Soldiers intercept 2 target missiles during Patriot system’s firing debut in the Philippines
Stars and Stripes April 25, 2023
SAN ANTONIO, Philippines — The U.S. Army’s Patriot missile-defense system has shot down a pair of targets flying off Luzon’s western coast, marking the first time the weapon has been fired in the Philippines.
A Patriot system deployed to the country last year, but Tuesday’s event — part of the annual Balikatan exercise between the United States and its longtime ally — went a step further.
Two launchers, positioned near a beach at Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui, fired Patriot Advanced Capability-2, or PAC-2, missiles that destroyed Kratos MQM-178 Firejet target missiles flying 10,000 feet over the West Philippine Sea.
“Two for two,” Maj. Gen. Brian Gibson, commander of the Hawaii-based 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, told reporters after the missiles intercepted their targets.
The 10.8-foot-long, pneumatically launched Firejet flies at more than 500 mph, according to a fact sheet on the manufacturer’s website.
PAC-2s can reach as high as 20 miles and travel up to 60 miles, according to the Missile Defense Agency.
The launchers were operated on Luzon by soldiers from the Okinawa-based 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Battalion, said Maj. Nicholas Chopp, a spokesman for the 94th, based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
The battalion fired PAC-2s last summer from Palau in Micronesia.
Missile defense is in demand, said Gibson, who serves as chief of ground-based air and missile defense for U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific.
“Look at operations around the globe,” he said, noting the war in Ukraine and recent missile launches by China and North Korea.
The North launched more than 90 cruise and ballistic missiles last year.
“If the call came to defend certain locations, this exercise allows that to happen,” Gibson said of Tuesday’s training.
An undisclosed number of U.S.-made Patriot systems have arrived in Ukraine, the country's defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said April 19, providing Kyiv with a new protection against Russian airstrikes that have devastated cities and civilian infrastructure.
Before the PAC-2s were launched on Luzon, members of the Mississippi National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 204th Air Defense Artillery Regiment fired .50 caliber machine guns and Stinger missiles from a Humvee-mounted AN/TWQ-1 Avenger Air Defense System.
The Avenger is another weapon the U.S. has provided to Ukraine.
The system, designed to protect ground forces against missiles, drones, fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, includes two four-round missile pods, Chopp said.
The soldiers used the Avenger to bring down a pair of MQM-170 Outlaw unmanned aircraft flying circular patterns at low altitude close to the beach; however, a second missile malfunctioned and dropped into the water.