The PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) or the Patriot Missile System has completed its validation phases and entered full-scale production. Last week, Lockheed Martin, the makers of the PAC MSE, was awarded a $944m- (£722.4m) contract by the Pentagon.
Testing of the missile was completed in November at the White Sands Missile Range where the missile took down multiple targets, the War Zone reports. The tests also reportedly involved the Cost Reduction Initiative (CRI) variant of the Patriot. This initiative was intended to reduce the cost per shot of the missile system.
Apart from the US military, it is expected that several allies will also purchase the latest variants of the Patriot. Several countries are believed to have already fielded Patriot systems around the world as part of their missile defence.
A Lockheed release said: "The PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) is an evolution of the battle-proven PAC-3 Missile...The enhancements ensure the PAC-3 Missile Segment of the Patriot Air Defence System (PADS) is capable of engaging new and evolving threats. The hit-to-kill PAC-3 Missile is the world's most advanced, and capable theater air defense missile and defender against the entire threat to the Patriot Air Defense System: Tactical Ballistic Missiles (TBMs) carrying weapons of mass destruction, evolving cruise missiles and aircraft."
The missile's actual altitude, range and defensive capabilities are classified, but are expected to be a major upgrade to the current Patriot system. Lockheed says it is up to four times better. Upgrades to the system have improved the missile's engines, software, control system and thermal protection, among other things.
The new Patriot will also reportedly serve as a baseline for the Medium Extended Air Defence System (MEADS) initiative.
PADS is expected to sell well to allies and armies around the world. One of the reasons for this is because there are new and emerging threats in the form of ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction designed and built by both state and non-state actors. The Russian Iskander was quoted as one of those threats - it is a short-range ballistic missile that can be used to deliver nuclear warheads.
North Korea is also busy building its own nuclear arsenal. They have anywhere between nine and 20 nuclear weapons and it is reported that they have the material to make up to 60. Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have also come under the radar as being a force that is increasingly using long-range ballistic missiles and American allies in these regions will be looking for a way to defend themselves.
According to the report, the idea of a missile- based shield around a country is not realistic and that having a defensive system like the Patriot is touted more as a terminal defence strategy. The Patriot makes up what the report calls the lower tier of a "layered ballistic missile defence system".