New U.S. Patriots down Iraqi rockets in first combat use

Friday, March 21, 2003

For the first time, the U.S. Army has employed the new Patriot PAC-3 missile defense to intercept Iraqi missiles and rockets.

The U.S. 101st Airborne Division fired PAC-3 interceptors to protect U.S. Army positions in an Iraqi missile and rocket attack on northern Kuwait. At least six rockets and missiles were fired, Middle East Newsline reported.

U.S. officials said the PAC-3 intercepted two of the Iraqi projectiles. The missiles were identified as the short-range Al Samoud.

Army commanders determined that the PAC-3 successfully protected military positions and troops. They said the improved Patriot defense system immediately detected the launch and intercepted the Iraqi rockets and missiles without damage by debris to U.S. positions.

"We had two legitimate attacks today, and both were foiled by the Patriot missile batteries," Maj. Trey Cate, public affairs officer for the 101st. Airborne Division, said.

At least one PAC-3 battery has been deployed in Kuwait. Defense Department officials had expressed reservations over the decision to station the PAC-3 system, which still required further testing. The Pentagon has awarded Lockheed Martin a series of contracts to accelerate production and delivery of the PAC-3.

Officials said the PAC-3 destroyed an Iraqi Ababil-100 missile heading toward Camp Thunder in northern Kuwait. They said three interceptors were fired -- one PAC-3 interceptor malfunctioned, the other missed the Ababil and the third destroyed the Iraqi missile.

Later, the PAC-3 destroyed a second Iraqi missile. Officials said this missile was headed for Kuwait City and was identified as an Al Samoud. None of the Iraqi missiles contained biological or chemical warheads.

[A Kuwaiti military spokesman said Iraq fired a Scud-based missile as well as a Chinese missile on Thursday. The spokesman said the missiles were intercepted without damage or injuries.]

Later, Western diplomatic sources asserted that the PAC-3 system did not intercept Iraqi missiles. They said interceptors destroyed Iraqi rockets with a range of 90 kilometers.

The rockets were not identified. But the description of the rockets matched that of Iraq's Laith-90 strategic rocket. The Laith-90, an extended-range version of the Soviet-origin Frog-7, has a range of 90 kilometers with a conventional payload of 450 kilograms.

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