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MIM-104 Patriot

The MIM-104 Patriot is a US medium-range surface-to-air missile system manufactured by the Raytheon Company. Conceived in the 1960s and in development from 1976 for anti-aircraft use, it was adapted from 1988 (following its deployment in 1984), for a more demanding anti-ballistic missile role as PAC (Patriot Advanced Capability). The weapon became well-known after its use in the Gulf War.

The Patriot system is built around a combined transporter-launcher carrying 32 missiles. The missiles are carried in batches of four in a M-901 container; transport is provided by a M-860 semi-trailer. Together with the missiles a separate trailer transports the MSQ-104 engagement control station.

The missile itself is semi-active radar-homing (SARH), 5.31 meters-long, weighing 900 kg and powered by a solid-propellant rocket motor at speeds up to Mach 5. It is armed with a 91 kg blast-fragmentation warhead with a proximity fuse. Effective range is around 70 km.

During the Persian Gulf War of January to February 1991, U.S. Patriot batteries were deployed in Saudi Arabia and in Israel. The success of the Patriot in the Persian Gulf War was psychological, as was the threat of Scud missiles with only high-explosive warheads. The Israeli and Saudi publics felt less vulnerable to the Iraqi Scud-class missiles launched against them. When the Iraqi missiles did find targets the results were catastrophic, as when a missile hit a barracks in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 soldiers from a U.S. quartermaster unit. In Israel itself, two people were killed and several hundred were injured.

On April 7, 1992 Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Reuven Pedatzur of Tel Aviv University testified before a House Committee stating that, by their independent analyses, the Patriot system had a success rate of below ten percent, and perhaps even a zero success rate. This was caused by the targeting software of the Patriot, which aimed the missile at the center-of-mass of the target, behind the warhead and also partly because the Scud missles were so poorly built that they had an extremely erratic flight path and thus were very difficult to intercept; the Scud also often broke apart before impact, making it a more difficult target. In fact there was a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary that quotes the former Israeli Defense Minister that the Israeli government was so dissatisfied with the performance of the missile defence that they were preparing their own military retaliation on Iraq regardless of US objections. That response was cancelled only with the cease fire with Iraq. Recent upgrades of the Patriot have supposedly addressed this problem, but critics have noted that there has been no significant testing.

In 2002, Israel currently uses the Patriot as part of a two-tier antiballistic missile defense system, with the Arrow missile in the role of high-altitude interceptor and the Patriot for point defense. Patriots are deployed around Israel's nuclear reactor and nuclear weapons assembly point at Dimona.

The PAC-3 missile is smaller than the PAC-2 missile and is more accurate. During the Iraq war of 2003, Patriot batteries succeeded in shooting down several Iraqi missiles.