WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Taiwan, Israel, Spain, Greece, Germany and Saudi Arabia are discussing upgrading their U.S.-supplied Patriot air and missile defenses with improved multimillion-dollar missiles to counter perceived threats, Lockheed Martin Corp said on Thursday.
The other two Patriot-fielding countries, Japan and the Netherlands, already have begun buying Lockheed’s updated Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile.
“All of those countries have been in discussions with both (the) U.S. government and with Lockheed Martin about paths forward to upgrade to this technology,” Dennis Cavin, a vice president at Lockheed’s Missiles and Fire Control business unit, told reporters at a company briefing on missile defense.
Lockheed, the Pentagon’s No. 1 supplier by sales, is also in talks with another, unspecified, European country about a possible Patriot sale, Cavin said.
New sales of the PAC-3 missile could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Lockheed.
Lockheed said on March 19 it received a $376 million U.S. Army contact for production of 112 PAC-3 missiles, launcher modification kits, spares and other equipment.
The PAC-3 missile alone costs about $3 million, said Daniel O’Boyle, spokesman for the army’s Patriot project office.
Raytheon Co. is the system integrator and builds its ground-based radar.
The PAC-3 missile is designed to destroy a target by slamming into it, a technology known as “hit-to-kill.”
“You just go look at what our adversaries are talking about,” Cavin said. “You have to go to hit-to-kill technology” to defeat such threats as chemical and biological warheads.
Patriot defends against enemy aircraft, tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. The PAC-3 missile boosts firepower since 16 of them may be loaded on a Patriot launcher, compared with four, older-generation PAC-2 missiles.
Raytheon predicted in January a spike in Patriot sales amid concerns over the growing might of Iran and North Korea, branded by President Bush as part of an “Axis of Evil” with pre-war Iraq.
“We are working with Taiwan and Saudi Arabia, and talking to Israel and Kuwait, about Patriot system upgrades,” Joseph Garrett, a vice president of Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems business unit, told Reuters.
In comments relayed by a spokesman, he said Japan’s upgrade was about half complete, and Raytheon was dealing with South Korea and and Turkey on possible future Patriot programs.
Lockheed’s Cavin said he was leaving on Friday for Japan for a scheduled program review with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., which builds components for PAC-3 missiles sold to Japan.
He said he expected Tokyo to seek information about the state-of-art PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) model, designed to extend the PAC-3’s range and altitude.
So far, the U.S. government has authorized sale of the PAC-3 MSE model only to Germany and Italy.
The first flight test involving a Standard 3 missile interceptor fired from a Japanese Aegis-class destroyer will take place off the Hawaiian island of Kauai later this year, said Christopher Myers of Lockheed’s Maritime Systems unit.
Lockheed won a $33 million contract last year to modify the Japanese destroyer Kongo to carry out sea-based missile defense, the first of four Japanese destroyers due to be equipped with such capabilities.