As a missile defense equipped member of NATO, Spain has sent one of its Patriot Air and Missile Defense units to Turkey to relieve its NATO partner. The Spanish force will join the two U.S. and two German Patriots Batteries that have been in the region since 2013 to defend and deter ballistic missile threats from Syria. The Spanish are replacing a Dutch Patriot unit, which is scheduled to return to the Netherlands to undergo modifications at the end of January. This rotation allows for NATO countries to share the burden and cost of the joint mission, saving any one single NATO country from being fully responsible.
These deployments, along with deployments throughout the Arabian Gulf, Korea and Japan provide tremendous pressure on a very limited number of U.S. Missile Defense Patriot batteries and soldiers manning these systems, so much so that deployment lengths for missile defenders currently stand at 12 months, from the normal nine-month tours of for the U.S. Army. There is less than a 1 to 2 ratio of Patriot Battalions deployed forward deployed to ones in reserve, where the norm for the Army is a 1 to 3 deployed to reserve ratio.
U.S. Patriot deployments in Turkey draw from U.S. missile defense assets in Germany that also have the mission of deploying to Israel and all of Europe should the threat warrant. U.S. rotating deployments in Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are permanently in place, drawing equipment and soldiers from Fort Bliss and Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Sill in Oklahoma, and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
These Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, along with Guam, have U.S. Army rotations limited by the number of batteries and soldiers to constantly be deployed with enough assets to rest, then reset from their deployment and train and prepare for the next deployments.
The U.S. Army has a limited number of 15 Patriot Battalions. Of these 15, two are in Korea, one in Japan, and one in Germany. This leaves only 11 Battalions to rotate into locations within the 5 allied countries of the GCC and Jordan. Even with consuming an important “test” Battalion as part of the rotation, these force levels do not allow for a 3 to 1 deployment ratio, which as a result forces air defense soldiers onto 12-month deployments.
To make these deployments sustainable, we either have to increase the supply of Patriot Batteries by acquiring more equipment and expanding manpower, or have our allies participate in the rotation with their own Patriot units to help shoulder the burden and cost. This requires true sharing of information and trust. An alternative approach would be to force a shift in the burden of regional missile defense onto our allies in the GCC and NATO. This approach would require having the political courage and the diplomatic fortitude to withdraw U.S. Air Defense assets from countries that have enough capability of their own to defend against the current threat. Which would include training and access to information.
Additionally, for the sake of efficiency and to meet the evolving threat, modernization of these Patriot systems is a mandatory requirement, or else these systems will not remain effective against the growth and sophistication of the air and ballistic missile threats that are being tested, developed and deployed around the world.
Incorporation of the new Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor into the fleet will require Patriot Radar upgrades. Modernization of the front end seeker, software/hardware upgrades and introduction of the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) will make the Patriot System more efficient and effective for future threats. All of this modernization of the Patriot System requires testing, certification and validation before it can be implemented into the field downrange. To do any of this, there must to be a dedicated testing Battalion with full equipment and soldiers stationed in Fort Bliss for 12 month rotations to properly test at McGregor Testing Range and White Sands, New Mexico.
Withdrawing a battalion for testing puts even more strain on the limited U.S. Patriot Battalions that logically cannot reduce its 12-month deployments for its Soldiers to nine months anytime soon. Our U.S. Soldiers in the Air Defense Artillery Branch will need to continue sacrificing under these long deployments until there relief arrives for this mission deemed so critical by our combatant commanders and allies.
What is desperately needed is urgency. Urgency for more capability, more manpower, and most of all more real trust and partnership in integrated Air and Missile Defense within the GCC, Korea, and Japan so that they can share the burden, and move towards taking the full responsibility for defending their countries
This effort must be coupled with political leadership and courage to wean those countries from dependence on U.S. Air and Missile Defense by giving them the tools, the training, the capability, and most of all the information to be true partners. We have proven we can do it with our NATO allies.
The demand is high and growing, the supply is limited. Something has to give – and it should not be our Soldiers.
MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.
MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.