Why the Patriot Missile Might Fail America's Military

U.S. soldiers stand near the launcher of a Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) system during a demonstration at a South Korean airforce base in Suwon, about 46 km (28.7 miles) south of Seoul September 18, 2003. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

America risks entering into a war with the mistaken belief that it has a shield against the enemy’s missiles when all it has is a sieve.

Further analysis will be needed to determine exactly what happened this time. But complicating this autopsy will be who does the analysis. In 1991, most of the after-action analysis was done by officers from the Patriot Program office and officials from Raytheon, the prime contractor for Patriot. Until there is independent evaluation of the effectiveness on our missile defense systems, and until these systems are rigorously tested in real world operating conditions, we can not have any confidence that the systems will perform as advertised.

This is not just a good government issue. American soldiers lives could be unnecessarily endangered if they are deployed in future conflicts based on inaccurate assessments of our missile-defense capabilities. They may depend on Patriot battalions destroying almost all of the enemy missiles, as now claimed, when the actual defensive capabilities may mean that the battalions could actually miss almost all of the threatening missiles.

If such systems are promised to defend large areas or even nations, then we risk entering into war in the mistaken belief that we have a shield against the enemy’s missiles when all we have is a sieve.

Joe Cirincione is president of Ploughshares Fund.

Image: U.S. soldiers stand near the launcher of a Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) system during a demonstration at a South Korean
airforce base in Suwon, about 46 km (28.7 miles) south of Seoul September 18, 2003. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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