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A Patriot PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor has successfully engaged and intercepted an advanced medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) target, manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced on 28 March 2023.

The test, conducted on 23 March at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, is the first in a series of flight tests to validate software updates that will be deployed across fielded batteries as part of the next Patriot software release.

“Software updates like this improve performance against evolving threats and are critical to ensuring PAC-3 MSE keeps our customers ahead of our adversaries,” Brenda Davidson, vice president of PAC-3 programmes at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, was quoted as saying in a company press release. “We continue to invest in PAC-3 enhancements to enable a robust defensive capability for our customers around the world.”

The launch of a Patriot PAC-3 MSE interceptor. Software updates to the system continually improve its performance against a variety of airborne threats. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

An evolution of the battle-proven PAC-3 Cost Reduction Initiative (CRI), the PAC-3 MSE features a dual-pulse solid rocket motor, providing increased performance in both altitude and range to defend against incoming threats, including tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft. The PAC-3 MSE also has a modified lethality enhancer, more responsive control surfaces, and insensitive munitions improvements.

The PAC-3 family of missiles defend against incoming threats using direct body-to-body contact that delivers exponentially more kinetic energy onto the target than can be achieved with blast-fragmentation mechanisms.

The first US Army unit equipped with PAC-3 MSE occurred in the first quarter of Financial Year (FY) 2016, with the system’s initial operational capability declared in the fourth quarter of that year.

PAC-3 MSE went into full-rate production in the third quarter of FY 2018.

Peter Felstead