By Major Brent L. Davis, Air Defense Artillery Test Division, Fires Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs
Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands – Air Defense Artillery Soldiers from Fort Bliss, Texas fired a PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor at a tactical ballistic missile here, combining 15 months of training and several Patriot software updates.
The operational test of the Patriot Guided Missile System assessed a new design built to engage and intercept any threat aircraft or tactical ballistic missile under all weather conditions.
“This was a challenging mission for the Soldiers of 3-43 ADA, both from a threat perspective and the complications that come with remote launch,” said Lt. Col. Scott McLellan, commander of 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery (ADA), 11th ADA Brigade.
“This was a premier event for the unit and the branch,” he said. “The battalion put the best operators and team against this event because it represents learning, training and operating the most advanced Patriot system and interceptors in the Army.
One captain said Soldiers gained a priceless opportunity to see how the Patriot system stacks up against real-world threats.
“It’s great for Soldiers to accomplish the test mission while gaining valuable system knowledge they wouldn’t get anywhere else,” said Capt. Melvin F. Wagner, tactical director with Headquarters Battery, 3-43 ADA.
The Artillery Soldiers also trained on simulators, but Wagner said simulators are nothing like the real thing.
He said the simulators are “great tools for gunnery training, but these simulators simply don’t provide the data you get from live engagements.”
Folks from the Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, Lower Tier Project Office (PATRIOT), out of Huntsville, Alabama were also on hand for the test.
“The purpose of Missile Flight Test-B is to keep pace with the evolving threats, demonstrate Patriot’s end-to-end capability against medium range ballistic missiles, complete qualification of the Post Deployment Build - 8 (PDB-8) software/hardware, demonstrate PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor hit-to-kill capability, and capitalize on the system’s ability to remote launch,” explained Col. Frank Lozano, Lower Tier Project Office project manager.
The U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Fires Test Directorate (FTD), Air Defense Artillery Test Division (ADATD) from Fort Sill, Oklahoma worked alongside Soldiers from 3-43 ADA to complete the five-phase operational test culminating with the MFT-B.
The Reagan Test Site in the middle of the Pacific Ocean offered Patriot the opportunity to test in an operationally realistic environment against medium range targets, according to Col. Dennis Smith, FTD director.
“At the end of the yearlong test, the 3-43 ADA Battalion will be amongst the best-trained and capable Patriot battalions in the Army,” Smith said. “They have clearly taken advantage of this test, leveraging it as a training opportunity.
“Their understanding of the new software, hardware and value added feedback to the program manager will lend greatly to future program success.”
Operational tests harvest Soldier feedback to improve, evaluate and field a more capable Patriot System, according to Smith.
“Soldier input has been incorporated into the Patriot System that Soldiers will fight with today and tomorrow,” he said. “The Patriot operational test and evaluation team has assessed and tested the system in a real-world training environment to find out if the current Patriot is effective, survivable and sustainable on the modern battlefield.”
The U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s mission is about making sure that systems developed are effective in a Soldier’s hands and suitable for the environments in which Soldiers train and fight. Test units and their Soldiers offer their feedback, which influences the future by offering input to improve upon existing and future systems that Soldiers will ultimately use to train and fight with.