Patriot progress continues, as modernization outpaces changing threats

Romania will be the first to field the latest version of the air and missile defense system

Romania has reached another milestone in its Patriot program: successful completion earlier this year of what’s called a Post-Deployment Build for the fire unit’s latest, or 8.1, iteration. This testing and evaluation step keeps the NATO member on track for delivery of additional systems in 2022 along with updates to its current unit.

The development is significant, both for Romania and for the 16 other nations that have chosen Patriot for their air and missile defense needs. They, too, will ultimately benefit from the upgrades to the air and missile defense system made by Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a business of Raytheon Technologies.

In a two-part series, we’re exploring this pivotal point in the ongoing evolution of Global Patriot Solutions. In part one, we turn to Patrick Griffin, senior program manager of the Patriot program in Romania for a look at its latest advancement. 

Patrick Griffin is senior program manager of the Patriot program in Romania for Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

Patrick Griffin is senior program manager of the Patriot program in Romania for Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

Q: What is a Post-Deployment Build? And why does it matter?

A: A PDB, as it’s called, refers to the testing and evaluation of incremental hardware and software updates made to the Patriot system since its inception. In this case, the numbers 8.1 refer to deployment of the first incremental enhancements to the eighth major upgrade since Patriot was first fielded. 

These upgrades are necessary because threats evolve and so does the technology developed to counter them. And it’s important to continually upgrade a system like Patriot while preserving the core functionality that’s one of the main reasons why you would acquire Patriot in the first place. 

Our basic design principle here is to keep what works and then build upon and enhance those features so, together, they form the newest baseline configuration of the system. That way we can service and sustain Patriot for many years to come. 

Q: What are the main hardware updates that passed the recent testing and evaluation?

A: The hardware enhancements include changes in the engagement control station, the information control center, in the communication relay group and also the radar set. Notably, they’ll be fielding what's called the digital exciter. 

This replaces a core subsystem within the Patriot radar, changing its configuration into a brand-new digital product that leverages lessons learned from multiple different systems—not just our years and years of Patriot experience, but also modern circuit card manufacturing techniques and design principles that make a system far more reliable, far easier to maintain and provides room to grow and evolve along with threats far more effectively than the analog version does.

The Warfighter Machine Interface

The Warfighter Machine Interface (WMI) (left) replaces the pixelated shapes and complex directory of the previous system (right). The new WMI uses the type of 3D visuals and easy-to-read status pages and search functions that any gamer would find familiar.

Q: On the software side, what’s the biggest change?

A: The major change is to the Warfighter Machine Interface, or WMI. This is the user command-and-control interface for the weapon system operator. Currently, operators see pixelated shapes and a complex directory for searching functions and status pages. We’ve replaced that interface with three-dimensional graphics so they can assess the terrain and the air picture more easily, more quickly and with far less training. 

It’s a more modern approach that’s intuitive for anyone who has any level of exposure to computing or digital equipment to video games or any sort of electronic media. The functionality is more obvious, which is crucial for an operator’s proficiency in the heat of the moment on the battlefield. Essentially, they have functionality at their fingertips when they operate Patriot, which has the best deployable capability that’s ready now.

Q: What makes you so convinced that Patriot is “the best”?

A: The proof is in the unprecedented success of fielded Patriot integrated air and missile defense systems. These systems have conducted more than 250 engagements in different combat situations in many countries around the world. 

Over that time, the system has been constantly upgraded. Remember when Patriot’s capabilities first became world news in the Persian Gulf in the 1990s. We’re constantly building on that proven track record and we're not leaving any lessons behind. It's only getting better.

Next week, we’ll post the second part in our series. It will cover the layered defense strategy for Romania in light of the recent progress in its Patriot program.