions. We want to make sure we have enough
money to equip all those battalions,” he told National Defense
during a conference in Huntsville, Ala. “I support taking
the program back from BMDO if the dollars are provided,” he
“Our initial investigation shows that only seven of the 10
battalions have enough dollars to convert PAC-2 to PAC-3,”
said Cosumano. That equates to a funding shortage of $500 million,
Cosumano’s deputy for acquisition, Brig. Gen. (P) John M.
Urias, told National Defense that his office “is watching
the transition of the PAC-3 program” to ensure BMDO provides
A senior Army budget official who asked to not be quoted by name
said the funding shortage in PAC-3 will not “begin to hurt”
until 2005. He acknowledged that the program has “serious
financial problems” in the out-years.
The Army would like to convert all 10 Patriot battalions to PAC-3,
said Cosumano. That is a reversal from the Army’s position
a few years ago, when it was considering converting seven out of
the 10 battalions and use the other three to work with a follow-on
to Patriot system, the Medium Extended Air-Defense System. Delays
in the Meads program prompted the Army to reconsider that decision.
“We are not sure when we are going to get Meads. It keeps
getting pushed off,” Cosumano said. “It has some technical
For that reason, he said, the Army opted to “convert all
10 battalions to PAC-3, as a hedge, in case Meads is not ready by
Meads still is in the early stages of design by a multi-national
industrial team of U.S., German and Italian firms. The program received
$73 million in fiscal 2002. The Army wants Meads to be C-130 transportable.
It will be used by U.S. and NATO forces to defend against cruise
missiles, aircraft and tactical ballistic missiles. The missile
will be same PAC-3 weapon used in Patriot.
Army officials have said repeatedly that Meads is the system of
choice for the future force, because it will be mobile and easier
to deploy than the bulky Patriot. Meanwhile, Patriot’s prime
contractor, Raytheon Electronic Systems, is proposing that the Army
fund a so-called Patriot Light system, which the company claims
can make Patriot C-130 transportable. That proposal has been presented
to the Army, but the service has not agreed to support it.
Army and industry sources interviewed for this story denied that
there is a Patriot-vs.-Meads competition. But, given that military
budgets often are a zero-sum game, an unofficial competition appears
to be under way already. If the Army funded Patriot Light, it is
likely that the dollars would come out of Meads. Such a competition
would pit Raytheon against its archrival Lockheed Martin Corp.,
which owns 50 percent of Meads International. The other shareholders
are Alenia Marconi, of Italy, the European Aeronautic Defense and
Space (EADS) and LFK, of Germany. Lockheed also is the prime contractor
for the PAC-3 missile. “You get into a company rivalry,”
said Cosumano. “But competition is good.”
The Army budget official said that funding for Meads is “OK
on the front end, but not on the back end.” Like PAC-3, Meads
will run into significant budget problems by 2005, he said.
The issue of Patriot vs. Meads is “about timing,” said
Cosumano. He explained that, regardless of what upgrades are done
to Patriot, the system cannot be improved to the extent that it
could replace Meads. The Army, he said, needs to ensure that Patriot
can keep operating for 25 more years, but it also should fund Meads
for the future force, beyond 2025. “We have gone, technologically,
as far as we can go with Patriot capabilities.”
The top priority for Patriot, he said, is to make it more deployable.
“We have a smaller missile. But we still have a very large
launcher. Our control vans are still oversized,” Cosumano
said. “There is not a lot we can do about the radar to make
The most desired attributes that the Army wants from Meads are
a radar with 360-degree coverage and a distributed software command-and-control
architecture that would allow it to interact with other missile-defense
systems in the theater, he said. “That means you can plug
and play radars with various launchers as you move throughout the
Meads, he added, has to weigh less than 20 tons, to move with the
maneuver force. “Patriot cannot do that. It has to be taken
down when it’s moved so you don’t have any coverage.”
Patriot’s radar has 90-degree sector coverage. “It could
be defeated from someone coming behind the radar,” said Cosumano.
“You can add more units to cover the back, but that takes
more resources.” A PAC-2 system, including the radar, weighs
about 140,000 pounds, he said. A C-130 can carry loads up to about
In Desert Storm, he said, “we knew we only had a threat from
one direction, so we placed the radar in the direction where we
thought the Iraqi attacks would come from. ... When we started moving,
on the attack, it became very difficult for us. Patriot was never
designed to be mobile.”
Meads will take 10 years to develop, at least, he said. For that
reason, “we will continue to investigate ways to make Patriot
Raytheon officials said the company spent $6 million to develop
a Patriot Light concept. The command-and-control equipment and communications
systems would be moved from three 5-ton trucks to two Humvees. A
Patriot Light was tested in June during the annual Roving Sands
air and missile defense exercise.
Walter Putis, Raytheon vice president, told reporters that if the
Army decides that it wants the Patriot Light, it would need $75
million for development and testing, in addition to $280 million
to modernize the radar. Even though the radar would be lighter than
the PAC-2’s, it still would not provide 360-degree coverage.
With Patriot, said Putis, “Every day, you fight the obsolescence
issue, because the system was built with ‘60s, ‘70s,
and ‘80s technology.” Raytheon currently is under contract
to perform various upgrades to extend the operational life of Patriot
When asked about the Patriot Light proposal, Cosumano said he had
been briefed on it, but that it was unclear whether the Army would
fund the program.
David L. Hartman, Raytheon’s manager of theater missile-defense
programs, said the company is proposing a 40,500-pound radar for
Patriot that would fit in a C-130. It would take three years to
develop the downsized radar, he said in an interview.
“Our program, we believe, is not in competition with Meads,”
said Hartman. “We understand that the Army has to make some
decisions based on the dollars that they have.”
Even though the Patriot Light system would not provide 360-degree
coverage, Hartman said the Army still could get wide coverage, with
the use of its aerostat-based sensor platform, called JLENS. “Elevated
sensors give you far greater range and ability to find small targets
in clutter than a ground-based radar,” Hartman said.
Meads officials conceded that the radar design is the highest-risk
technology in the program. “We are sharing radar technology
from both sides of the Atlantic,” said Meads President Joel
Strickland. The consortium is expected to complete a preliminary
design in about two years.
An Army two-star general who manages acquisition programs at the
Pentagon predicted that the Army will not have enough money to fund
both PAC-3 and Meads. During a briefing to industry executives in
Arlington, Va., this official said, “I think you’ll
see some systems merge.” For example, he said, the Army should
consider consolidating the Patriot and Meads radar programs, as
well as the launchers.“We need to neck this down,” he