A German-modified Patriot M903 launcher successfully launched a Lockheed Martin PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor in a flight test on 11 May 2023.

The German Air Force conducted its operational test 3 flight test against a virtual ballistic missile target to prove the compatibility between PAC-3 MSE and the German-modified M903 launching station.

MBDA Deutschland partnered with Lockheed Martin to perform the modifications of the launcher to enable the integration of the PAC-3 MSE missile. The test was a vital final step before Lockheed Martin delivers the first shipment of PAC-3 MSEs to Germany.

Lockheed Martin Vice President of Central and East Europe Dennis Goege commented: “Delivering PAC-3 MSE to Germany will enhance German air defense capabilities and increase lethality against evolving threats. The recent flight test proves that PAC-3 MSE is ready for deployment in Germany.”

Lockheed Martin’s website claims that “[w]e’re leveraging our demonstrated multi-domain expertise to connect any sensor with any shooter across the services to maximise flexibility”. The partnership between MBDA and Lockheed demonstrates the German Bundeswehr’s desire to integrate a missile that is being rapidly produced in the past year.

PAC-3 missile integration

Toward the end of last year, Lockheed Martin established a new facility in Arkansas for the increased production of PAC-3 missiles.

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At the time, in October 2022, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) stated it had steadily increased production numbers of PAC-3 MSE since achieving a full rate production decision in 2018. By October, the OEM stated had produced more than 300 PAC-3 MSEs each year and expecting to increase to 500 PAC-3 MSEs.

The US and German governments reached an agreement in 2019 for the procurement of PAC-3 MSEs. Germany already employed the PAC-3 Cost Reduction Initiative (CRI) interceptor in their air defence arsenal.

Missile competition

The induction of the Patriot air defence system into the German Bundeswehr indicates the increasingly standardised use of the air defence system.

However, integration has become a buzzword for all defence organisations and end-users, which leads us to believe that the standard, versatile system could still be adpated to other missiles despite the growing production of Pac-3 MSE.

Most recently, MBDA has worked to extend the use of its own Storm Shadow/SCALP missile for the Hellenic armed forces with mid-life refurbishments on 11 May. Not long before this, Poland agreed to receive CAMMs from MBDA UK in a £1.9bn deal, the organisation’s largest contract to date.

It is reasonable to believe the joint integration modifications conducted by MBDA Deutschland and the Patriot system’s OEM will enable MBDA missiles.