Saturday, January 5, 2013

Missile Threats Prompt More Countries to Eye Patriot Interceptors

U.S. troops are filing into Turkey to help the NATO ally with its new supply of advanced Patriot air-defense missiles. It’s likely to be the first of many new markets for the interceptors.
The U.S. military confirmed Friday that U.S. troops have started to arrive at Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey to help the NATO ally operate the two Patriot interceptor batteries it requested to contain the spillover violence from the Syrian civil war. But those missiles are something of a stopgap. Like a number of countries, Turkey wants to step up its air-defense game more permanently.
The latest version of the Patriot, known as the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 or PAC-3, is one of the world’s leading “hit-to-kill” interceptors, designed to target, impact and destroy ballistic missiles and enemy warplanes. Fears of rapidly proliferating missiles are driving demand for the system, which is music to the ears of its manufacturers. “There’s a lot of interest around the globe in the PAC-3 missile for sure,” says Cheryl Amerine, a spokeswoman for Patriot-maker Lockheed Martin.
There might be more interest abroad than in the United States. On Thursday, the Defense Department awarded Lockheed over $755 million for the PAC-3. That’s actually down somewhat from the $921 million haul Lockheed received the year before. (Although it’s still a lot of cash, to be sure, and roughly in line with the $774 million the Pentagon gave the company in 2008 for the system.) Lockheed’s re-upped contract involves some foreign Patriot sales, but it won’t send these new missiles to Turkey; it’ll restock the U.S. arsenal.

But the market for the system is perhaps heaviest overseas. Lockheed’s PAC-3 partner, Raytheon, got another $120 million for supplying the ground equipment for stocks of Patriot-3′s that the U.S. sells to Taiwan. Taiwan is one of four countries that the U.S. government currently clears for Patriot sales, alongside Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. More are waiting in the pipeline.
Like Turkey, for instance. The Turks don’t want to have to keep coming to NATO to request Patriot batteries when their volatile neighbors lob missiles and launch warplanes near their borders: They’ve begun shopping for their own. Lockheed and Raytheon formed a corporate partnership to bid on Turkey’s desired next-gen air defense system, and Amerine expects Ankara to decide if it’ll buy Patriots from the LockMart-Raytheon team by the middle of 2013.

Turkey isn’t the only country seeking to up its air-defense game. Last year, Kuwait inked a $4.2 billion deal for 60 Patriots to defend against Iran’s missile arsenal. In November, the Pentagon notified Congress that Qatar is offering $10 billion for the same system, in line with its recent emergence as a military leader in the Middle East.
Expect demand for the Patriots to increase alongside the production and proliferation of cheap missiles from places like China and especially Iran. Turkey and other countries seeking the interceptors to stop them don’t want to keep relying on quick influxes of U.S. troops forever.

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