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Expensive and Ineffective: Why US Patriot Systems Failed to Protect Saudi Arabia

2019-09-19T21:35:23.217Z

The American Patriot complexes in Saudi Arabia missed dozens of drones and cruise missiles that attacked the facilities of the Saudi Aramco oil company, because they do not meet the declared characteristics, and the effectiveness of their fight against small targets is low. This was stated by a senior source in the Russian Ministry of Defense. Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo justified the failure of Patriot by saying that "sometimes air defense systems around the world show a contradictory result." In turn, experts note that the shortcomings of American systems have long been known, but the US allies are still forced to take them into service.


The US air defense group near the borders of Saudi Arabia, as well as US missile defense systems that are in the arsenal of the kingdom itself, could not prevent attacks on the facilities of the Saudi Aramco oil company due to the low efficiency of the Patriot systems. This was stated by a senior source in the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Earlier, the head of the US State Department, Mike Pompeo, commented on the work of Saudi missile defense systems equipped with American Patriot systems, saying that "all air defense systems around the world always work with varying degrees of success."

A source in the Russian Ministry of Defense called such statements untenable and recalled the extremely high density of missile defense systems covering the airspace of Saudi Arabia.

According to the agency, thanks to the United States in the kingdom, especially in its northern part, in recent years a powerful air defense system has been deployed in the region, which has a continuous radar field. The source added that the northern border of Saudi Arabia is now covered by 88 launchers of American Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems. Of these, 36 have a modification of PAC-2, another 52 - the latest PAC-3.

“In addition, right now in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia there are three more U.S. Navy destroyers equipped with the AEGIS missile defense system and armed with 100 SM-2 missiles. The question arises, how could such a really powerful air defense system miss dozens of drones and cruise missiles? There can be only one reason: the Patriot and AEGIS advertised by the Americans do not meet the declared characteristics - they have low efficiency in combating small-sized air targets and cruise missiles, ”the source said.

He added that these systems are simply not ready to repel the enemy’s massive use of air attack in a real combat situation.

System errors of the Patriot air defense system, which were corrected on paper rather than in practice, were noticed during the conflict in the Persian Gulf, military expert Alexei Leonkov explained in an interview with RT.

“In addition, it subsequently became clear that the range of vision and target detection is directly related to the AWACS complex. If it is not, then the Patriot in its characteristics approaches the Buk-M2. The United States, trying to inflate an anti-Iranian company out of this story, shot itself in the foot, because in reality it turned out that their complex was completely useless, ”says Leonkov.

In a conversation with RT, a military expert, retired colonel Viktor Litovkin, stated that Patriot was an “unsuccessful complex,” which the Americans continue to advertise and impose on certain countries, as was the case with Turkey.

“It is strange to hear and see when a high-tech and highly intelligent American military-industrial complex is not able to make an air defense system that would be even a little closer to Russian systems. And this despite the fact that the Americans conducted reconnaissance, bought the S-300 from the countries of Eastern Europe and examined it, ”Litovkin recalled.

Gift from Yemen

Recall, on September 14, Saudi Aramco's oil refineries in eastern Saudi Arabia were attacked by drones, and, presumably, cruise missiles. As a result, the operation of the facilities was stopped, which led to a decrease in oil production in the kingdom by 5.7 million barrels per day - that is, production was halved.

Almost immediately after the attack, Western publications noticed that not one of the air targets attacking the factories was intercepted by Patriot systems, which are widely used in Saudi Arabia.

  • US Patriot Missile Defense System
  • Reuters
  • © Inquam Photos / Ovidiu Micsik

“What surprises me is where did the American missile defense system go? This situation is seriously damaging the US’s reputation and its defensive armaments, ”Bloomerg quoted Fawaz Gerges as a professor of international affairs at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

However, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged not to judge American complexes strictly.

“Even some of the best designs in the world do not always stop the threat. We strive to use the infrastructure and resources in such a way that such attacks are less successful, which, apparently, was given, ”he said.

The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Hussite Yemeni rebels, who, since 2014, have been waging an armed struggle against Saudi Arabia and the so-called coalition of Arab states that it leads.

The Hussites are a Shiite movement, so members of the Arab coalition accuse Iran, a Shiite state, of supporting and actually directing the actions of the Hussites.

It is worth noting that earlier the Hussites managed to carry out successful launches on targets in Saudi Arabia. In 2017, kingdom authorities said they were able to intercept a ballistic missile launched from Yemen at Riyadh airport.

However, a group of experts soon published a detailed report in The New York Times, which, based on satellite photo and video materials, concluded that the Yemeni missile had not been intercepted.

According to the head of the expert group, Jeffrey Lewis, although the Hussites did not hit the target, the blow was delivered close enough to her. In this way, it was demonstrated that Hussite missiles are capable of hitting it and circumventing the Saudi defense.

“A kilometer is the allowable range of hits for R-17 Scud missiles. The Hussites nearly razed the airport to the ground, ”the New York Times quoted Lewis as saying.

Missile expert from the Union of Concerned Scientists NGO Laura Grego expressed concern over the fact that the Saudi air defense systems fired five missiles at an approaching shell that failed to intercept.

“Five shots at this shell, and is everything past the target?” This is a shock. Shock, because this system should work, ”she said.

Billions for Raytheon

The Patriot missile defense system was officially adopted in 1982. It consists of a high-performance radar system that can track up to 125 targets and simultaneously point up to six missiles at them. The deployment time of the complex is 25 minutes, and the target detection time is from 8 to 10 seconds. Shooting is conducted by MIM-104 missiles of various modifications or by ERINT missiles.

  • US Patriot Missile Defense System
  • Reuters
  • © Osman Orsal

An improved version of the system, the Patriot PAC-3, is currently being operated and shipped to other countries.

The only manufacturer and seller of Patriot - the American corporation Raytheon - one of the world's largest arms suppliers, which, together with Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is part of the so-called "Big Three" of contractors for the US military-industrial complex.

Patriot was widely used during the first Gulf War, when the United States fought against Iraq. There, Patriot complexes worked against Scud missiles - Soviet P-17 Elbrus ballistic missiles, which were in large numbers in service with the Iraqi army of Saddam Hussein.

In 1992, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Oversight issued a report evaluating the effectiveness of missile defense systems delivered by the Raytheon Corporation to the U.S. Army and its allies.

Among other things, the congressional investigation team found that the first use of Patriot missile systems during the Persian Gulf war "can hardly be called successful, given that less than 9% of missiles launched intercepted their targets."

As follows from the report, "society and congress were misled by the decisive statements of the presidential administration and representatives of Raytheon about their successful use during and after the war."

Despite such a long history of the dubious effectiveness of the Patriot system, Raytheon Corporation continues to earn billions of dollars from its supplies. So, in 2017, the Pentagon signed a series of contracts with Raytheon on Patriot systems for a total of $ 3.8 billion. Quartz, citing state auditors, reported that the purchase of the latest US aircraft iteration of the system - PAC-3 since 2004 cost American taxpayers more than $ 6.5 billion

The fact that Patriot is a weak system has long been known, Viktor Litovkin noted.

“All launchers of the American system are in an inclined position, therefore, in order to protect a target, instead of one launcher, as is the case with S-300, S-400 systems, you need to use 5-6 - it’s very expensive and inefficient, ”said Litovkin.

Nevertheless, Washington often uses Patriot as a political weapon in dialogue with its allies and partners, Alexei Leonkov recalled in an interview with RT.

"For example, Poland has a military annual budget equal to the contract for the purchase of Patriot, of course, there were some manipulations on the part of the US military-political leadership," the expert noted.

Russian analogues

Recall that shortly after the incident with Saudi Aramco targets, Vladimir Putin suggested that Saudi Arabia purchase Russian S-300 or S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems to ensure the security of its territory.

According to Alexei Leonkov, these Russian air defense systems are indeed superior to Patriot in key indicators.

“S-300, S-400 are complexes that are superior to Patriot in range of detection and destruction of targets, in speed of control of anti-aircraft missiles, in maneuverability. In addition, the Russian complexes have a wider target library than Patriot: these are bombers, military command posts, tactical aircraft, parts of ballistic missiles and operational-tactical missile systems. Russian systems have repeatedly proved their effectiveness, and the American system, as it turned out, has confirmation only on paper, ”says Leonkov.

Victor Litovkin noted that despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is negotiating with Russia on the purchase of this or that equipment, it is very dependent on the United States.

“It is not known whether she will be able to get rid of the American dictatorship, because for the United States the kingdom serves as a purse, purchasing from them a lot of useless military equipment that is not able to even repel the attack of the Yemenite Hussites. The reputation of American air defense and missile defense systems has long been lame. This, in theory, should affect world public opinion, but the Americans will continue to force them to buy these types of weapons, despite their nondescript reputation, ”the expert concluded.

Source: russiart

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