St. Petersburg Times
Online: Iraq

Shooting missiles from the sky

The Patriot missile was revamped after questions arose about its effectiveness after the 1991 Gulf War. The missile from that war, the PAC-2, is still being used but is augmented by the new PAC-3.

A “blast fragmentation” missile. Destroys targets by exploding near them. Designed for use against planes, less effective against missiles.

A “hit-kill” missile. Contains no explosives. Destroys target by piercing warhead at high speed.


1. Radar Set
Sweeps the sky to detect targets and identify them. It is computer operated by remote. Tracks and guides missile after launch. The system can track more than 100 targets.

art2. Engagement Control Center
The only manned station in the unit, its operator views a screen showing sector coverage and issues commands for launcher pointing and missile firing. It also communicates with headquarters.

3. Launcher
Can be remotely operated by microwave or fiber optics data link. Aiming before launch is not necessary. A single fire unit can have up to eight launchers. Each launcher can fire four PAC-2 Patriot missiles or 16 PAC-3 Patriot missiles.

4. Missile
The missile , while beaming data back to the Radar Set, is tracked by the radar and guided to target with help from computers in the Control Station and its own sensors.


Sources: Raytheon, Lockheed Martin Corp., Periscope, Army Technology, AP
Times art: Steve Madden

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