Lockheed-Martin will test its Patriot PAC-3 MSE with the AEGIS system

Lockheed-Martin will carry out a test firing of its Patriot PAC-3 MSE missile this spring, using an infrastructure reproducing the configuration of the AEGIS system on a US Navy destroyer.

In the industrialist's speech, it is a question of filling certain shortcomings of the US Navy in terms of anti-ballistic missile defense in the lower layers, the preferred area of ​​the PAC-3 MSE, as demonstrated in Ukraine. In reality, however, it is mainly a question of shaking up Raytheon in its captive market, by offering an alternative to the SM-6.

In the field of low-layer anti-ballistic missile defense, two American manufacturers are engaged in a merciless standoff to assert themselves on this crucial market, opening the way to the highly sought-after hypersonic anti-missile capabilities.

On the one hand, Lockheed offers its Patriot PAC-3 MSE missile in service with the US Army and ordered by several Western armies. On the other hand, Raytheon is promoting the new SM6, designed to equip American and allied AEGIS destroyers.

In this area, LM seems to be ahead of its competitor. Indeed, the US Navy will carry out test firings of its PAC-3 MSE from an infrastructure reproducing an AEGIS system.

Lockheed-Martin's Patriot PAC-3 MSE

It must be said that the American industrialist did not skimp on the means to try to disrupt this market, which until then had been in the exclusive hands of Raytheon. First, in 2015, by stealing from the latter the juicy market for Patriot PAC-3 missiles, with the PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement, or MSE, chosen by the US Army, then by other users of the Patriot, in place of Raytheon's PAC-3.

Patriot PAC-3 MSE
Lockheed-Martin will test its Patriot PAC-3 MSE with the AEGIS 4 system

Co-developed by the United States, Germany and Italy, the PAC-3 MSE was initially part of the Medium Extended Air Defense System, or MEADS, program, designed to provide 360° defense against aircraft, cruise missiles and short or medium range ballistic missiles.

With an extended range and ceiling, greater maneuverability and a more efficient guidance system, the PAC-3 MSE significantly increases the performance of the MIM-104 Patriot, including against ballistic missiles, and has, in a short time, become , one of the symbols of Ukrainian resistance to Russian aggression, announcing successful interceptions against several combat aircraft, cruise missiles and especially ballistic missiles, including the famous Kinzhal.

PAC-3 MSE vs SM-6: the standoff begins to arm the low-layer anti-ballistic defense of the Aegis system

But Lockheed-Martin's ambitions do not seem to stop at the Patriot systems themselves. Indeed, the industrialist invested nearly $100 million in equity capital to encroach on Raytheon's naval platforms, by first adapting the Patriot PAC-3 MSE to the AEGIS Ashore system deployed in Hawaii, Poland and in Romania.

Build to counter exoatmospheric ballistic threats with the SM-3 missile, the Aegis Ashore system reproduces the system on board US Navy destroyers and cruisers, including an SPY-1 radar and Mk41 VLS launchers. However, if the SM-3 proves effective against ballistic missiles operating above 60 km altitude, it is incapable of intercepting targets sailing below this level.

Raytheon SM-3 US Navy Aegis
The SM-3 is designed for exoatmospheric or high endoatmospheric interceptions, and cannot be used against semi-ballistic trajectory missiles or hypersonic gliders operating under its interception floor.

It is precisely for this reason that Raytheon has been promoting, for several years, its SM-6 missile, designed to complete the interception range between the exoatmospheric SM-3 and the low endoatmospheric SM-2.


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