By Sharon Watkins Lang, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Command HistorianDecember 21, 2017
Initially designed as an anti-aircraft interceptor, the Patriot air defense system had been modified to achieve a limited anti-ballistic missile capability under the Patriot Advanced Capability 1 program in the mid-1980s.
During the Gulf War, further improvements were made to the system creating the Patriot Advanced Capability 2, or PAC-2. Following the successful intercept of the Iraqi Scud missiles during the first Gulf War, there was an initiative to expedite the upgrades to the Patriot system to counter tactical ballistic missiles and air breathing targets.
In conjunction with the conditional fielding decision granted by the Materiel Release Board on Dec. 21, 1995, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Brigade became the first unit equipped with the Patriot Advanced Capability 3, or PAC-3, Configuration 1 hardware and software. The move toward the next generation Patriot had begun.
Five months later, on May 15, 1996, full release was approved. In total, seven American battalions and three foreign partner equivalents would be fielded at this stage.
The question remains, however, what is meant by Configuration 1? Is this the first introduction of the new PAC-3 interceptor, the former Extended Range Interceptor, or ERINT, developed by the U.S. Army Strategic Defense Command, which had been identified as the new interceptor in the summer of 1994?
In fact, it is not. The ERINT/PAC-3 interceptor does not appear until the deployment of the Configuration 3.
Although described as a major growth program, the Configuration 1 did not address the interceptor itself. Instead, this system upgrade focused more upon the electronics and the optics for the PAC-2, with its and the MIM-104D missiles equipped with explosive warheads which were detonated near their targets with proximity fuses.
Specifically the Configuration 1 upgrade involved the expanded weapons control computers, optical disk drives, embedded data recorders, the input/output fiber optic translator, a new Pulse Doppler processor and the release of the Mini-Sweep Tactical Software.
The new processor improved radar performance while the other upgrades addressed issues in the Engagement Control Station and the Information coordination center affecting weapons control, computer throughput, memory and reliability.