WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin will test this spring whether it can successfully integrate the latest and most capable variant of the U.S. Army’s Patriot missile with the U.S. Navy’s Aegis combat system.
By the end of the year, Lockheed will have spent about $100 million on the completion effort so far, according to Tom Copeman, vice president of naval systems in the company’s missile and fire control division.
“The U.S. Navy has capability and capacity gaps against advanced threats at sea,” Copman told Defense News in a Jan. 18 interview. The Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement missile is “a combat-proven weapon against advanced threats, against hypersonic [weapons].”
Ability is “definitely complementary to what [the Navy has] today,” Shireen Melvin, director of integrated battle management in the company’s rotary and mission systems business, said in the same interview.
Lockheed in 2017 decided to pursue an upgraded capability that would allow it to avoid a typically lengthy and expensive missile development program, Copeman said.
The PAC-3 MSE, As the upgraded missile is known, it already has a hot production line in Camden, Arkansas, currently cranking out 550 missiles a year. The missile is typically launched by the US military’s Patriot air and missile defense system. Lockheed plans to increase its production numbers as it replenishes the stockpile of missiles sent to Ukraine since Russia invaded nearly two years ago.
The Missile Defense Agency provided the company with a small amount of early funding to integrate the PAC-3 MSE into its core Aegis Ashore capability. Aegis Ashore provides missile defense capability from an elevated deck ashore. There is one operational Aegis Ashore in Romania and another in Poland that has not yet reached full operational capability.
That effort did not include a live-fire test, but rather a hardware test in the loop in the fall of 2022 using Army launchers instead of Navy platforms at the Pacific Missile Range Facility.
Lockheed then invested internally to integrate the PAC-3 MSE to be fired from the Aegis ships.
In the summer of 2023, Lockheed demonstrated that it could integrate PAC-3 MSE missiles with the Aegis SPY-1 radar, an integrated air and missile defense sensor, on Aegis-capable ships. There are nearly 100 SPY-1 radars on Aegis cruisers and destroyers.
The spring live-fire test will use a ground-launched vertical launch system rather than one on board Aegis ships, but is intended to demonstrate integration with the entire Aegis combat system, according to Copeman.
If the test is successful, he added, the company hopes the Navy or Defense Department will conduct further tests that could lead to an initial operational capability on a ship. “So far, this has not been funded by the Department of Defense,” Copeman said.
Lockheed has also been involved in efforts with the Missile Defense Agency in recent years to integrate the Patriot air and missile system and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, also manufactured by the company.
In early 2022, MDA successfully fired a PAC-3 MSE missile from a THAAD system in a test at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, in an effort to rapidly augment the integrated capability in response to an urgent operational request in India -Peaceful area.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist who covers land warfare for Defense News. He has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.
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