The Patriot is a long-range air defense missile system. Its development commenced in the 1963. It was intended to replace the previous Nike Hercules and Hawk air defense missile systems. Raytheon was the main contractor of the system, while the missile was developed by Martin-Marietta. First tests of this air defense system took place in 1969-1970. The Patriot entered service with the US Army in 1982. Currently the US Army uses over 1 100 Patriot launchers of all variants. This air defense system has been exported to a number of US allies. Currently the Patriot and its upgraded variants are in service with 14 countries. The Patriot was first used in combat during the Persian Gulf War where it recommended itself well.
Initial version of the Patriot used the MIM-104A missile, also known as the Standard. It had a range of about 100 km. The missile was fitted with fragmentation warhead that detonated on direct impact or was set off by proximity fuse. The first version of the Patriot was used exclusively as anti-aircraft weapon. It had no capabilities against ballistic missiles. This capability was introduced in the late 1980s when Patriot received its first major system overhaul.
This air defense system has four missiles per launcher. Missiles are stored and launched from reinforced aluminum canisters at a fixed angle. Launchers are mounted on a two-axle trailers or based on 8×8 high mobility chassis. It is a self-contained unit, that has its own powerplant and fuel. The towed launchers are towed by Oshkosh M983 8×8 tractor truck, or other tractor trucks. The mobile version is based on the MAN KAT 1 8×8 high mobility vehicle. It takes 30 minutes to prepare the system for firing. A battery of launchers and associated support vehicles can change position up to several times a day.
A Patriot battery or fire unit is a basic operating element. Normally it includes a command post, radar, 8 launchers and support vehicles. The battery can engage up to 8 targets simultaneously. If required the battery can operate with up to 16 launchers. Launchers can be located up to 1 km from radar or command post vehicle. In order to establish effective and overlapping defenses batteries are located 30-40 km between each other.
The radar detects fighters at a range of 110-130 km, bombers at a range of 160-190 km, missiles at a range of 85-100 km, warhead of the missile at a range of 60-70 km. The Patriot can also receive firing data from the higher level command posts or airborne early warning aircraft, such as E-3 Sentry.