Another flight trial is scheduled for October
The Army scored a success with its improved Patriot during a missile intercept Thursday morning over the New Mexico desert.
The test involved two Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles against a short-range, full-body aerodynamic theater ballistic missile target.
Army Col. John Vaughn wouldn't reveal exact specifications other than to say the target vehicle was an older Patriot missile that is "highly maneuverable, and that's what we are after." Vaughn manages Patriot as part of the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Office in Huntsville.
"We are looking to go after things that do not behave very well and maneuver," Vaughn said. "Objects that move around" during flight.
The target was destroyed, Vaughn said.
The test is the culmination of months of preparation and involved about 200 Army workers in Huntsville and "hundreds of people across the country with contractors and other" workers, Vaughn said.
Thursday's test demonstrated the system's capability to detect, track, engage and intercept a short-range aerodynamic target, said Bob Hunt, Patriot spokesman at Redstone Arsenal.
Patriot will go through another flight test in October, Vaughn said.
"It will be a variation of the current test, but we will be going after a slightly different threat," he said.
The PAC-3 system was first used in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. It is the newest addition to the Patriot family of missiles.
Patriot shot to international fame with engagements during the first Gulf War more than 14 years ago.
"This missile has gone through significant enhancements since the 1990-1991 Gulf War," Vaughn said. "It's primarily a different type now."
The 1990s missile approached an enemy target and exploded, upsetting the flight path. The new version strikes the enemy missile and destroys it.
The program is managed by the U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space and executed by the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Project Office in Huntsville.